The Priceline Group is working to expand its offerings in vacation rentals and other non-hotel properties, CEO Darren Huston said Wednesday during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.

This year, Priceline's added 200,000 properties to bring up its total offering to 850,000, Huston said. Companywide, Priceline Group said it offers 6.9 million rooms in vacation rentals and non-hotel properties.

“We strongly believe that this fee-free, experience-centric model which makes booking homes and apartments as easy and trustworthy as booking a hotel will be the winning model long term,” Huston said.

An analyst asked about Priceline's philosophy on vacation rentals, and its choice to charge the property owner for a listing but no service fee to the renter.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a consumer that likes to pay fees, and we’re betting that the consumers won’t want to pay fees,” he said. “But more importantly, what we’re trying to do is make booking a vacation rental or a home or an apartment as easy as booking a hotel room, with the same level of trust, with the same feeling like you’re going to get what you paid for.”

Some competitors do charge renters a fee. For instance, Airbnb charges a service fee each time a reservation is confirmed; it usually ranges from 6% to 12%, depending on the reservation specifics. HomeAway, which was purchased by Expedia late last year, intends to begin charging travelers a service fee this year, around 6%.

Huston said Priceline's “take rate in vacation rentals” is equivalent to Airbnb's and HomeAway's. He also said that vacation rentals/non-hotel properties “is growing faster than our core business,” but Huston did not offer any numbers.

During the earnings call, CFO Daniel Finnegan addressed the November terrorist attacks in Paris. He said bookings did initially drop, but have begun to bounce back.

“Our global room night growth rate declined by more than 10 percentage points for a two- to three-week period after the terrorist attack in Paris compared to what it had been before the attack,” Finnegan said. “Growth bounced back strongly in December, and this momentum has carried over in Q1.”

While Paris still has not returned to where it was before the attacks, Finnegan reported it has gotten much better.

In the fourth quarter, Priceline's room nights booked grew by 27%. Gross travel bookings increased 13%, to $12 billion.

The company reported net income of $504 million, an 11% rise. Total revenue increased 12%, to $1.9 billion.

Priceline forecasted a 20% to 27% increase in room nights booked for the first quarter of 2016, as well as a 9% to 16% increase in revenue.

Following the call, the company’s stock price rose by nearly 11% on Wednesday afternoon.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI