Shifting of the sand in the vacation rental marketplace with confirmation that HouseTrip is scrapping all listings of private rooms from its database


HouseTrip informed hosts of the “important change” to its service via a recent letter in which it said as part of a new focus on couples and families it would be “removing all private bedrooms from our website” and in future only allow entire properties to be listed.

The letter adds: “During this time we will be taking away search functionality for private bedrooms in shared accommodation, and removing them from our search results so they can no longer found by prospective guests.

” Existing bookings or upcoming check-ins will not be affected by the change, HouseTrip adds. HouseTrip says it is currently running at a 95%-5% ratio in favour of complete apartments to shared spaces, so it does not anticipate any major erosion of its overall product spread.

An official says: “We want to be known for providing the best range of complete properties available for short-term rent. And we feel that this clarification of our offering is the best way to do it.” Including shared spaces in its portfolio was found to have “muddied the waters”, the official says. “The feedback we have received from many travellers is ‘yes, I want to get tips and advice from an owner. yes, I want the personal touch. Yes, I may even want to feel like a local.

But when the info is given and the key swapped, I want the apartment to become my space and I don’t necessarily want to become best friends or swap Facebook details with the landlord’.”

The company denies the move is anything to do with recent regulatory or taxation shenanigans affecting the likes of Airbnb or Wimdu which have a focus on shared spaces.

Nevertheless, issues such as these are clearly triggering a fair degree of strategic soul searching for a number of brands as they look to anticipate where around the world they may face hurdles over their ability to operate (or those of their product hosts).

Airbnb, for example, recently celebrated (and potentially breathed a huge sigh of relief) a regulatory win in France when a legislation was introduced allowing home owners to rent out rooms without seeking permission from local authorities.

Its head of global public policy, David Hantman, says some 83% of its hosts in the French capital Paris share their primary residence – in other words, let out a room OR only have the property available for a limited period of time.

HouseTrip’s move possibly illustrates how the main players in the rental/sharing economy are re-positioning themselves as providers of product in one particular area (shared vs complete rental).

A source who until recently worked within one of the main global players in the sharing economy says there is a wider trend emerging: “After seeing good traction and interest in the mass audience, the involved companies are trying to get out of a niche and attack a more established market, providing an experience closer to what hotel customers are used to.

“The peer economy is a nice thing, but there are reasons why hotels and other kind of accommodation facilities need to comply to specific rules… and the private accommodation market is probably trying to anticipate the regulatory movements so that they will be more ready when the time will come.”