Major product extension for Booking.com as it launches its first standalone brand in the guise of Villas.com.
The Priceline-owned accommodation giant officially unveiled the site this week in a bid to capture more of the vacation rental market beyond its existing coverage on the main Booking.com brand.
The Villas.com site has almost 150,000 properties listed, covering villas, apartments and rental homes.
The company says it built the site because it understands the “big difference between booking a room in a hotel and planning a do-it-yourself vacation”.
Although Villas.com has significantly fewer properties than HomeAway (the US-based rental pioneer currently has around 952,000), customers will be able to book all properties from within the site (with instant confirmation, according to the website) rather than often having to secure reservations through the owner or a third party offline.
In some respects the new Villas.com is a simple re-skinning of the Booking.com site with only relevant properties – it has the same functionality, filtering tools and image galleries, although there are some minor differences to the design and user experience.
It is the strategy to provide a dedicated site for the product itself which is likely to capture the attention, not least with HomeAway, TripAdvisor and Airbnb gaining traction (and making acquisitions) in recent years.
Such a move will also not come as the biggest surprise to those watching the sector and seeing the rise of other players.
Booking.com has been gradually adding more vacation rental properties to the main site for the best part of 18 months, adding to the small numbers of bungalow and cottage rentals it had featured for many years.
In January 2013 it struck a deal with InterHome to start plugging in properties from around the world (an initial 2,500 was announced at the time).
It is unclear as yet if Booking.com is contracting all 146,000 properties itself or has simply extended the existing vacation rental agreements it has to bolster the portfolio number.
Villas.com claims to have around properties featured from some 25,000 destinations in 176 countries around the world. Many of the properties listed have guest reviews imported from the existing Booking.com website.