What struck me most about our stay at a South Dakota campground cabin was the checkout flyer. On it were links to several sites where I could go and "rate" my stay. Most of them were owned by HomeAway (Nasdaq: AWAY ) .
Seeing that made me smile. A small, family-owned business had turned to a large and fast-growing aggregator to get its name in front of potential travelers. More than irony was at work here. HomeAway's strategy -- acquire the major vacation rental listing sites to create a booking empire -- was paying off.
To be fair, one piece of paper doesn't make for a competitive edge. But the numbers are pretty startling. FlipKey, operated by Expedia's (Nasdaq: EXPE ) TripAdvisor unit, claims "over 100,000" listings, while HomeAway had more than five times that at the time of its S-1 filing, months before its June IPO.
It's still too early to know precisely how disruptive HomeAway could be to the likes of Marriott (NYSE: MAR ) and Hilton, which both operate large timeshare businesses. All I can say is that our seven-hour drive to, and stay in, the Black Hills went well enough that I find myself rethinking accommodations in two ways:
- My first stop for family lodging is now HomeAway. Spacious rentals with full kitchen facilities offer more than a hotel room ever could. The one catch? A pool. Our young kids love the water enough to limit my choices.
- For conferences and other types of research trips, I'm seriously considering AirBnB, which offers cheap space for couch crashers who don't need much more than a place to sleep while on the road for business.
I've learned to pay attention when my behavior shifts in this way. Often, it's an early sign of disruption -- like when I forgot to how to use my DVD player recently. Streaming had become second nature for me, just as it has for millions of others. Space-sharing looks like a similarly explosive change.
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