Home-rental start-up Airbnb, recently valued at $10bn, is trying to expand from enabling people to let out their flats or holiday homes to helping their visitors buy and pay for everything from event tickets to travel.

The company’s valuation has quadrupled in the past two years as it brought to life the so-called sharing economy, the linking up of individuals who want to temporarily lend what they own to others willing to pay for it.

The popularity of sharing economy start-ups – including Lyft, the ride-sharing app, and TaskRabbit, a platform for hiring casual labour – has exploded in recent years, as has the venture capital flowing into them.

Lyft

But now, said Nate Blecharczyk, Airbnb’s co-founder and chief technical officer, the start-up was looking beyond its roots.

The focus is figuring out how to use the service to sell other products to its millions of users in nearly 200 countries.

“Bottom line, it could eventually be anything, whether you want to book a dinner reservation or plane tickets or whatever we can take your money . . . and we can route it appropriately,” said Mr Blecharczyk. “It’s definitely something we’re actively working on.”

Ultimately, said Mr Blecharczyk, it wanted to offer those who used its service to rent strangers’ homes, or flats, or in some cases igloos, “the convenience that you might expect of a hotel”.

The move into value-added services also comes as the company is fighting legal challenges to its core business, from landlords evicting renters whose leases or zoning codes bar them from sublets and from cities who argue the company should be taxed as are traditional hotels.

Jon Steinberg, BuzzFeed president & COO, weighs in on Airbnb’s $10 billion valuation and the company’s recent $500 million round of funding.
Amid those changes, he said, Airbnb users had taken the initiative to get creative in building on the site’s core business model. One developer in Philadelphia was constructing a block of flats with a unit specifically permitted for short-term vacation rentals.

“There’s probably a lot more opportunity for stuff like that in the future, but we don’t necessarily have to be the driving force behind that,” said Mr Blecharczyk. “There’s a lot of different models you could image even if we don’t do it.”

Behind the company’s move beyond flat-sharing and towards more standard travel services is the ecommerce platform that the site runs on. It can handle nearly 70 currencies – far more than most ecommerce sites – and has credit card or bank information for all of its users.

The growth of ecommerce has spurred companies from Apple to Google to look at ways to take advantage of the banking details they hold for their tens of millions of users. Airbnb, Mr Blecharczyk argued, had an advantage in using its user data to expand the service because it knew when a person was travelling and – because tourists were predictable – what they were likely to want.

While the company had not yet settled on how it would expand its offering, Mr Blecharczyk said, ultimately the expansion itself would help the company figure out where to go next.

“The more stuff that we handle, the more data we’re able to collect about what it is that you are in the market for,” he said.

Source: http://www.cnbc.com/

Huddersfield-based Air Parade, which traded as Luxury Villa Escapes and Villa Parade, ceased trading yesterday. It mainly sold packages to Spain and Portugal.

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) estimates the firm has up to 70 customers currently abroad, but their holidays should go ahead as normal.

Abta said the firm has around 1300 bookings for future holidays with villa accommodation only. These will be cancelled, although customers will get their money back via Abta’s financial protection scheme.

Around 400 bookings for flight packages will also be cancelled, with refunds paid via the Air Travel Organisers’ Licence scheme.

Villa Parade’s website has been replaced with a page telling customers to contact Abta, or the Civil Aviation Authority if their booking involves a flight.

The firm has been locked in a legal battle with holiday rentals firm Travelopo.Travelopo

Details emerged after some Villa Parade customers received emails from Travelopo telling them their villa bookings were not valid.

Last month, the firm stated that the majority of bookings were “secure and will be fulfilled”

Source: http://www.heraldscotland.com/

Is there a danger to work with some small holiday rental companies as the competition becomes hard?

Singapore’s Frasers Centre­point is pushing ahead with plans for a hotel real estate investment trust after picking up the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth for $202.7 million in a deal finalised over the weekend.
frasers centrepoint
The five-star hotel was sold by fund manager LaSalle Investment Management, which picked up the 436-room property for $130m four years earlier from Tourism Asset Holdings.

