Orbitz adds vacation rentals to online offerings

/ Source: The Associated Press

Travelers booking their vacations on Orbitz.com now have the option to rent a private home or condominium for their trips rather than a hotel room, online travel agency Orbitz Worldwide Inc. said Tuesday.

Orbitz is now offering roughly 30,000 fully furnished properties in North America, Central America and the Caribbean through a partnership with Zonder, a Salt Lake City-based vacation rental provider. Financial details of the partnership were not disclosed.

In an interview, Orbitz Worldwide Inc. President and Chief Executive Steve Barnhart said that the vacation home rental market is highly fragmented, with most rentals advertised and booked locally. Orbitz, he said, is the first major online travel agency to offer a dedicated inventory of rental homes.

The option is timely given the economic downturn, Barnhart said. He noted that a rental home allows vacationers squeezed by rising fuel and airline prices to trim costs by, for example, cooking their own meals.

Zonder's platform allows travelers to view photo slideshows of the properties, get real-time availability information and receive booking confirmations immediately. Customers can also search for amenities like pools, Internet access and barbecues, as well as proximity to skiing, surfing, scuba diving and other activities.

Zonder also acts as an intermediary between the property manager and the renter and handles all rental payments directly.