Expedia buys startups Pillow and ApartmentJet to take on Airbnb

October 29, 2018 15:06
Visitors browse at the display of Expedia during a trade fair. The travel booking site is taking aim at Airbnb in the home-rental market. Photo: Reuters

Travel booking site Expedia is acquiring two US-based hospitality startups, Pillow and ApartmentJet, signaling its ambitions to compete with home-sharing giant Airbnb in the short-term rental market. 

"Acquiring Pillow and ApartmentJet will help unlock urban growth opportunities that, over time, will contribute to HomeAway’s ability to add an even broader selection of accommodations to its marketplace and marketplaces across Expedia Group brands, ensuring travelers always find the perfect place to stay,” the company said in a statement, without disclosing the financial terms of the deals.

San Francisco-based Pillow, founded in 2013, is a software company that helps residents list their apartments as short-term rentals while complying with local regulations. ApartmentJet, meanwhile, runs a short-term rental platform that allows multifamily owners and operators to rent vacant units.

In order to be able to promote responsible renting, Expedia is committed to delivering solutions that give urban building owners, managers and communities control and transparency over short-term rentals, CEO Mark Okerstrom said.

The online travel company jumped into the sector in short-term rentals in 2015 with a US$3.9 billion acquisition of vacation rental platform HomeAway. After years of upgrading the technology, Expedia is ready to ramp up its efforts to add more house listings in a bid to catch up with the scale of competitors like Airbnb, Okerstrom told Bloomberg in an interview.

Phase one was just getting the platform working and getting people online. Phase two is about property acquisition,” Okerstrom said.

Bloomberg noted Expedia’s HomeAway has recorded about US$300 million in revenue, or about 10 percent of Expedia’s total, with profit at the unit doubling in the last quarter. HomeAway claims 1.7 million online-bookable listings. In comparison, there are over 5 million listings worldwide for Booking.com and Airbnb respectively, according to their websites.

Expedia Group owns a wide swath of online travel brands including HomeAway, VRBO, Travelocity, Trivago, Orbitz and Hotels.com.

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