At Home in a Stranger's House

HouseTrip has introduced a new way of travelling: cheap, easy and above all “authentic”

The success of a trip is closely linked to good accommodation, something Arnaud Bertrand understands well. Having already achieved a degree in Hospitality Management at the École Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland, he was in the midst of a stressful internship in London when he decided to take a break. Along with Junjun Chen – future wife and co-founder of HouseTrip, he took off for a short getaway to Scotland. Since they worked in a hotel, they rejected the same type of accommodation. To better enjoy the holiday atmosphere, their choice fell on a holiday rental that guaranteed a full immersion into the local context.

As it turned out, however, this brought along with it a series of annoying discomforts related to the transfer of money, documents to be sent in every moment of the day and looming doubts that the person with whom they were in contact was really the owner. The big loss of time while arranging their stay led them to think that there probably had to be a better way.

The key to their idea was based on their own experience and perceptions of how choosing and booking accommodations should occur.

“Given that rentals have lower prices and taste more 'authentic' than a hotel, if it is easier to book a home than a hotel, more people will choose the holiday home"

The essence of HouseTrip is the antithesis of what might be considered the direct competitor – the hotel, not only in terms of lower costs but also because of the travel philosophy of those who opt for one or the other. From a practical point of view there are three big advantages to staying in a holiday apartment.

On average holiday apartments are 20% cheaper than an equivalent hotel room so, quite simply, people pay less. Secondly, they offer 20% more room than a hotel room, at least on average. This is ideal for people travelling with family, allowing them to get everyone into one apartment without having to squeeze or having to take a separate room. Finally, holiday apartments offer access to all parts of a city – and travellers aren’t just limited to the really touristic neighbourhoods. So if there is an area that is trendy or up-and-coming that is not yet served by a hotel, they aren’t stuck.

The notion of travelling by living elsewhere is a big motivator for Bertrand, and as he believes, for many others as well. “Travellers no longer want to be tourists. It’s not about ticking sites off a list anymore. They want to immerse themselves in experiences and cultures. Living like a local in private accommodation allows them to do this, which is why I truly believe that the holiday rental market will continue to be a fast-growing one”.

In fact his intuition has proven to be successful thus far. In 2009, initial feedback regarding the offers on HouseTrip was excellent. In the early days, they had about 1,000 holiday rentals available for guests to book. Today, that number is over 160,000 and the customer review score speaks for itself, with guests giving properties an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 when reviewing their stay – well above the hotel industry standard.

“Travellers no longer want to be tourists. It’s not about ticking sites off a list anymore. They want to immerse themselves in experiences and cultures"

Currently, the user base is predominantly European and the top five markets include France, the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy but, as the founder of HouseTrip highlights, it is not possible to define the standard type of traveler. From young kids, teenagers, to multi-generational families, the diversity is immense, though guests do seem to share the desire to experience a holiday as a family, without the need for splitting people up into multiple, expensive hotel rooms. Other markets that are attracted to the rentals on offer include groups of friends – often travelling for reunions, cultural events or sporting events – and couples looking for a more genuine, local encounter.

The allure and success of HouseTrip is linked to a formula based on transparency, facility and speed. Potential guests can book properties in as little as six clicks, bookings are made only by credit card in order to add a layer of financial protection, and hosts are not paid until 48 hours after check-in to ensure that every stay is satisfactory – such details are critical and stem from Bertrand’s own beliefs.

“Prior to founding HouseTrip, my wife Junjun and I were students preparing for careers in hotel management. Our job experience was limited, but we both came from entrepreneurial families and always wanted to make our own mark in life. We feel that our youth gives us a sense of energy that startups require to succeed, which, combined with our hospitality background, allows us to know what the customer wants from an ideal holiday experience”.

The anticipated challenge in the coming years? According to the CEO, the biggest one continues to be the same – finding more properties and more talent to develop the website showcasing properties, possibly even mobile options for the users that are constantly on-the-go.

“The faster we can grow, the more we can offer to our customer base in the future”, Bertrand muses.

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Veronica Paoli
17 Jan, 2013 Veronica Paoli
It's good to see a successful European project and I like Beginners and Experts publishes a lot of stories from Europe:).
17 Jan, 2013 Karim
will start using this website