In the past year, vacation rental metasearch engines have seen an unprecedented increase in traveller interest. By allowing searchers to compare listings from thousands of websites and book their ideal rental with flexible cancellation, they have become the go-to booking platform for millions of customers worldwide.

As a result, metasearch engines like Holidu have proven to be an excellent source of bookings for property managers trying to increase their occupancy and revenue as soon as travel restrictions and lockdowns eased up. 

To learn more about how getting listed on a vacation rental metasearch engine can help your property managers business, we spoke with Johannes Siebers, CEO and Co-Founder at Holidu, one of the fastest-growing companies in this space. 

He shared with us how, despite the challenges of the past year, Holidu has been able to achieve profitability and close the summer of 2020 with a record number of bookings – a feat that they plan to top in 2021. 

In the video below, Rentals United CMO Vanessa de Souza Lage interviews Johannes Siebers, CEO and Founder at Holidu. They talk about:

  • Holidu’s mission
  • Partnerships with OTAs and property managers
  • Holidu’s de-duplication image recognition technology
  • Booking trends in wake of the pandemic
  • Where Holidu is looking to add inventory

What is Holidu – and why should property managers care?

Holidu is one of the fast-growing companies in the online travel industry. As a vacation rental metasearch engine, Holidu aggregates listings from thousands of websites, allowing travellers to easily find and book the ideal accommodation for the lowest price. 

The company helps property managers with more than 15-20 properties get more bookings by exposing their listings to over 25 million monthly visitors. Their focus regions include Western Europe, Australia and the US (Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, North and South Carolina). 

Property managers who want to take advantage of the visibility that Holidu offers have the option to get listed on Holidu directly or through a channel manager like Rentals United. 

Learn how to get listed on Holidu

Holidu was founded by brothers Johannes and Michael Siebers in 2014. The high-growth startup is headquartered in Munich and has local offices in the most attractive travel destinations in Europe.

Turning challenges into opportunities

Just like any other vacation rental business, Holidu has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 got off to a rough start: in April, bookings plummeted to zero, and the next few weeks saw numerous cancellations. 

However, in early summer, when lockdowns were lifted, booking volumes exploded. Thanks to its strong team and proprietary technologies, Holidu was able to respond quickly. As a result, they were able to allow travellers to enjoy long-awaited vacations throughout the summer and fall of 2020 and enable property managers to boost their occupancy. 

Due to renewed lockdowns, demand for vacation rentals declined again in the winter. But currently, Holidu once again sees a rapid increase in bookings, and they have strong confidence that travel will be possible again in the summer of 2021.

All in all, Johannes believes that the crisis will not change travel completely. “My personal assessment is that COVID-19 is a catalyst for many trends that have been emerging for a long time: vacations in one’s own country, individual travel, and the demand for a stay close to nature and sustainable ecology,” he said. 

“These developments have been greatly accelerated by the crisis. In addition, digitalisation and online business have taken an enormous leap – also in the tourism industry,” he added.

New records in bookings and achieving profitability

Of course, the events of the past year have impacted Holidu’s revenue and profit. But while the spring and winter of 2020 were slow, the company hit new records in bookings over the summer. 

In fact, Holidu had a record summer with 2.6 times year-on-year growth in bookings and more than €130 million in new bookings generated in July 2020 alone. In May 2020, the company became profitable for the first time with its search engine and has since generated a seven-figure operating profit.

After an initial slump in the tourism business, domestic tourism is now booming, and bookings are increasingly taking place online and last-minute. There is also a greater demand for high-priced accommodation. 

These stats comparing July 2020 to July 2021 show some significant changes in booking habits:

  • The share of domestic bookings increased from 50% in July 2019 to 68% in July 2020.
  • Holidu users are booking with less anticipation, in July 2020 they booked their vacation on an average of 38 days in advance, up from 59 days in advance in 2019.
  • The average price of a vacation rental per day was 154 euros in July 2020, 14% higher than the previous year.

All in all, Holidu has noticed that patterns in booking trends reflect the changes in people’s feelings about travel and the state of the world in general. As soon as the prospect of easing is positive, booking figures rise. 