The sale was brokered by Sam McVay of McVay Real Estate and Craig Collins of JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group. The premium price achieved is expected to be repeated in a number of other Sydney hotel deals, notably as US group Starwood brings its Sheraton on the Park property on Elizabeth Street to market for about $450m through JLL.

Frasers Hospitality owns and operates hotels around the world and already has a local presence with a $252m portfolio, including the Fraser Suites Perth and Sydney and Fraser Place Melbourne, but the group is now buying other properties ahead of the float in Singapore.

Frasers has been bidding for hotels across Asia as it attempts to find high-profile landmark properties to anchor the fund.

Thai billionaire Charoen Siri­vadhanabhakdi won control of Frasers Centrepoint last year

http://www.businessspectator.com.au/

Hotels and serviced apartments are increasingly finding favour among corporate investors in Singapore, according to property consultants.

Chesterton Singapore says the segment is compelling, leveraging on the growth in tourism as well as rising interest in hospitality real estate investment trusts.

Mapletree Investments recently signed a deal to buy a 49-per cent stake in Oakwood Asia Pacific, with plans to acquire and develop US$4 billion worth of corporate and serviced apartments in Asia, Europe and North America.oakwood

Analysts say the hospitality segment is attractive to investors who wish to diversify their business.

It also presents upside potential as real estate investment trusts (REITs) continue to be well received in the market.

Donald Han, managing director of Chesterton Singapore, said: “You have City Developments hospitality REIT… Far East Hospitality REIT… Ascendas Hospitality Trust and more might be jumping on to the bandwagon.

“Companies like Mapletree may… be mulling potential listing once their acquisitions have hit a particular matured level.”

Analysts say investors are looking at hotels and serviced apartments as they tend to offer higher yields compared with investments in retail malls or commercial offices.

Consultancy Colliers International says the rate of returns of hotels and serviced apartments is around 5.25 to 5.75 per cent in Singapore.

This is higher than the rate of returns of offices, which is around 3.5 to 4.25 per cent, and retail properties, which is around 4.75 to 5.5 per cent.

However, it is slightly lower than the rate of returns of industrial properties, which is at around 6 to 6.75 per cent.

The consultancy added that total investment transaction value for the hotels and serviced apartments sector in Singapore has increased sharply from S$298 million in 2009 to S$3.7 billion last year.

However, some analysts say rising prices in Singapore’s hospitality market could send investors scouting for opportunities abroad.

“Luxury property like what has been transacted at Westin recently went for about S$1.5 million per key,” said Mr Han.

“Compare that to Australia, where the price per key for a 5-star hotel would hover around S$500,000 to S$550,000 per key (while) in Tokyo, probably around S$400,000 to S$500,000 per key — about more than 50-per cent discount compared to some of the properties in Singapore.”

Tang Wei Leng, executive director of investment services at Colliers International, said: “One hot country right now is Japan. Call it “Abenomics” or the Japan Olympics that they will be hosting in 2020, all this will lead to people wanting to travel to Japan. Where do they have to stay? Serviced apartments and hotels.

“The other one that we think highly of is Seoul. There are two casinos that have been announced.”

Market watchers say the expected growth in international visitor arrivals to Asia Pacific over the next five years will continue to support investments in the hospitality sector.

According to preliminary findings from a recent report by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), visitor arrivals to the Asia Pacific region will continue to grow at an average annual growth rate of 6.2 per cent from 2014 to 2018, to hit 660 million by 2018.

CNA

Airbnb has taken the world by storm, but not without controversy.

Just last week the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) announced its plans to fight back against Airbnb’s dubious, unregulated business practices.

The key players in the hospitality industry are taking sides, making arguments, or, at the very least, feeling the impact. There is however, a smaller faction of the lodging industry that is suffering from Airbnb’s success, perhaps more than the other segments: the Bed & Breakfast industry.bnbfinder.com

The letters “BnB” have long been associated with Bed & Breakfasts and/or Country Inns, and as such, Airbnb’s name is causing serious damage to B&B brand identity, and sowing confusion among potential customers. Airbnb properties are not B&B’s at all, but rather a diverse array of short-term rentals.

The definition of a B&B is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodations and breakfast. This is not a new concept by a long shot – B&Bs as they are known today have been around for decades.

