By now almost everyone has seen the ad. A couple at a hotel outraged because they are being charged for what they thought was a free bottle of water. The hotel desk clerk explains, the bottle of water is “complementary,” meaning that it complements the room, sort of like décor. Doesn’t everyone decorate with water? It’s not “complimentary,” or free as the vacationers assumed. Could someone please read the dictionary here? This is one of the ads for HomeAway, a company that promotes the idea of renting a home when on vacation, rather than getting a hotel. The “vacation from hell,” takes place at a hotel. By their reasoning, while hotels may have limitations, a vacation rental home with its extra bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen among other amenities, is the preferred accommodation for families on vacation.
While its vacation model may appeal to some, its business model is a lesson for the times. HomeAway, a startup in 2005, is on target for revenue near $300 million in 2010. It also grew from two to around 600 employees in that time. Along the way it has attracted awards, venture capital and much media attention, not only for its growth but also for its reach. With around 540,000 vacation rental properties in 120 countries, the company has a global reach, providing income for the rental property owner as well accessory jobs such as cleaning and repair. All of it started with Brian Samples who enjoyed staying in rental homes on vacation but discovered there was no easy way to book online. From his problem to a global business that’s defying logic by growing in an “uncertain” business climate.
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