Zonder.com, a vacation-rental property
search engine, is expanding its inventory of private homes, villas
and cabins and adding a booking service that founder Bob Barnes
said was the "missing link" between the private vacation-rental
market, agents and travelers.
Zonder, which launched
earlier this month, carries vacation-rental inventory in the U.S.,
Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean and then links with
property-management companies to book their inventory.
The company is
developing its third-party network and has an agreement with
Worldspan to make the inventory GDS-friendly, Barnes
Barnes said Zonder's
unique inventory, coupled with the technology platform that
categorizes, maps, illustrates and identifies the rentals by
preferred destinations, offers a service not available elsewhere.
The use of agreements with professional property managers and the
platform's transactional capabilities make it possible for agents
to generate commissions from the inventory, which he said was much
more difficult today.
It also provides
agents or consumers with real-time availability information:
Booking confirmations, he said, instantly update availability for
each individual property.
Barnes said the
platform competes well with the more traditional classified
advertising approach to marketing vacation-rental homes, which
lacks a commission structure and can leave travelers on their own
in dealing with private owners, who may be thousands of miles away,
if something goes wrong.
managed inventory is better quality, has more consistency, is more
uniform in upkeep than what you will find in the classified
market," Barnes said. "And there is always a person on the ground
in the area if the traveler needs help."
Barnes said the
company was continuing to expand inventory through new agreements
with property-management companies and real estate offices. He
estimated that some 6,000 such offices are in operation in the area
the site covers, with some handling as many as 2,000 vacation
Learning from experience
Barnes, co-founder of
Enhance Interactive, a pay-per-click advertising search engine,
said he stumbled on the idea of creating a vacation-rental
management platform while trying to locate a private home or villa
to rent near the beach in Costa Rica for a surfing vacation with
After four or five
nights in front of his computer, searching millions of potential
hits on Google, Barnes said he gave up and booked a hotel through a
travel agent. But when he and friends arrived and walked from the
hotel to the beach, they found private vacation rentals at every
"I canceled the hotel
room and booked one of the places, but I would have had no way to
find them beforehand. I asked the [property owners] we talked to
how tourists found them, and they all said 'people just stop by.'
Stopping by far-flung
destinations to find private vacation rentals, Barnes concluded,
was an inefficient marketing model. But the alternative, Internet
searches that offered a multimillion-to-one-shot of finding
preferred private accommodations in luxury markets, was also
"The way things are,
consumers have traditionally collected flyers or ads and gone
through lots of telephone calls, maybe talked to 10 owners, and
ended up with Post-It notes stuck all over their desks," Barnes
said. "It's a real pain. And if they do find a property they want,
they have to fill out a contract, send a check or provide a credit
card to someone they don't know. It's a huge risk, a 'buyer beware'
kind of proposition."
Barnes said when he
returned home to Provo, Utah, from his Costa Rica vacation, he
researched the private vacation-rentals market again, this time
with an eye on a new travel technology opportunity.
"I was sure that
someone had already built what I wanted, with check-in and checkout
dates, availability, rates, whether it had a hot tub or pool, other
amenities, but it was just not available," he said. "So Zonder was
born out of that."
contact reporter Dan Luzadder, send e-mail to [email protected].