I'm sure many of you might think, why don't these guys get more listings?
Let's start with the basics.
Swapnil and I could have bought a vacation rental site for $1000. Yes, that is right. Just a $1000 and you are all set. We could have done this 3-4 years ago. Add some nice pictures on the homepage, some text about who we are, what our "marketing plans" are, pricing structures for Gold, Silver and Bronze members, focus on SEO and get the listings onboard.
Actually, we could have done this for destinations as well. We could have made 30 different sites. I call this the "Easy solution". Successful? Highly unlikely. Why? Investors would have invested in them. It is as simple as that. Technically: these sites cannot be changed programmatically. Most will have a contact owner side on the right where the guest can contact the owner "directly" (After signing up with the site) Julie P wrote about it here
To make a vacation rental marketplace like Houfy takes 2 years. Needs testing from members (1Y) and you are all set. OK. You add Gold, Silver and Bronze and collect "listing fees".. promise some stuff to your members and go for it.. Start spending the collected funds on Facebook ads, flyers, airplane banners, and all the other "proven" strategies. I call this the "simple solution". Successful? Maybe, but unlikely. Why? It would have been done already! and investors would have invested in it.
What is the problem & how do we think we can fix it?
The problem with a marketplace (destination/state/pet friendly etc) is you need to get the word out. You need quality inventory & find the clients (guests). No inventory, No guests.
Houfy is very slowly adding listings every day, you can follow our progress here, we have no secrets. Every day, we are improving our site from the INSIDE out. With the tremendous help of many of our members we are making Houfy better and better. For our vacation marketplace we still need two important tools:
Price synchronization with VRBO/AIRBNB
API to connect to channel managers/property management systems
Once these tools are made and connected correctly, we should be able to increase the inventory of listings significantly. (Property managers have "no time" to add/update listings to a new site) We could send out mass mailings to inform property managers about Houfy and its tools.
Another way to increase inventory would be by offering our members a "bonus" for referring new members with listings. This bonus could be in the form of Houfy ownership.
Please be advised: you see Houfy as is and do not know the amount of e-mails, private messages and posts we receive daily asking for help etc. We are in the process of making simple links to explain how things work at Houfy. This process takes time as well as the fixing/changing certain programs/layout to avoid many of these questions in the future, when there are more listings on Houfy.
OK, so now we will have the inventory part OK. Sort of.. I did not mention our plans for destination and specialty sites. I will do so in Q2-Q3 of this year.
Where would the guests come from?
I have spoken about a $10 listing/subscription fee per month. However: Would it be possible to do this for free? I think so. It would require a lot of activity on Houfy Social.
How? Houfy was designed to share local information. "A social site" or "A publishing site"
Your guests plan a trip to a destination, "sun", look for flights, best deals, look for lodging, best deals. Once they are set, your guests book the travel and lodging part of the trip.
This process might have taken a few hours. (To find the "best deals", yes they did not look on individual owner websites and paid the "service fees" ,as trained to do so)
Sporadically between the booking and the actual trip, the guests start planning: What to do? Where to eat? What to see? When to do? Where best deals? The closer the travel date, the more planning and searching online for information. 1 site, 3 sites, 5 sites, 10 sites..
Do you know this feeling?
How about having all the information on 1 site? On Houfy! You stay with Jack at destination "sun" and Jack has made guides of all things to do/popular restaurants, his favorites etc. No more need to search 1-3-5-10 sites. Jack even made a FAQ guide for his guests.
Swapnil and I are making Houfy, the product. It will be up to you to help us spread the word. By helping us, you are helping you! and maybe others too. And this is the idea of Houfy. Help your guests, help yourself, help other members.
I know you do not have time. Time can be made, it "just" depends on your priorities.
Where would the guests come from? Well: 1 listing = 1 url for Google SEO. Let's say we can get to 50.000 listings in 2020. BUT: we have 1 Million or more stories/posts/guides. The total is 1.050.000 url's and Google would VERY much like that information.
FYI, we are close to 3000 listings with approximately 45.000 posts/stories/guides. 50.000 listings could give Houfy 5 Million url's if we manage to educate our members right. This is when we can say Houfy is working.. and guests are finding us.