What struck me most about our stay at a South Dakota campground cabin was the checkout flyer. On it were links to several sites where I could go and "rate" my stay. Most of them were owned by HomeAway (NAS: AWAY) .
Seeing that made me smile. A small, family owned business had turned to a large and fast-growing aggregator to get its name in front of potential travelers. More than irony was at work here. HomeAway's strategy -- acquire the major vacation rental listing sites to create a booking empire -- was paying off.
To be fair, one piece of paper doesn't make for a competitive edge. But the numbers are pretty startling. FlipKey, operated by Expedia's (NAS: EXPE) TripAdvisor unit, claims "over 100,000" listings, while HomeAway had more than five times that at the time of its S-1 filing, months before its June IPO.
It's still too early to know precisely how disruptive HomeAway could be to the likes of Marriott (NYS: MAR) and Hilton, which both operate large timeshare businesses. All I can say is that our seven-hour drive to, and stay in, the Black Hills went well enough that I find myself rethinking accommodations in two ways:
My first stop for family lodging is now HomeAway. Spacious rentals with full kitchen facilities offer more than a hotel room ever could. The one catch? A pool. Our young kids love the water enough to limit my choices.
For conferences and other types of research trips, I'm seriously considering AirBnB, which offers cheap space for couch crashers who don't need much more than a place to sleep while on the road for business.
I've learned to pay attention when my behavior shifts in this way. Often, it's an early sign of disruption -- like when I forgot to how to use my DVD player recently. Streaming had become second nature for me, just as it has for millions of others. Space-sharing looks like a similarly explosive change.
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