Group travellers flock to holiday apartments
Thursday 1, April 2010
Holiday apartments are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional forms of travel accommodation, such as hotels – especially for those travelling in a group.
It’s difficult to calculate exactly how popular: industry data is notoriously hard to come by, since many holiday apartments are second homes, managed by non-professional owners as an additional source of income. As one industry expert has put it, “it’s a mom and pop industry”.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the number of apartments being rented out is rising year by year. A recent market report suggested that 87% of travellers who had previously investigated staying in a holiday apartment actually plan to stay in one in 2010 – a significant increase from 67% in 2009.
Yet this increasing popularity does not hold true for every travel sector. “Only 1-2% of HouseTrip bookings typically come from solo travellers, which is somewhat different from hotel demographics!” said Ben Doyle, co-founder of holiday apartment website HouseTrip.com. “Over half our bookings tend to come from groups of at least four guests. Our holiday apartments are very popular with larger groups”.
HouseTrip was founded in 2009, and the website has only been live for a few months, but it’s already gathered thousands of holiday apartments – as well as considerable interest from the industry. HouseTrip differs from the classified advertising model of most holiday apartment websites by offering a direct booking and payment solution, with no listing fees for owners. As well as winning VentureKick and VentureLeaders, two Swiss entrepreneurship programs, the Lausanne-based company was elected ‘Best Travel Startup’ at EyeforTravel’s 2009 Get Funded Show.
Doyle explained that holiday apartments hold certain advantages for groups of travellers, which hotels struggle to match. “If there are four or six of you staying in a hotel, your options are really limited. You’ve basically got to go out to spend time together, unless you go to the bar or reception, and you’ve got to eat out every meal,” he said.
“In a holiday apartment, you’ve got a furnished lounge with a sofa where you can chill out, watch TV or share a bottle of wine, and a fully equipped kitchen which gives you the option to eat in. It’s much easier to spend time together.”
With simple additional benefits like these, it’s easy to see why holiday apartments (a.k.a. vacation rentals) are seen as one of the hottest growth areas in online travel. But Doyle feels that one stumbling block is the lack of consistency.
“It’s both an industry strength and weakness,” he explained. “Guests like the fact that every holiday apartment they stay in will have its own idiosyncrasies and won’t look like a chain hotel room. What they don’t like is the fact that on most sites, every apartment they book will have different booking, payment and cancellation policies.”
“That’s where HouseTrip is different: you book and pay through the website, you know what will happen if you cancel, and we hold your payment until after you’ve arrived, so if anything goes wrong, your money’s in safe hands. It’s really the safest place you can book a holiday apartment online.”
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