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Some news from Airbnb this month, they will roll out a “heritage travel” section for travelers to explore their 23andMe results. Will this be a game changer? We think not, but it is good marketing. That’s not all that’s happening in the vacation rental industry, we will also cover:
- The rise of voice-enabled technology for vacation rental owners
- Real estate investors focusing on tech hubs and Opportunity Zones
- An update on Google and vacation rental listings
- GSV and Insight Venture Partners acquiring more vacation rental companies
Let’s get going!
The rise of voice-enabled tech
Christina Jelski of Travel Weekly released a widely shared article in May reporting that,
While hotels certainly haven’t shied away from voice tech, short-term vacation rentals appear to be innovating somewhat faster, pushing the envelope on everything from voice-activated smart-home integration to personalized guest recommendations.
Jelski notes that “hotels typically lack the agility of short-term rental operators, which puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to adopting new technology.” Highlighting this, Jelski mentions in the article that we recently partnered Virtual Concierge Service, a hospitality voice-interface pioneer, to create voice-activated guidebooks for vacation rental operators. We are very proud of this partnership! Voice technology is allowing operators to offload basic property questions, like house rules, laundry instructions, or local recommendations.
Hey Alexa, what’s the WiFi password again?
Real estate investors are focusing on…
Two important articles this month for those investing in real estate across the U.S. First, Amy Dobson of Forbes reports on the best performing Opportunity Zone tracts according to a new report. Opportunity Zones allow real estate investors to minimize taxes in 8,700 different locations across the country. According to Dobson, Opportunity Zone tracts in the following counties have seen the largest gains to-date:
- Kings County, New York
- Vanderburgh County, Indiana
- Oklahoma County, Oklahoma
- District of Columbia
- Los Angeles County, California
- New York County, New York
- Fairfield County, Connecticut
- Alameda County, California
See the full Webster Pacific report here for the 50 top Opportunity Zone tracts.
Monica Nickelsburg of Geekwire also reported this month on another opportunity for real estate investors: tech hubs. According to a JLL report, targeting high tech cities as investment locations is something investors should focus on. Specifically, the following U.S. metros are of note for investors:
Google and vacation rental listings
Susan Blizzard from VRM Intel reports on Google’s progress to-date on becoming a booking platform for vacation rentals. By way of background, Blizzard notes that in 2016, Google launched its Book on Google feature for hotels. This allowed travelers to book a hotel directly Google. Since then, Google launched vacation rentals as a bookable choice in both Paris and Rome in 2018.
Amy Hinote enters the discussion by reporting last week on VRM Intel that Google has now officially jumped into the vacation rental booking space. Specifically, Google’s Pratip Banerji, product manager, Travel, reportedly made the following comments concerning Google’s new vacation rental search filter:
- To give you a broader set of choices for lodging, we’re expanding the hotel search experience to include a wider assortment of vacation rental properties worldwide.
- Starting with our mobile experience, you can see and book vacation rentals from a variety of partners including Expedia, HomeAway, Hotels.com, NextPax, RedAwning, Rentals United, TripAdvisor, VRBO and more.
- You can narrow your search with price and amenity filters, plus browse photos, read reviews and see rates and availability of the vacation rental property. When you’re ready to book, click “Book” to complete your transaction on the travel partner’s page. All property information and bookings are provided and done by the travel partner.
- In the next month, we’ll bring the vacation rentals filter to the Google Hotels desktop experience as well. We hope this helps travelers make fast, effortless decisions—and with more choices on where to stay, your perfect vacation is just a few clicks away.
Greater Sum Ventures and Insight Venture Partners acquisitions
Amy Hinote of VRM Intel reported this week on a string of vacation rental technology acquisitions by Greater Sum Ventures (GSV) and Insight Venture Partners. VRM Intel reports that over “one hundred vacation rental managers have reached out to VRM Intel to find out more about GSV’s activity.”
Specifically, GSV and Insight have already acquired majority stakes in Streamline Vacation Rental Software, Bizcor, Bluetent, Rental Guardian, Virtual Resort Manager (VRM), and LiveRez. According to Hinote, more companies are going through due diligence with GSV and Insight.
According to VRM Intel. GSV plans to find cost savings in all acquired companies, package them all together, and then sell them. All of this reportedly is to happen within 12 months. Of concern VRM Intel notes, is that several technology companies and service providers opened up their books to GSV as part of acquisition discussion, “giving GSV unprecedented insight into key financials and revealing a unique look into enterprise-level technology offerings and profitability by sector.”
See VRM Intel’s full article for more on this important story.
Airbnb and heritage travel
Amrita Khalid of Engadget reported last week that Airbnb and 23andMe have partnered to allow travelers to literally explore their roots. Airbnb now has a “heritage travel” section, which it divides into the genetic populations you’d find in your 23andMe ancestry report. After reviewing where their ancestors hail from in the report, 23andMe customers can click through Airbnb to their specific region and plan a trip.
It has yet to be seen whether heritage travel will be a growing trend in the vacation rental industry, but the announcement is interesting for vacation rental owners to note when considering the travel purpose for their own guests.