Legitimate B&Bs not only serve breakfast, but are also licensed, inspected, and insured in order to protect guests. They are also required to pay a variety of taxes.

Airbnb hosts do none of these things.

A name like B&B cannot be trademarked, which is how Airbnb was able to utilize the name.

The name however is infringing upon an entire industry. In an effort to crack down on unregulated rentals, cities such as New York have made it illegal for residential Class A buildings to have paying guests for fewer than 30 consecutive days. The unintended consequence, however, has been the closure of many beloved, long-running and highly regarded NYC B&Bs.

Unlike the AH&LA, the Bed & Breakfast industry does not have deep pockets nor do they have an incorporated unifying association fighting on their behalf. But that doesn’t mean their argument should not be heard – in fact, B&B industry stakeholders should be yelling the loudest. The power and success of the Airbnb business model is without argument impressive. That said, competition and changing industry landscape is one thing, but suffocating an age-old form of hospitality because of an oversight in regulations and infringing on a brand is quite different.

Peter Scherman and Rick Wolf of The B&B Team, a consultancy, in the bed and breakfast industry with over 20 years of experience.

While recognizing the power of Airbnb in the industry and admiring the success of its business model, Rick and Peter are all too aware that the success coming to Airbnb is largely in part due to the public acceptance of the business model, which they contend is a major part of the brand infringement problem.

Says Scherman: “We believe that all those who participate in Airbnb by providing rentable inventory should be held to the same standards of accountability as those they currently compete with.

The bottom line is that a level playing field honors the uniqueness of new and different places to stay while ensuring that travelers are protected and honest businesses are not hurt by an inequitable environment.”

http://www.tnooz.com

The site’s three-step booking procedure and responsive design allows users to view descriptions of apartments, properties and almost 300 local neighbourhoods and book on all platforms.GoNative

Local advice on bars, restaurants, places of interest and ‘secret gems’ are all a part of the company’s move to create apartments which are launch pads from which people can ‘Go Native’ and enjoy a neighbourhood experience.

“It’s a huge project that has finally landed into an industry leading website with live bookings and stunning design, something for us all to feel really proud of and a further demonstration of our ability to lead the way.” Shaun Prime, Managing Director.

Thanks to the site’s new functionality, it’s now possible to search for apartments by price, features and facilities, and even distance from a specified location; the next phase of development includes a Go Native ‘Neighbourhood app’ helping visitors make the most of their stay.

Go Native offers the widest range of all inclusive, ready-to-live apartments that put guests at the heart of the city the minute they arrive – giving them the freedom to make the most of their stay.

For more info, visit their website at http://www.gonative.com

About Go Native
Established in 1997, Go Native is an award winning provider of both short and long term apartments, operating across the UK. Go Native provides travellers with access to a comprehensive network of over 28,000 serviced apartments, all available on a flexible basis. Whether guests are staying for a night, a month or a year, a Go Native apartment offers value quality, privacy and independence.

Furnished apartments for business travelers especially asked in fair cities – mixed concepts from a hotel and boarding house are in trend.

The business travel market is booming in Germany – and so for Serviced Apartments-. With over 1.3 million overnight stays in serviced apartments, the capital Berlin comes first, followed by Munich with 986.000 overnight stays and Hamburg with around 526,000 overnight stays.tophotelprojects

In Berlin there are about 3,700 serviced apartments, about 1,600 in Hamburg and Dusseldorf in just 900. And more apartment buildings will be built according to TOPHOTELPROJECTS, the leading information provider for hotel chains and hotel projects built.
Around 1,100 Serviced Apartment establishments already exist in Frankfurt / Main – and the demand continues rising. According to a study by the company Georg Consulting, there are annually about 360,000 overnight stays in serviced apartments. This corresponds to a market share of around five per cent of all overnight stays in the banking metropolis.

The average lower price for an overnight stay in a serviced apartment after all concepts and stay time is in Frankfurt at 68 euros per night. The average prices range from 80 euros to 200 euros per night. The average operation size in Frankfurt is more manageable with 47 apartments/operation (eg Berlin 56 apartments/operation and Munich 95 apartments/operation).

