HomeAway announced this week that it is no longer sharing traveler email addresses with homeowners and property managers until after the booking is confirmed.
According to a HomeAway email to property managers, “Traveler email and phone number are removed from the inquiry and inquiry service. Email ‘From’ and ‘Reply To’ is email@example.com.”
In addition, “Property Manager phone number and email is removed from the response. The message content will have redacted phone number, email address, and any non-HomeAway URL. The traveler can respond to this email. ‘Book Now’ is the prominent call to action which includes a link back to the property.”
HomeAway also added the following updates guidelines for responding to inquires:
- Create a text-only response template for HomeAway inquiries;
- Update verbiage that directs travelers back to website and/or special offers;
- Update responses to remove: URLs, email addresses, phone numbers, attachments, embedded images, including logos.
In its explanation of the change to suppliers, HomeAway’s chief product officer, Tina Weyand, cited trust as the reason for masking emails in the inquiry process. “Protecting your and the travelers’ contact information prior to a confirmed booking helps build trust,” wrote Weyand. “It also helps us better protect you and travelers against fraudsters — who, unfortunately, are always hard at work. Starting this month, pre-booking conversations will be facilitated through our secure messaging system. You and the traveler will be able to see each other’s contact details after a booking is confirmed.”
The change is in line with HomeAway’s larger objective of eliminating “leakage” on their family of sites.
According to Expedia CFO Mark D. Okerstrom in the company’s last earnings call, “We know that there are transactions that are happening off-platform, and the team is really focused on really developing reasons why both on the traveler side and on the property owner side or property manager side, reasons for people to stick with the platform. You’ve seen it on the consumer side where they’ve introduced the Book with Confidence Guarantee increasingly. You’ll see HomeAway willing to step in front of a traveler, and if they’ve got a bad experience, help them move to a new property or help solve their problem.”
Okerstrom continued, “They are working on various series of, what I’d call, carrots and sticks on the owner and the supplier side to incent the right behavior and put more bookings on the platform. They’re early on that side. They’ve got a number of supplier-facing data and tools that they’re building out dashboarding, et cetera. As Dara mentioned, they’re experimenting with sort, and these are the types of factors around on-platform versus off-platform that can start to influence sort order. And there’s a number of other, call it, goodies that HomeAway is looking at rolling out across the platform to incent the right behavior. So it’s relatively early. It’s a really high priority for that team, and we’re very optimistic that they’re going to be able to increasingly just drive much more on-platform adoption because it’s going to be something that both travelers and suppliers want to do.”
One supplier said, “HomeAway gives the impression that ‘leakage’ and ‘owner choices’ and workarounds are hurting their bottom line, but…if guests and owners are made unhappy, they will simply google and engage directly, or on a platform that makes them feel better about the transaction. They systemically overlook the fact that they bring guests and owners together briefly, and then drive them from the platform, apparently at a greater rate than their hotel listings drive travelers to book directly with the hotels.”
Read the enitre HomeAway letter below.
Dear HomeAway Partners,
Travelers have repeatedly told us that they expect a more convenient booking experience, and that trust is a critical factor in their decision to book a vacation rental. Our user research also shows that travelers who are new to vacation rentals expect a secure messaging, booking, and payment experience.
As you know from our post a few months ago, we took an important step in our transition to a booking platform. Online booking is now required when you register or renew on HomeAway.
Protecting your and the travelers’ contact information prior to a confirmed booking helps build trust. It also helps us better protect you and travelers against fraudsters — who, unfortunately, are always hard at work.
Starting this month, pre-booking conversations will be facilitated through our secure messaging system. You and the traveler will be able to see each other’s contact details after a booking is confirmed.
Also, we have heard your feedback, and we are working on enhancing traveler profiles to make sure you have more information about prospective travelers. For example, you may notice the number of trips a traveler has taken with HomeAway is displayed more prominently and in more places. Through your Monthly Statement and Dashboard, as well as our Discovery Hub, we will continue to let you know about the additional improvements we make as they become available.
I am hosting a Town Hall in a few weeks to talk about our changes and answer questions. To attend the Town Hall, click here and register.
Chief Product Officer