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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Homeaway: A refreshing un-hotel encounter.

After reviewing their Super Bowl advertising as part of this year’s #BZBowl, I was intrigued enough by the Homeaway.com service model to give them a try, using their marketplace for vacation rental properties to book a condo for a future family vacation in an area of the world I've never spent much time.

The Homeaway accommodations marketplace provided a service encounter far superior to the hundreds of hotel and hotel aggregator sites I’ve used in the past.

With thousands of properties spanning the globe, individual property managers compete with each other for travelers' vacation accomodations experiences. They’re motivated to position their properties in the most compelling possible way – making their best promises as to the experience a vacationer would have. Users see extremely detailed information on the properties, surrounding neighborhoods - often including an insider’s information on local events. Property managers usually include property layout diagrams, a full suite of pictures, including video walkthroughs for prospective renters. Those promises are kept honest through user reviews, with past renters posting reviews of the amenities and the service for the properties where they’ve stayed.

By comparison, direct hotel sites typically give a generalized room category with some vague images of the accommodations style, and a price. Aggregators of hotel accommodations (like hotels.com and priceline) may offer even less, narrowing down to a neighborhood (not a specific property) a nebulous star rating for the property and a price.

With more space, more variety, and more decision information at every bit as competitive a price, the homeaway.com search and engagement experience is so much better than traditional hotels and site aggregators, it makes me wonder if the hospitality industry isn’t undergoing every bit the business model change that happened when the demand aggregators first arrived on the scene.

But while the experience of finding potential vacation sites was an exceptional experience, there are a few service experience missteps and inconsistencies that took place in part two of my service encounter, once I committed to using a property.

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