The last few decades international trend observed an increase of Long Stay Apartments as a result of mobilization and globalization of the economy. Especially workers who must change their location work very often, or for a certain period of time, the so-called “job nomads”, contribute to the Boarding House or Property Serviced Apartments an increasingly important role.

The regional Boarding House markets differ significantly from one another. The reasons for this include the appropriate regional economic structure and thus the trim on specific companies and industries as drivers of the demand for short-term accommodation. In summary shows that the proportion of overnight stays in serviced apartments in banking and trade fair cities are the highest. Most of the times mixed concepts (hotels with built apartments) are made.

The highest market share, measured by the share of overnight stays in serviced apartments in total nights), the global trade fair city of Hanover with 12.6 percent. In Munich, accounts for about eight per cent, accounts for five per cent in Hamburg, Berlin 5.3 percent, 7.1 percent in Stuttgart and Leipzig in 4.6 percent of the total nights on serviced apartments.

Around 80 percent of surveyed providers of serviced apartments estimate the future general market performance as growing. Only about 20 percent expect a constant development. From a market downturn no one assume from the respondents. As for the future in greater demand supply form see 80.5 percent of the surveyed houses a clear trend for mixing concept.

Only a fifth of the surveyed houses keep pure boarding houses for the supply form in the future.

Source: http://www.4hoteliers.com/

TripAdvisor has announced the acquisition of Massachusetts-based VacationHomeRentals.com for an undisclosed sum.

vacation home rentals

Vacation Home Rentals has 14,000 listings worldwide, and will join TripAdvisor.

Dermot Halpin, president of TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals: “We’re thrilled to welcome Vacation Home Rentals to the TripAdvisor family. The team delivers a great experience for both homeowners and travelers and the inventory is a valuable addition to our fast-growing business.

This is the second purchase in a year for TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, as the division acquired Spain’s Niumba a little under a year ago. The division has been steadily snapping up competitors, starting several years back with UK’s Holiday Lettings.

In addition to straight purchases of competitors, TripAdvisor has been pursuing partnerships that allow its consumer reviews to be placed alongside holiday rentals. The division aims to have a comprehensive rentals portfolio that benefits from the wider company’s status as the most visited travel and review site.

The company says that the addition of Vacation Home Rentals brings the vacation rental count to over 550,000 rental properties, including inventory from other portfolio brands like FlipKey.

TripAdvisor signalled its intent to take the vacation rental sector seriously (beyond its previous somewhat piecemeal acquisitions) when it hired Halpin in 2011 to oversee a dedicated division. Halpin was previously president for Europe at Expedia, when the pair were sister companies.

Source : http://www.tnooz.com

The Housing Board investigated 184 cases of short-term leasing in public flats last year, a 73 per cent increase from 106 cases the year before.

It also received around 45 complaints about suspected cases from 2012 to last year.

Violators may lose their flats and get fined if they are found guilty of renting out spaces for less than six months.

Private home owners are not exempt from the six-month rule. They can be fined up to S$200,000 (US$158,995) and be jailed up to 12 months.Singapore HDB

The authorities say that such short-term rentals are banned as they might disturb neighbours in residential estates.

An Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) spokesman added that most residents prefer “familiarity” and not to live among “transient strangers”.

Read More‘Honey Look!’ at One of the Worst Tourism Ads Ever
But that has not stopped more online advertisements offering these short-term rentals, which span a few days to months, from sprouting.

Roomorama’s co-founder Teo Jia En, 32, told The Straits Times that her home-rental portal has more than 500 listings for Singapore properties, an increase of about 30 per cent compared to last year (only 192 on the website …if we are not wrong)

Turochas Fuad, 39, chief executive and co-founder of travelmob, a similar website, also noted an “increased adoption of hosts and listings” across Asia Pacific, though he declined to provide numbers for Singapore.

A search on travelmob turned up over 500 local listings, and another portal, Airbnb, has more than 1,000.

Many of these listings are for short-term rentals, and most appear to be of condominium units and rooms.

The URA looked into about 2,100 unauthorised uses of private residences last year, up from 1,300 cases in 2011.

