Today Bluetent, the vacation rental industry’s largest provider of website development and online marketing services, announced it has acquired Visual Data Systems (VDS) for an undisclosed amount. With the purchase, Bluetent now provides website building and marketing services for 250 clients representing 45,000 vacation rental properties.
Bluetent has made some extraordinary growth-oriented plays recently, including partnering with HomeAway Software’s YesBookIt and Escapia to provide websites to software clients, expanding services to Europe and Australia, creating a channel management partnership agreement with Airbnb and Booking.com, connecting with revenue management system Beyond Pricing, partnering with Matt Landau’s VRMB, purchasing Florida-based GuestBook, and now this acquisition of one of the largest web development houses in the United States.
VDS: An Industry Pioneer
The vacation rental industry owes a debt of gratitude to VDS. Founded by Paul Herman in 1995, the company pioneered website development and online booking in the late 1990s by first converting printed vacation rental catalogs to online marketplaces and then facilitating online bookings.
An early member of the Vacation Rental Management Association, VDS signed North Carolina’s Hatteras Realty—then led by Stewart Couch and later purchased by Wyndham—as its first vacation rental client, and as far as we can track, helped Hatteras complete the industry’s first online credit card transaction for a reservation from a vacation rental website.
“We were able to flip the industry on its head in 1995 with the first VR catalog-based website with real-time availability,” said Herman. “Then in the late 90s we added reservations and truly transformed business online.”
“What an exciting time in the Vacation Rental industry,” added Herman. “We are super excited to join forces with Bluetent. The experience, technology, and our collective vision are unparalleled and frankly astounding…Bluetent has put together an impressive direct-booking website platform, channel management, marketing services, and most importantly a talented team. Like VDS, Bluetent focuses keenly on their clients’ success. We look forward to continuing our trailblazing efforts with the combined teams.”
Peter Scott, President of Bluetent, said, “I genuinely believe that bringing our exceptional organizations together will benefit professional managers. Now they have access to industry-leading technology, as well as a talented collaborative team, who understand this complex industry, seek opportunities for growth, and are passionate to help clients succeed.”
Over the last fifteen years, four companies emerged to lead website development in the rapidly-changing professionally managed vacation rental sector: VDS, Bluetent, Blizzard Internet Marketing, and Intercoastal Net Designs (ICND). This news comes on the heels of Red Awning’s May announcement that it had purchased Blizzard Internet Marketing. While recent consolidation indicates a maturing ability to scale website development operations and services in the industry, the acquisitions may also point to an escalated challenge of staying both innovative and profitable in a fast-moving technology space.
With the acquisition, Bluetent is gaining 70-75 clients representing 15,000 properties. Herman and his employees at VDS will join the Bluetent team, and VDS customers will transition without any changes to their current contracts.