I always think that the real test of a service business is when something goes wrong.
On a recent crossing on my own with three children we took a cabin as usual. About an hour into the crossing, a blocked drain in the bathroom led to a flood. I wandered up to the information desk to ask for some help, and about fifteen seconds after I got back to the cabin to move the kids to a higher bunk a team of four descended upon us.
Two of them scooped up our possessions and whisked us to another cabin (an upgrade) while the other two started opening panels and waving wrenches around.
No-one could apologise enough - I even got an email apologising again when I got home.
The ships are always clean, the staff are always helpful. And they serve the Western Channel ports which is very convenient if you live in or visit Western France.
Owner, Vendée Vacances,
We've listed our properties and used OD for booking holidays for many years now.
From an owners perspective, the site is easy to use - the interface for managing adverts is simple and the ads themselves are attractive. The site generates a decent level of enquiries for us at a reasonable cost.
From a traveller's standpoint, the site is easy to navigate and the adverts clear & logical. We've booked at least half-a-dozen properties through OD and it is always our first point to begin a holiday search.
It is worth remembering that OD themselves are just a listing site, albeit a very well managed one: they are not a holiday company. As both owner and traveller, I would always recommend calling a property owner to verify that they are bona fide before parting with any cash and to seek evidence from past guests in the form of reviews (most properties will have something like reviews on Tripadvisor these days).
Overall, very happy indeed with Owners Direct.
We've been advertising with HomeAway for some years now, since its earlier guise as Holiday Rentals. The site has never delivered the bulk of our business, but has always done just enough to justify the expense and the time to maintain the adverts.
However, over the last couple of years, the level of enquiries has dropped and the price has increased quite considerably. Visibility on the site increasingly seems to depend on paying considerably more for a "premium" listing. HomeAway seem to be increasingly keen on moving to a commission based model in which they collect money from holiday makers and delay passing it on to the property owners until the traveller actually arrives at the holiday property, something that will do wonders for their cashflow but nothing at all for ours. This, they claim, will improve security for the holiday maker, though it is hard to see how, since the rental contract will remain between the owner and the traveller and the level of recourse to HA by either seems a bit hazy, to me at least.
Of the enquiries we do get, an increasing number are fake, mostly concerned, at the moment, with gathering email addresses from property owners for follow-up phishing attempts to conduct an identity theft. These run along the lines of " I just tried to pay for my sister's holiday, but I couldn't, so could you send your bank details again. Oh, and a scanned copy of your passport, because my bank need proof of identity." Obvious, but irritating.
The site is not particularly easy to use, either as an owner or as a traveller. I tend to find my own holiday rentals on other, less confusing, sites - just because an owner has paid to have a premium listing doesn't make their property the most suitable for my wants, and I like to have a direct contact with the owner, so, personally, I will not be handing over my cash to a third party for "safekeeping."
Overall, HomeAway might do well to remember two things:
Firstly, they are the broker in a deal between a traveller and an owner and a successful broker works hard to keep both principals in the deal happy. They should forget about imposing conditions themselves, and;
Second, the internet is a big place. They are not the only show in town, even if they are the biggest at the moment.
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