Booking.com quietly closes Villas.com rental brand

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“Test and learn” is the official message behind Booking.com‘s decision to shut down the Villas.com standalone vacation rentals brand this week.

The Priceline Group-owned accommodation giant says there is no change in its strategy for alternative accommodation such as homes, apartments and villas, but concedes that data has shown its consumers perfer having all their options under one brand.

Villas.com was launched with a fair degree of fanfare in May 2014, as part of a bid to capture the growing tide of consumers looking for stays in places other than traditional hotels.

The site started with almost 150,000 properties and was seen as a rearguard action against the likes of rental pioneer HomeAway and property-sharing poster child Airbnb.

Booking.com had already been gradually adding more rental-type properties in earlier years, but at the time the company said a reason to create a new brand in its own right was due to the “big difference between booking a room in a hotel and planning a do-it-yourself vacation”.

Just over 18 months at the launch of Villas.com, Booking.com’s arch rival Expedia bought HomeAway for $3.9 billion.

A Booking.com official says alternative accommodation is a “major part of the business strategy” and it will continue to grow the product on the mothership site, “which is where most of our traffic has been coming and growing”.

The official adds:

“Villas.com was launched as a testing platform for vacation rental properties only, which allowed customers access to this type of inventory in one place, and allowed Booking.com an independent environment to test and learn more about customer demand, product innovation and supplier needs in vacation rentals.”

Visitors to Villas.com are now automatically redirected over to Booking.com, with the message that all existing bookings are valid and customer profiles for the rental site also accepted on the main accommodation site.

There are currently just short of 550,000 homes and apartments available for rent, Booking.com claims.

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