Talking Travel Tech: Arnaud Bertrand of HouseTrip
What’s your background and why did you decide to launch HouseTrip?
I studied at the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne and also at Harvard University.
I decided to launch HouseTrip because I experienced both sides of the holiday rentals industry (both as a guest and as a host) and really identified the massive opportunity there was for a service like HouseTrip, that really streamlines all the processes around finding and booking a rental.
How is the company funded?
We just closed our second-round investment. Our investors are business angels – successful individuals in both the travel industry and the start-up world.
We feel rather lucky to have been able to raise this kind of money in such an economic environment.
A lot of my entrepreneur friends are struggling to find financing right now.
In the battle against other vacation rental player on the market, what do you think are the two or three things that you have that will help you to catch up?
First of all, the fact that it is 100% free to post a property on HouseTrip is quite a differentiator as most of the other holiday rentals website charge heavy listing fees.
HouseTrip also provides a lot of value and many useful online tools as compared to the other websites. The entire booking process is handled through HouseTrip – the host simply has to sit back, accept the bookings he wants and receive the money directly to his bank account.
What are the Housetrip unique features?
We introduced quite a few unique features to the industry:
- It is free to post a property on HouseTrip
- Hosts have, for the first time, the option to auction certain dates in their rental, for instance during an important festival where their property is located
- We have the entire social framework and the groups: add for instance your property to the business travellers group and target the members of the group – who are business travellers – to stay at your rental.
Could you explain your revenue model?
It is very simple – a guest makes a booking request with his credit card.
The host has then 36 hours to accept or deny the booking request. If he accepts, the guest’s credit card is charged and we will transfer the money on the host’s bank account, minus our small 10% commission.
What are your thoughts on European and international expansion?
HouseTrip’s entry markets are France, Germany and the UK, simply because those are the most important countries for our industry, both in term of numbers of properties and of outbound tourism.
Anyone around the world can use our services but we focus our main marketing activities on those three countries. Of course, we are very ambitious and are already thinking and working on going to other countries.
Are you working with any other travel sites?
We just launched the website three weeks ago so we haven’t had time to form any partnerships yet, although we have a few in mind.
What are your thoughts on the international trends about etourism, such as mobile, augmented reality, travel social media and trip-planning tools?
I think everyone is looking for the same things: to make our life easier and more enjoyable. In my view, any trend that goes in that direction will take off.
What has particularly excited me in recent months is the launch of Bing, Microsoft’s search engine.
You can now pretty much book your hotel from the engine’s search result, that makes people lives easier!
As well, a clear trend is the growing amount of information and media you can gather around particular destinations/hotels/holiday rentals: websites that gather a lot of useful information and organise it in an user-friendly way will obviously thrive.
Last but not least, a very important trend is the need to travel in a more sustainable way: information and technology need to help people make smarter decision when it comes to travelling.
HouseTrip hopes to align with those trends: I would particularly like to stress that sleeping in a holiday rental is infinitely more sustainable than sleeping in a hotel!
Can you highlight some Switzerland start-up or Switzerland technologies that have international potential for the etourism market?
Apart from HouseTrip (!), I would say RouteRank, which is a really good site for sharing information for how to go from point A to point B.
As well, I think the guys at GetYourGuide are doing something really great.
Claude is a contributing Node to Tnooz, consultant and seasoned blogger hailing from Marseille, France. Claude started his career in tourism as a technical sales manager for a Marseille-based tour operator.
He then spent six years as a sales executive at Louvre Hotels group, before discovering the tremendous potential of the internet for the marketing of hotels and tourism.
Claude then became the sales and marketing manager for a regional booking engine for the Marseille Chamber of Commerce and DMO’s.
He now handles consulting and training for hotels and other DMOs. Claude manages his blog HoteliTour.