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Q&A: Travel startup paves way for industry consolidation (Includes interview)

In May 2019 Google announced the consolidation of all its travel features. Google Maps, Trips, Hotels and Flights will combine to make one Google Travel, easing the process for vacation planning. Travel startup VacationRenter, which launched last year, pioneered this model for vacation rentals, based on an artificial intelligence driven platform.

According to VacationRenter’s newly appointed COO, ex-Googler Marco del Rosario, both Google Travel and VacationRenter are early adopters of a pivotal strategy for today’s travel technology: consolidation. del Rosario explains more to Digital Journal.

Digital Journal: How has the world of travel changed in recent years?

Marco del Rosario: One big trend is the proliferation of options available to travelers. There are more options than ever before, and the difference between hotels and vacation rentals is beginning to gray as you see players like Airbnb buying HotelTonight, or Marriott launching a vacation rental brand, ‘Homes & Villas’. Short-term rentals continue to grow in popularity as travelers seek unique accommodations when they travel.

The global vacation rental market size is expected to reach $194B by 2021. It’s growing quickly, and with such rapid growth, there’s more inventory available than ever. That’s why we’re focused on building the easiest way to find a vacation rental. There’s a need to help travelers sift through all the options to ensure they’ve found the perfect vacation rental at the best price point.

DJ: How much of this is the consequence of digital transformation?

del Rosario: The vacation rental industry has largely grown as a result of a two-sided marketplace. Without advances in technology to make vacation rental marketplaces seamless for travelers and property owners alike, this kind of growth wouldn’t be possible.

DJ: Is there a move towards travel service consolidation (such as what Google Travel announced in May)?

del Rosario:With so much growing fragmentation in the travel industry, there will continue to be consolidation to bring options together. Right now, booking and planning trips is time consuming, and it’s hard for travelers to know if they’ve purchased the best options. By bringing together all options from the top sites in one place – like what VacationRenter does for vacation rentals – travelers will have a better travel experience.

DJ: What types of services are being consolidated?

del Rosario:Almost all types of travel are being consolidated. From booking airfare to choosing a property to stay at, travel consolidation is happening at all ends of the market.

DJ: Who are the companies pioneering these services, and how do they differ?

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del Rosario:Many travel companies consolidate offerings as a part of their service, but we’ve found that consolidation is not enough to make it easy to find what you’re looking for. While there are several companies consolidating different segments of the travel industry, most tend to focus on being ‘the largest’ players and having the most inventory. With VacationRenter, we are taking a different approach. While inventory growth is important, we’re really focused on being the best place to find the perfect vacation rental by personalizing results to each traveler.

DJ: What does AI add to the travel booking experience?

del Rosario:AI and automation are key components in helping to find the right vacation rental for you. With so many options at every traveler’s fingertips, it is nearly impossible to surface the best results. By identifying important customer signals and trends, AI and automation can make the travel planning process easier than ever before.

DJ: What are customers seeking from a travel service?

del Rosario:Travelers are ultimately focused on one thing – having the best possible trip. For VacationRenter, that means bringing together all the top options and showcasing the best results so the millions of travelers who find vacation rentals through us walk away knowing they found the best option at the lowest price.

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