The accommodation sector in Europe will become more competitive as new entrants target the sector but one of its newest brands has vowed to stick to its tried and tested formula.
Awaze, the new corporate identity of the parent of Hoseasons, James Villas and Novosol, the collection of European holiday rental brands sold off by Wyndham Worldwide last year, says it plays an important role in the communities in which it operates.
Chief executive Henrik Kjellberg, who joined after a successful career with Expedia, told the Phocuswright Europe conference that it is conscious of the responsibilities it has to its two set of customers: the end consumer on one hand and its home and park owners on the other.
“Guests understand quality and brand and they want to know there is someone there to help them when something goes wrong. There is a lot of fake vacation rentals around, you can get scammed. That will never happen with any of our brands.
“And owners want to know you are there, that you are local. People care about relationships. Owners want to know that they can speak to someone, having someone take care that their house has quality guests and that they can be taken care of.
“We are predominantly in rural communities in which we are seen as a fundamental pillar of those communities.
“We create jobs and work in sync with the communities in which we serve. Our people want to serve the communities in which we work. Having the scale also really helps us to be able to put some investment in.”
Awaze offers over 110,000 accommodation choices in 36 countries and its 4,000 employees welcome eight million guests a year.
Kjellberg said guests are becoming more demanding and as holiday rentals becomes increasingly mainstream it has to move with those rising expectations. There is also increasing governmental scrutiny of how firms behave, said Kjellberg.
“Competition is getting fierce and real. Owners have an increasing array of choice in how they can have their property sold. It’s an asset that is important financially but more importantly emotionally. It’s their second home for most people and they want it to be taken care of.”
Kjellberg said consumers do not necessarily recognise the accommodation category types the industry brackets product in, and are just looking for the optimum property type for their particular trip.
And he said Awaze will continue to take acquisition opportunities in a fragmented market where it can find “small jewels” to grow its portfolio like its most recent deals for Finca Majorca and Mulberry Cottages.
“We are very open to looking at all opportunities especially in Europe which is our main focus.”
Kjellberg said when it came to distribution it predominantly sells direct but he said “you can have good and bad direct”.
And he said Awaze is investing in technology and talent to target loyalty although he did not yet know what a loyalty programme in this category of product looks like yet.
“For everybody in this room the aim is to have good traffic direct and indirect. You get that by really focusing on your value proposition creating loyalty and also part of that is having the right technology.
“The focus for me is on good traffic; people who come back to you organically. In order to get that you have to work hard creating a good experience from booking to stay.
“I’m less worried about the competition because there is so much out there to capture. It’s more how we make the experience better. That’s really where I’m spending most of my time. If we focus on that value will come.”