By the Caribbean Journal staff
The vacation rental market is booming around the world, as established players continue to grow and startups continue to sprout. In the Caribbean, villas and vacation homes have long been popular options for travelers, and that shows no signs of slowing down. To learn more, Caribbean Journal caught up with Jon Gray, senior vice president – Americas for HomeAway, the world’s largest vacation rental marketplace with almost 1 million vacation listings around the world.
Describe the overall vacation rental market in the Caribbean and your company’s position in it.
The Caribbean is one of HomeAway’s most popular destinations for US vacation rental travelers, consistently ranking among the top 10 most-searched regions. In addition, vacation home owners are increasingly making their Caribbean homes available for rent, with HomeAway seeing more than 12 percent increase in available rentals from this time last year. Today families and groups can browse more than 19,000 listings ranging from affordable condos to luxury villas.
What are the biggest changes in the vacation rental market over the past five years?
In the past decade, vacation rentals have gone from niche lodging to big business. In fact, we generated more than $11 billion in rental revenue for its owners and property managers and more than $346 million in revenue for the company in 2013.
What do you foresee for the next three to five years in the marketplace?
First, emerging markets will drive demand. APAC, South America and Eastern Europe will all continue to see an uptick in the number of those interested in the space, privacy and amenities short-term rentals offer. Even cities popular among tourists with an existing supply of hotels will see a boom in rentals. Ancillary businesses, and therefore jobs, will be created — instead of fighting for the same inventory, other companies will recognize the opportunity to create businesses that support the thriving vacation rental industry. And inventory will be distributed in new places. Online travel agencies and websites are increasingly interested in listing vacation rental properties as traveler demand grows. Already, through a pilot programme with HomeAway, Expedia lists thousands of vacation rentals.
What are biggest challenges facing the industry?
The biggest challenge continues to be the relatively low awareness of vacation rentals as alternatives to hotels – within our target demographic of families and groups, only about 17% stay in vacation rentals.
How do you work with owners and destination marketing organizations to market specific properties and destinations?
We diligently manage our marketplace through various approaches to ensure the owners and property managers listing on its sites are receiving a great return on investment – the average U.S. owner generates more than $27,000 in rental revenue.
What are the advantages or disadvantage of vacation rentals like these, particularly in the Caribbean?
Vacation rentals can provide a more authentic experience – In the Caribbean this enables travelers to experience a destination like a local , be with friends and family and learn more about a destination and its culture. Especially in the Caribbean having a kitchen is a great way to save on food costs and also perfect for groups. Possible disadvantages include no room or maid service, and some rentals require a minimum number of nights.