We sit down with Johannes Siebers, the CEO and co-founder of the global price comparison platform for holiday homes, Holidu.
So Johannes, here at LLM we all love to travel and experience the very best places to stay worldwide, but still love to get the best prices available on accommodation. Is this in a nutshell what Holidu helps users with?
Absolutely. There are so many accommodation rental sites on the market, and what Holidu does is gathers and compares the offers from more than a thousand websites including Airbnb, Booking.com and Homeaway and provides our users with access to over 15 million properties worldwide, showing them all at the cheapest price they are advertised at. Holidu does this whilst also letting travellers search for their perfect holiday rental using a range of optional filters for features and amenities that are important to the traveller and their trip.
How is the concept unique from other accommodation sites?
We are true believers in the power of technology and we focus a great deal of our energy and resources into figuring out ways in which we can use technology to enhance our service. To ensure we do not show duplicate advertisements for the same property, we have built our own proprietary image recognition technology, which scans every image from every listing and detects which ones are the same from different sites, even if the photos have been taken at different angles. This is essentially how we are then able to do a price comparison of the same rental listing across various websites, which in turn enables users to get a substantial saving on their booking.
We have also automated our rankings and use AI to detect signals from how a user is interacting with the properties he or she is seeing: We see, for example, this customer probably likes luxury properties, based on what he or she is clicking on; then, when they scroll down further, we show the user curated, customized properties in that same range, based on the kinds of images they are already interacting with.
Two years after the start of our Holidu search engine, we launched our sister company, Bookiply. Staying true to our mission to make the search and booking of vacation homes easy, we realized that we would also need to support homeowners in the management of their homes. So, we developed our Bookiply software and service designed specifically for holiday rental property owners. Bookiply provides holiday rental home owners with a whole range of features to help make their lives easier, including: synchronised bookings and calendars to avoid double or cancelled bookings, description texts and property photos created by our own in-house content editors and network of professional photographers, payment collection and a 7 days a week customer service available.
How long has Holidu been running?
Holidu was founded in Munich in 2014 by myself and my brother Michael when we had difficulty in searching for a holiday rental for a surfing trip in Portugal. After a tedious planning process of going back and forth from various booking websites, trying to find and to book a suitable rental for us and our friends, we realised this was not an efficient or traveller-friendly way to plan a holiday.
We found that the same holiday rental frequently appeared on different booking sites and was advertised with different prices and availability. Our two first bookings were rejected due to overbooking issues. We asked ourselves why booking a rental was never as easy as booking a flight or hotel, and so the concept of Holidu was born. Since our founding days we have rapidly grown and now have a team of over 200 employees with over 40 nationalities being represented, as well as having offices in a number of our key focus destinations around Europe.
What kind of luxury properties does the site offer?
Our website has a wide variety of amazing property types, from log cabins and chalets that are perfect for rural summer and winter escapes, to villas with a pool, incredible city lofts, authentic fincas and even medieval castles. We also have a filter that is called ‘rare finds’, which allows travellers to easily select to view a long list of stunning luxury penthouse apartments and villas in the holiday destination you search for.
How can users find something a little different for their trips on the site?
Our filter options are a key part of the search process that allows users to fully customise their search and tailor it to their own needs. The filter options cover different property types, as mentioned before, as well as over 25 amenities: sauna, hot tub, fire place, balcony, pool etc. There is also the option to select location specific preferences, be that within a 1km radius of the city centre or 200m to the waterfront. All of these features together mean that the user can fully customise their search and find their dream holiday rental within one single search.
As well as the features on our site, we also have many additional features that we are very proud of. If you haven’t decided on where to go on holiday yet and are in need of some ideas, our Holidu Magazine is readily available to help out! We post our “hidden gems” recommendations for destinations all over the world both on our blog website and also feature them on our app, making travel inspiration very easy for our users to access when they need it. Also, every week we use our Instagram account to highlight tips for travelling to new focus destinations, giving our followers a variety of suggestions on amazing rentals available there, the best places to eat, rooftop bars to enjoy panoramic views and much more.
What’s your background Johannes?
I studied International Business at the University of Tübingen, Sydney and Madrid. Upon graduating, I started my professional career at Siemens in the area of venture capital, where my role consisted of investing in fast growing tech companies. My time overseeing the successful development and growth of various startups definitely contributed to my strong desire to found and lead my own company.
What are your three top worldwide destinations and why?
My first top location has to be Baleal, in Portugal. This is an amazing surfing spot, and is actually the origin of the Holidu story, so it will always hold a great significance to my brother and I. Next up, for a city break I would have to say Tel Aviv, Israel. This is such a vibrant city with great cuisine and the best nightlife. You can also find an abundance of luxury lofts and penthouses here, many of which have panoramic views of the ocean. Finally, Mallorca is a location that is hard to beat. It is such a diverse island with something to suit every type of traveller. Nature, biking, beaches, party, fincas – you name it, Mallorca has it.
Tel Aviv accomodation tip: holidu.co.uk/d/28705763
How can users snag the best deals on luxury holiday rental accommodation?
One of the key benefits users get from using our metasearch engine is that we show the live prices for accommodations which are often advertised on multiple different websites at different prices. Particularly in the luxury segment, which oftentimes is even more intransparent and sometimes addresses audiences which may appear less price sensitive, large price differences may occur.
Essentially, Holidu does the price comparison for the user and the user can trust that they are being shown the live best price for the rental they’re looking at. Luxury rentals often don’t come cheap, which is why our website is the perfect tool to use when you’re wanting to treat yourself to a luxury holiday rental, but you are still happy and reassured knowing you’ve bagged it at the best possible price.
Where will be hip to visit in 2020 and why?
One of the many things I love about our international company is that with over 40 nationalities of travel and tech lovers being represented, we are never short of in-depth travel advice.
For a less-packed choice than the tourist hotspots of Santorini or Mykonos, head to Hydra Island. This is a small Greek island located approximately 75km from Athens, reachable in 2 hours or so by boat. This is already a favoured destination for luxury travellers, but remains fairly undiscovered by the masses. Delicious food, Greek charm and stunning waterfront views are just a few of Hydra’s selling points. The transportation ban on the island means the only mode of transport is by boat, donkey or on foot – perfect for people looking to be more eco-conscious with their travels this year. This slow way of life makes the overall vibe on the island a very laid back one, perfect for a tranquil escape.
Hydra Island accommodation tip: holidu.co.uk/d/3032944
Another travel tip is Essaouira in Morocco. For a less-hectic choice than the standard capital city of Marrakesh, head to the Atlantic coast and to Essaouria. This culture-rich city recently joined UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, which emphasises how this city is an up-and-coming location for music, architecture and art lovers alike.
Essaouira accommodation tip: holidu.co.uk/d/18676676