Fri 8 July 2005
Ross Elder and Andy Firth run the fastest growing holiday home rental site on the internet, and their impact is being felt by the multi billion pound travel companies as more Brits book their own holidays to save cash.
Back in 1999, while Ross was looking for an Internet name to advertise his rental properties in Oxford, he saw the domain www.holidaylettings.co.uk was still available and realised that there might be a much bigger market out there.
He was right. According to the most recent government figures, 231,000 Brits alone now have second homes abroad, and every year more are investing in one. But large numbers remain empty outside of summer, causing owners to miss out on thousands of pounds of rent a year*.
The new website’s first customers were the parents of an old friend, Andy, who had been advertising locally for people to rent out their house in Spain. Other holiday homeowners, working at the same company as Ross followed them swiftly. “I asked the people advertising on the internal notice board if they would be my guinea pigs and put up ads for them for free,” he said.
Soon after, he was receiving email enquiries and started charging £50 a year for an ad on the site. “At the start it was only a couple of people a month,” explained Ross, who ran the site as a hobby for the first few years. But as the numbers increased, and other websites started popping up, he asked Andy - who has a degree in computer science and several years experience working for blue chip companies - if he could rebuild the website to be database-driven, to cope with the increasing number of properties, and make it easier to use.
By March 2004, they had 1,000 homes. New customers had gone from two-a-month to two-a-day and showed no signs of slowing. Since then, business has more than trebled. In June this year, over 200 new homes, paying £85 each, signed up, while nearly all existing customers have renewed their annual membership. The site now advertises more than 2,500 properties all over the globe ranging from Spanish villas to French castles, even Caribbean beach huts.
A combination of cheap flights, more second homeowners, and the fact that people have become used to trading directly with other internet users, has meant that planning your holiday online is easier and cheaper than ever before. The days of going into a travel agent for the whole package are rapidly diminishing. “People see they can get more choice and pay less for it online, so they have started looking at accommodation and other things like car hire online,” explained Andy. “Suddenly rather than one week in a two-star hotel in town, you can afford a fortnight in a luxury villa on the waterfront.”
Andy and Ross will be featured in this month’s Oxford Times In Business section, out 15th July.
Notes to Editors:
* “Britons home in on properties abroad” - The Times, 16.06.05 (source: Office of National Statistics)
About Holiday Lettings:
Holidaylettings.co.uk was established in 1999 by Ross Elder and Andy Firth. Part of the TripAdvisor Media group since June 2010, the business continues to thrive as an independent brand from its offices in Oxford. Jonathan Dees has been managing director since March 2011.
Search 65,000+ privately owned holiday homes in 116 countries around the world. Choose from spacious villas, resort apartments, sprawling gites and farmhouses, cosy romantic retreats, cottages, barn and chapel conversions, city breaks, rural getaways or beach breaks - there's a home for every holiday.
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*Through the TripAdvisor Media Group. Source: comScore Media Metrix for TripAdvisor Inc. and its subsidiaries, Worldwide, May 2012