Expedia’s recent purchase of Austin-based HomeAway is just the latest in a buying spree designed to position itself as the king of online travel services.
The $3.9 billion HomeAway deal, announced on November 4, provides Expedia with additional home-rental inventory to display on its website (more than a million paid listings in 190 countries), essentially giving the company a top spot in the online vacation-rental marketplace.
The alternative lodging space is pretty much dominated by HomeAway and its chief rival, Airbnb. That company is worth a reported $24 billion. (It should be noted that HomeAway doesn’t consider Airbnb a competitor. Unlike Airbnb, which is mostly used by homeowners in urban markets to rent out space in a primary residence, HomeAway inventory is primarily second homes in vacation markets.)
Earlier this year Expedia bought Orbitz (owner of Cheaptickets.com) for about $1.4 billion. That deal followed Expedia’s acquisition of Travelocity for $280 million; Expedia had been powering Travelocity’s websites in the US and Canada. HomeAway, Orbitz, Cheaptickets, and Travelocity join Expedia’s portfolio of flagship travel sites that also includes Hotels.com and Hotwire.com.
The bulking-up of Expedia pits the travel giant against Priceline, the current leader in hospitality. Priceline has a valuation of about $61 billion. That company doesn’t yet have a “sharing economy” travel site. Perhaps Airbnb should watch its back.
Amy Schein is an Industry Specialist at First Research, where she covers various aspects of the media industry. She earned her BS and MA in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Amy on Twitter.