Responding to changes in traveller behaviour: flexible cancellation

Flexible holiday booking is one of the most important trends that the vacation rental market has seen in the past year. Since COVID-19, travel plans can change at any moment, and the desire for free cancellation is crucial for most travellers. 

However, before the pandemic, having the option to cancel your trip free of charge was not a given in the vacation rental industry. 

“The vacation rental market lagged so far behind other travel segments, with hotels more flexible cancellation conditions are for instance, already for a long time much more established,” said Johannes. 

“We look forward to catching up – we already offer more than 2 million accommodations for flexible booking. We can also significantly simplify the search for objects that can be cancelled free of charge with a filter option,” he added. 

The introduction of Holidu’s free cancellation search filter has meant that travellers can easily book flexible holidays on their platform. If the filter is activated, only vacation rentals for which free cancellation is possible after booking appear in the search results. 

“Last year it became apparent that the cancellation conditions of the individual providers were handled very differently. For the customer, that meant reading a lot of fine print,” said Johannes. 

Considering that around 38% of vacation rental reservations were cancelled in 2020, this was a great frustration for many travellers. That’s why the Holidu team has been working tirelessly to make flexible travel easy for customers by rolling out new cancellation models with partner portals and vacation rental companies. 

Flexible cancellation policies don’t just serve to put travellers’ minds at ease – they also help property managers attract more bookings. 

“We see that flexible conditions are very much in demand with customers. Vacation rentals with good cancellation options generate up to five times more bookings,” said Johannes. 

In fact, half of all providers now rely on the flexible concept. However, the number of accommodations that can be cancelled free of charge still varies considerably within Europe. 

Take a look at the graph below: 

It’s interesting to note that,  we can see different results when taking a closer look at some regions within these countries. 

For example, Mallorca is low compared to the rest of Spain, with only around 52% of properties on flexible cancellation. On the other hand, the region of Kleinwalsertal in Austria is much higher than the country average, with 66% of rentals opting in for flexible cancellation. 

A look into the future: growth and investment

As we’ve mentioned before, Holidu is optimistic about the future of travel.

With the vaccinations, I see the light at the end of the tunnel and am also confident that there will not be a third lockdown. If there is, we are in a good financial position and are optimistic that we will see record booking numbers again on Holidu this summer and fall,” he said. 

As a high-growth startup, Holidu has been working to scale the business with investment partners who share their vision. 

In the fall of 2019, Holidu closed a Series C funding round of €40 million led by Prime Ventures. The Series C was extended by €5 million in August 2020, of which €4 million was a private investment from Kees Koolen, former Booking.com CEO. Since then, other investors have also become aware of Holidu due to its rapid growth in the crisis year 2020.

Despite all this, growth isn’t Johannes’s primary focus.

“It’s fun to grow, but that’s secondary. For us, it’s important to build a good company and create value for travellers and hosts. It’s also hugely important to us that the company pays off for investors and employees. We want to offer a great workplace where the team can work on exciting projects and that we have created a contribution to sustainability,” Johannes told us. 

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Holidu’s expansion to the US

Despite COVID-19 reshuffling the cards in the travel industry, Holidu became profitable for the first time with its search engine and has since generated a seven-figure operating profit.

They have since set their sight on the US and have made it a priority expansion market after seeing significant growth in demand despite their limited presence there. 

With demand for vacation rentals in the US being remarkably robust despite the challenges of COVID-19, they expect it only to strengthen when the international travel explosion comes once restrictions are lifted. 

Heading up this expansion is Stephen Thresh, Managing Director of Holidu, who will be growing the team based in North America. Previously working with Booking.com, Stephen brings with him 18 years of experience in the vacation rental industry. 

“I am very excited to have moved from Booking.com to head up Holidu’s expansion into the US market. We are looking to replicate the success Holidu has seen in Europe focused specifically on the Vacation Rental sector and be ready for when International travel returns to the US,” he said. 

Learn how to list and manage your rentals on Holidu and 60+ other channels with the help of our reliable connections. Speak to a Rentals United distribution expert today: