A conversation with Peter Hunke of Germany’s e-domizil, a European vacation rental industry leader with over 450,000 listings and Kigo channel partner.
Peter, tell us a bit about e-domizil and your role there.
We’re one of the most important vacation rental platforms in Germany and German-speaking countries. We also have a presence in Switzerland, Poland, and as of recently, in the Netherlands. I serve as key account manager for e-domizil’s holiday rental business, and am in charge of coordination with partner agencies such as Kigo, as well as property managers.
How would you describe e-domizil’s position in the vacation rental industry? What does e-domizil do differently?
We decided early on to list exclusively homes and apartments and not take on hotels. We also don’t list private rooms – in other words, the lodgings must have a kitchen. This specialization allows e-domizil to be really good at a few things rather than trying to do everything.
Another distinction is that we’re focused more on vacation destinations than cities. We do find we’re picking up more and more city listings as well, and of course many people do vacation in cities, but our focus continues to be on typical holiday getaway locations.
Is there a certain type of traveler that e-domizil particularly attracts? If so, do you have any advice for how vacation rental managers can better reach them?
Our clients aren’t much different than those who other online booking agencies attract: people who prefer more character, privacy, space, amenities and often a better value than hotels might offer. One thing we do a bit differently is that we have a separate website for luxury rentals, listing around 20,000 of the top properties rather than the whole 450,000. This makes searching a lot easier for those with the budgets to afford the best.
Also on the subject of attracting certain types of travelers – I should mention, since it might be helpful to your readers, that 25% of our bookings are by people who have pets traveling with them. Many of our clients vacation someplace that can be reached by car, and they take their pets along. This might not be quite as prevalent in a large country such as America with its big distances, but it’s certainly worth keeping in mind that a “pets allowed” designation will make a listing attractive to a larger audience.
What are e-domizil users looking for when it comes to accommodations? What don’t they want?
The most important thing in a vacation rental listing is accuracy. What people want is to find exactly what they expected when they arrive. Even though some listings include only five or six photos, I’d suggest a minimum of 15-20. People don’t want to simply read “three bedrooms” – they want to see inside the bedrooms – the size of the beds, the layout, the décor.
If you oversell the property and disappoint the renter, you can expect bad reviews, and reviews are so important in this business (we do our own reviews in addition to the renters’ reviews). Of course you don’t want to undersell the property with too few photos of nice amenities or skimp on the description. The trick is to show the property exactly as it really is, to accurately capture it with plenty of photos and a detailed description.
Do you have any insights or advice about the online booking process itself?
I think one of the big areas of change in our business will be the increasing popularity of and pressure for instant booking. When people are booking vacations online, they don’t want to wait a day or two for a confirmation from the owner that the property is available when they want it; they want know on the spot. People are not accustomed to waiting for, say, an airline or rental car company or hotel to get back to them in a day or two to let them know if a reservation is available. Those who offer instant booking will have a clear advantage, but this will mean they need to keep availability of their properties updated and accurate.
What are e-domizil’s growth plans, both in terms of internal growth and through partnerships?
We’ve grown every year since we started the business on our website in 2000. Even with our current large size, we’re still growing year by year. This is of course partly due to the growth of the industry, but it’s also because we’re consistently working to improve our services to attract more clients and partners. For example, we’re always working on how to make the booking process as simple and intuitive as possible. We also constantly test website layouts against one another to see which is more effective and easy to navigate.
Those who list with us get visibility not only on our site, but also on those of our more than 4,000 partners, so that has become a big draw that’s fueling our growth, and we’re adding more partners all the time.
What new trends do you see emerging in the industry?
The growth of the business worldwide is making it easier for e-domizil and others like us who are mostly regional to become more international by linking with partners around the world, so I think you’ll see today’s platforms increasingly having a global reach.
Another thing we’re seeing is the decline in the popularity of packages that include lodgings, airfare and a car or transfer, as more people choose to stay in homes and apartments rather than hotels. They’re willing to skip the convenience of a package and make their own arrangements in order to take advantage of vacation rentals, which accelerated and became known to lots more people with the rise of Airbnb, though vacation rentals were already popular in Europe before that.
Any final thoughts?
A: As in any new and fast-growing business, experience and professionalism begin to be valued more and more. Though this is a relatively young industry, there are already companies such as e-domizil and Kigo that are well established and successful enough to have invested in great technology and customer service, and my advice for property managers is to stick with leaders they can trust.
Founded in early 2000, e-domizil specializes in easy online rentals in Germany. The objective of the company is to revolutionize the renting of vacation homes and apartments, and to become a leading supplier in Europe. E-domizil accepts customer reservations and informs property managers directly via the Kigo API about new bookings. Clients can contact e-domizil 24/7/365 from anywhere in the world. e-domizil currently lists over 450,000 apartments in more than 80 countries worldwide. Destinations of interest at e-domizil include farmhouses, ski vacation rentals (chalets and cabins), luxury apartments, golf houses and spas.