Talking Short Term Rentals: Parker Stanberry, Oasis Collections

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• Can you tell us a bit about your background and how Oasis Collections came in to existence?

I used to be an investment banking analyst at Merrill Lynch and was a creative for Miramax, before purchasing a quick service restaurant in New York which I sold in 2006.

I decided to take some time out and went travelling in Argentina for 3 months, looking for quality hotels and apartments to stay at during my trip. I didn't speak much Spanish and experienced good and bad service and most importantly inconsistent short term rentals booked using local accommodation agents.

"There wasn't the variety of quality accommodation experiences or a brand that I could trust. So getting to know the area, myself and two other investors committed to purchasing around ten apartments spread across Palermo that we could manage as owners.

We asked ourselves what's great about short term rental apartment and boutique hotel stays, but also focussed on eliminating the not-so-good experiences, and those that could be improved. Oasis Collections was born!

• How has Oasis Collections grown since then and how much funding has been received so far?

We operated the apartments as a deconstructed boutique hotel, united in style with a concierge facility. Setting up a basic website and advertising on Craigs List the reservations started to come through, but I soon realised how super-capital intensive the hospitality business was for us, despite being proud of what I felt was a cool concept.

We decided to amplifying the idea and scale from an asset light perspective. The mantra being to enable travellers to seamlessly experience a city through the eyes of a local.

To this point, Stanberry and his two other business partners had seed funded the growth with $10k each, relying on word of mouth, knowledge of buildings they liked and contacting those landlords with distressed property situations around 2009 to grow the rental apartments portfolio.

As the business grew we attracted a further $110k of investment in 2009 and a further $600k in 2011.

Accor recently acquired a 30% stake in the business, and prior to this we have received $7 million total investment to date.

• How many properties do you have listed now and how many do you plan to add in the next three years?

We currently have one thousand four hundred client properties with us across eighteen cities. The target is fifty cities in 2 - 3 years, taking a boutique approach in every destination.

We have around one thousand client properties in South America so the Accor investment is likely to help drive growth elsewhere.

• You have a strong presence in the Americas, with offices across the US and South America? Where are you planning to expand apartment bookings?

From Buenos Aires, we have expanded northwards whilst achieving around a 50 / 50 split of both business and leisure bookers within our growing portfolio. In 2014, we made Miami our head office with a view to spearheading growth into Europe. We bolstered our Executive Team with Katharine Pottinger as Chief Hospitality Officer and Matt Harty as Chief Operating Officer.

We have a good knowledge of our guests and their booking habits - Buenos Aires for instance tends to attract the 7-14 day leisure guest, whereas Sao Paulo can be thirty, sixty, ninety days or longer, hence attracting more business clients, relocation agents and corporate housing companies. Oakwood Worldwide and Live Skyline in Latin America already use our inventory, and it's great to have companies like Google and Boston Consulting Group regularly booking with us.

• Now Airbnb has almost become a generic term for short-term home rentals, what do you do differently from your competitors?

 On reflection, we were earlier on the vacation rental scene, offering a more complete and better experience than Airbnb, but at the time it was impossible to make comparisons.

We have discovered a huge need, with plenty of demand and 'holes that needed plugging' based on substandard guest vacation rental experiences elsewhere. This included quality control, on ground service and local expertise for instance. And have adapted our concierge offering based around the quality personal service you'd receive at the best boutique hotel, using technology as an enabler.

We are very proud of our approach to exceptional service, and our Net Promoter loyalty score of 78% (when compared to Apple at 67% for instance).

• What's the background behind the Accor investment?

Accor invested based on how we had expanded quite quickly with a quality product using limited resource. They specifically liked us based on our approach to quality control and on the ground service in the short term rental market. Our brand will benefit hugely from Accor's support and distribution, they have the knowledge and ability to create demand and offer a global platform for us to expand.

They will provide a huge resource of market intelligence for us, particularly in Asia and Europe. Accor has one seat on the executive board and no day to day involvement in the business.

It surely seems only a matter of time before Oasis Collections is distributed via Accor's booking distribution channels, and their recently launched OTA platform.

One Fine Stay for instance is only in four cities currently: New York; Los Angeles, London and Paris.

• What's your approach to guest loyalty programs and the outlook for the future?

We are unlikely to launch our own loyalty scheme, but will consider something more subtle like taking a spontaneous generosity approach we can truly embrace whilst guests are on property.

We feel Airbnb is for the mass market, and the future for short term rentals is more specialisation, more ultra high level product choices driven by segmentation eg. Kid and Co

It will be difficult for hotel brands to do it themselves, other than maybe within a condo, private residence club including a hotel mixed use component. Hotels are procedural and less nimble, and used to operating within the four walls of a building.

Our approach and guest experience is unique and characterful, 'formulaic' is not in Oasis Collections' vocabulary.

Parker Stanberry is a speaker at the Serviced Apartment Summit Americas, April 13-14, NYC


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