Compare Away launched officially today as an aggregator for “agent managed” holiday rentals. It’s founded and self-funded by Andrew Gibson and Chris Bradley who, aside from being based in the mining town of Spennymoor, County Durham in the North of England, previously built The Card and Gift Company in 2007, an online greeting cards business that sold to Hallmark Cards Plc., although they aren’t saying for how much for.
Like other price comparison-type sites, but with holiday rentals in mind, you can search by specific criteria, such as location, date, duration of stay and no. of bedrooms etc. Compare Away then displays properties that are available and the actual price for that property. Users can further filter the results and refine the search (including ABTA protection), after which they are passed to the agent to buy the holiday. In other words, it’s a classic affiliate play with Compare Away taking a cut from the agent’s fees (around 10%), so as not to push the price up directly for the end customer.
The “agent managed” sector of holiday rentals is different to the “rental by owner” market, which is dominated online by HomeAway, the U.S. company behind sites like holiday-rentals.co.uk and ownersdirect.co.uk. In comparison, says Bradley, agent managed is a “very fragmented and under exploited market” with no obvious fully-fledged aggregators aside from a few U.S. sites that rely on crude scraping.
“Look at all the big travel aggregators and you will see that they do flights, hotels, car hire, package holidays… basically everything except holiday rentals”, says Bradley. “We are making order out of this fragmented and disorderly market.”
Compare Away says that the agents’ IT tends to be quite “weak” and that their data is difficult to mine. That’s where the startup is putting in the hard work and it’s hoped that this will enable it to stand out from competitors, and to users who simply do a search on Google.
To that end, the holiday rentals market is potentially extremely lucrative. Phocuswright estimates the UK and European market to be worth around £17 billion. While Compare Away says that the agents they aggregate collectively sell 2 million holiday rental weeks to UK consumers ever year, with an average weekly value of £600. On that note, during two weeks of testing before the site launched, Compare Away says it sold £150,000 of holidays, which doesn’t sound too shabby to us.