With the masterpiece that is HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on the books by George RR Martin, about to enter its seventh season, I could not help but think of a similar epic struggle closer to our own world: One of dominance in the vacation rental industry.
Just as Game of Thrones shows great houses battling one another for supremacy of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, so too are we seeing the “great houses” of vacation rentals stake their own claims to sit upon the Iron Throne.
That being the case, it seemed worthwhile to map out our own vacation rental Westeros to give everyone a better lay of the land. So, without further ado, here we go.
House Baratheon & HomeAway
Just as Robert Baratheon built a coalition to take on the previous ruler, a King who had outstayed his welcome and was causing more harm than good, HomeAway undoubtedly unseated the Mad King of vacation rentals: offline booking.
With a strategy based on rolling up the largest online players, and eventually integrating software into the fold as well, HomeAway took its seat on the Iron Throne, eventually IPOing for more than $2 billion.
Also, as with the Baratheon’s, though the family still resides in King’s Landing, their allegiance with another house has a new ruler placed upon the Iron Throne at present.
House Lannister & Expedia
Having paid nearly $4 billion to acquire HomeAway, there is no question that Expedia “always pays its debts.” And with founder Brian Sharples flying the coop post-acquisition like Tommen flying out the window in Season 6, a new ruler currently sits upon the Iron Throne in John Kim. Expedia and HomeAway remain the dominant family of Westeros to whom we must all pay taxes (booking fees), but they must watch their backs as there are other families vying to unseat them in this game of homes. Namely…
House Targaryen & Wyndham
As the original king of the rollup strategy, one could argue that ResortQuest, now Wyndham, was the previous holder of the Iron Throne. And though the exile has not been as extreme as that of Daenerys, with the management side of vacation rentals receiving less attention in recent years due to the venture capital dollars pouring into the technology focused parts of the industry (see HomeAway above), Wyndham is not the undisputed ruler it once was.
But as with Daenerys and her dragons, Wyndham is not content to be an also ran and to rely on the old gods alone. With its recent acquisition of Wimdu, Wyndham displayed tech aspirations of its own. Like Daenerys, will this Targaryen also have the last laugh?
House Stark & Vacasa
As Lords of the North(west), Vacasa out of Portland, Oregon, has a strength built through enduring those harsher climates. Just as the Starks original strength was based on its regional home soil, Vacasa built one of the fastest growing businesses in all of the Seven Kingdoms out of an early foothold along the Oregon coast. Like the Starks as we enter the seventh season, Vacasa is no longer content to remain a regional player, and its growing ambition could soon see it marching in force on King’s Landing.
House Greyjoy & Vacation Rental Pros
As someone who likes to point out that “while several of our high profile competitors continue to raise equity, [we are] able to raise market rate commercial debt based on the strength of our financial statements,” Steve Milo of Vacation Rental Pros clearly prefers to “pay the iron price.”
Like the Greyjoys whose initial strength relied on their intimate knowledge of the Iron Islands, Vacation Rental Pros built an enviable business across the state of Florida. Also like the Greyjoys, who are launching ships aggressively beyond their home base, Vacation Rental Pros and Steve Milo have been paying the iron price further afield.
Whether the sea legs will hold up on drier land is still to be determined. Watch this space.
Free City of Bravos & Airbnb
As any avid fan of Game of Thrones knows, not all of the action occurs within the Seven Kingdoms. Just as it is known that a “Lannister always pays his debts,” it is also said of the institution that makes the Free City of Bravos famous: “The Iron Bank will have its due.” Coming into vacation rentals somewhat from the outside, and sitting on a cash pile in the billions with a valuation topping $30 billion, Airbnb is well poised to make its mark on the Seven Kingdoms should it choose to do so.
How, and how violently these worlds will collide is still to be determined, but with the resources they have at their disposal, we should expect that Airbnb too “will have its due.”
White Walkers & NIMBYs
As the great houses battle one another, we must not forget that “winter is coming.” A far more existential threat looms over the Seven Kingdoms and vacation rentals; NIMBYs, myopic regulators and vested interests are coming together in hordes, creating deadening regulation to kill off the progress and prosperity brought by the industry.
The big question as we enter this season: Can the great houses set aside their differences and unite against this common enemy for the greater good of all?
There is still a lot to play for as we enter this season of Game of Thrones and as we open the latest chapter in the saga that is vacation rentals. As we do so, I am sure you are wondering who Rented.com is in this epic tale.
Since we do not manage any homes ourselves, we have no claim to any one of the great houses of the Seven Kingdoms — our interests are those of the greater good. A prospering industry is all for which we hope. You might say we are “the shield that guards the realms of men.”
Thus, we align ourselves with that most notable Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon Snow. Though there may still be those who want to say we “know nothing, Jon Snow,” we are learning quickly, and we promise to pledge our honor to the industry “for this night and all nights to come.”