These numbers include both short-term leases and unauthorised conversions of private properties into dormitories or boarding houses.

But owners and tenants, many of whom sublet their homes to help pay their mortgage or rent and to meet new people, said that they have not received any complaints from neighbours.

“They are very supportive,” said a 40-year-old business owner who has been renting out a room in her Novena condominium on Airbnb since June 2012.

She has had 13 bookings so far, with guests, usually tourists, paying S$110 each night and staying for three days on average.

“It’s such an incredible opportunity to meet people from all over the world without leaving your living room,” said a 29-year-old marketing manager who started subletting the master bedroom in her four-room Chinatown HDB flat last December.

Apart from tourists, some of her guests are students or those here on work attachments who stay for weeks.

Visitors prefer renting these spaces rather than staying at hotels as they are often cheaper and include access to amenities such as a kitchen.

For example, one can rent a room in a Chinatown flat for S$35 a night or S$230 a week, while a hotel room in the same area might cost about S$150 a night.

Teo said: “It allows them to live like locals, which is unlike what they would get in a cookie-cutter hotel.”

While Fuad said that most travelmob guests prefer to stay in the central area for convenience, Teo noted that Roomorama’s most popular rentals are in East Coast and Bukit Timah.

“They prefer a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city centre,” she explained.

Asked whether they help to enforce the short-term rental rules, Fuad replied: “We do state in our terms and conditions for our hosts to understand their local laws before they list on our site.”

“The onus is on the home owners to make sure they are in compliance,” added Teo, noting that licensed serviced apartments advertise on her website.

Source : http://skift.com/

Shifting of the sand in the vacation rental marketplace with confirmation that HouseTrip is scrapping all listings of private rooms from its database

HouseTrip

HouseTrip informed hosts of the “important change” to its service via a recent letter in which it said as part of a new focus on couples and families it would be “removing all private bedrooms from our website” and in future only allow entire properties to be listed.

The letter adds: “During this time we will be taking away search functionality for private bedrooms in shared accommodation, and removing them from our search results so they can no longer found by prospective guests.

” Existing bookings or upcoming check-ins will not be affected by the change, HouseTrip adds. HouseTrip says it is currently running at a 95%-5% ratio in favour of complete apartments to shared spaces, so it does not anticipate any major erosion of its overall product spread.

An official says: “We want to be known for providing the best range of complete properties available for short-term rent. And we feel that this clarification of our offering is the best way to do it.” Including shared spaces in its portfolio was found to have “muddied the waters”, the official says. “The feedback we have received from many travellers is ‘yes, I want to get tips and advice from an owner. yes, I want the personal touch. Yes, I may even want to feel like a local.

But when the info is given and the key swapped, I want the apartment to become my space and I don’t necessarily want to become best friends or swap Facebook details with the landlord’.”

The company denies the move is anything to do with recent regulatory or taxation shenanigans affecting the likes of Airbnb or Wimdu which have a focus on shared spaces.

Nevertheless, issues such as these are clearly triggering a fair degree of strategic soul searching for a number of brands as they look to anticipate where around the world they may face hurdles over their ability to operate (or those of their product hosts).

Airbnb, for example, recently celebrated (and potentially breathed a huge sigh of relief) a regulatory win in France when a legislation was introduced allowing home owners to rent out rooms without seeking permission from local authorities.

Its head of global public policy, David Hantman, says some 83% of its hosts in the French capital Paris share their primary residence – in other words, let out a room OR only have the property available for a limited period of time.

HouseTrip’s move possibly illustrates how the main players in the rental/sharing economy are re-positioning themselves as providers of product in one particular area (shared vs complete rental).

A source who until recently worked within one of the main global players in the sharing economy says there is a wider trend emerging: “After seeing good traction and interest in the mass audience, the involved companies are trying to get out of a niche and attack a more established market, providing an experience closer to what hotel customers are used to.

“The peer economy is a nice thing, but there are reasons why hotels and other kind of accommodation facilities need to comply to specific rules… and the private accommodation market is probably trying to anticipate the regulatory movements so that they will be more ready when the time will come.”

Source: http://www.tnooz.com