The ever-changing landscape of holiday rental listings sites is a very real and present issue for many holiday rental owners and managers. Continually changing payment structures and the suppression of booking and client data has left many frustrated and with the feeling we have little or no control over our holiday rental businesses.
One group of owners decided enough was enough. They would no longer be reliant on the fat cat listings sites, instead launching an independent listing site that supported both owners and guests.
Welcome to OwnerHolidays: the listings site with a difference.
I spoke to founding member Nigel Goodwin from Self Catering Accommodation Newquay about the idea behind OwnerHolidays and their plans for the future.
What is the idea behind OwnerHolidays?
Fundamentally it’s a holiday rental listing model that will bring guests and owners back together again. But perhaps it’s easier to say what it’s not!
It is not a booking system, but can interface to booking systems. It is not an agency, but can interface to agencies. It is not an owner website toolkit, although it can interface to owner websites. It is not a review system, although it may eventually have a simple review system and links to TripAdvisor, or similar review systems. It does not manage availability, although it can extract availability from other systems via the iCal interface.
What we have created is an advertising listing website with excellent links to all the tools that create a total holiday management solution. It is open and will interface with a multitude of systems.
The model is purely subscription based. As soon as you move towards a commission structure you have to find ways to stop guests making direct bookings with the owner. The owner loses control of their business and the guest feels the loss of human contact and authenticity.
Fundamentally it’s a holiday rental listing model that will bring guests and owners back together again.
How is OwnerHolidays funded?
To date we have managed to self-fund the project 100%. However, it’s likely that in 2017, in addition to revenue coming from listing subscriptions, we will be looking for external funding. We are looking at the possibility of a Crowdfunding campaign as our objective is to create a platform that is funded and run by owners and develops organically.
It’s called the ‘long tail’ business model. It takes time to grow, but eventually becomes a giant and avoids the problem of repaying loans or dealing with impatient investors.
Allied to this is the importance of owner involvement throughout the process. We do not see owners as pure revenue generators, our values are directly aligned to their needs.
The OwnerHolidays model will offer significant shareholdings (at least 50% over time) to owners. I hope this will provide the incentive for owners to collectively promote the site and make it work. It’s also protection against the danger of the company selling out to the global OTAs.
We will be working with legal experts to draw up a charter and shareholder agreement which will preserve the cooperative nature of the business.
It’s important to make clear that although owners will be at the heart of our business, there will certainly be a structure in place that will allow the management team to focus on the development and make unrestricted business decisions. It will not be a democracy, but it should be a win-win situation for all involved!
We do not see owners as pure revenue generators, they are at the very heart of this company.
What are your next steps?
We launched the venture in August 2016, and rolled out the OwnerHolidays website in September. We initially presented the model to a small focus group of owners, many of whom are members of the forum LayMyHat. Bouncing ideas off the group and ways to improve on the launch model. In fact we have matured a lot in only a few months, moving towards the way we envisage the site for the future.
Our current focus is on marketing and advertising for the website, growing our presence in the sector and increasing the number of properties listed. We understand that we now need to develop our presence through digital marketing and we are relying on the collective help of owners to kindle our viral growth.
Our goal is to have 10,000 properties listed by the end of Quarter One 2017, and we’d love to have 100,000 by the end 2017. We’re asking all owners to come and join the revolution!
We are relying on the collective help of owners to kindle our viral growth.
As owners we understand that OTAs have the distinct advantage of massive marketing budgets. We are certainly under no illusion that this will be an easy ride, but we have a marketing strategy in place for 2017 with a heavy focus on promotion to potential guests. With this in place we are confident that by the end of the year our owner supporters can expect to enjoy enquiries and bookings from their advertising on OwnerHolidays.
We are also building an interface to agencies so their multiple properties can be listed. We are in discussion with five agencies and working on the interface for those initial partnerships.
How can owners advertise on OwnerHolidays?
If you sign up before the 16th January 2017 it will be free to advertise for the first year! Just head to the sign up link on the OwnerHolidays website to add your property. The offer is also open to agencies with whom we can build an agreement within the forthcoming agency model.
From then onwards it will cost just £50 per annum, per property, with small discounts for agents advertising multiple properties. We want to avoid the dangers of having one or two large agencies dominating the website, so a level playing field will be designed into the pricing structure.
At Rental Tonic we wholly support this admirable project and sincerely hope that the team achieve their goals for 2017 and beyond. We’ll keep you posted on their progress, but recommend you head over to claim your free year’s subscription before the 16th January 2017.