Belgium: ShortTermRentalz spoke to Boris Olympio and Bérengère Ely, the co-founders of eco-friendly booking platform BecoStay, which launched in June, to discuss starting a business mid-pandemic, the push for global sustainability, and competing in a competitive travel market.
- What is BecoStay?
BecoStay has been created to connect owners of eco-friendly homes and eco-travellers together. Our goal is to make sustainable rental bookings easier than ever! Our website meets two key objectives: making sure the guests have the most exhaustive and refined catalogue for their stay and helping the hosts have the right visibility their sustainable home deserves.
- What is your background before founding BecoStay?
BO: I studied in Paris before moving on to Canada, where I went to business school in Montreal, completing a joint major in finance and marketing, and then on to Quebec. After that, I moved to London, where I met my girlfriend Bérengère.
To gain experience in the travel industry, I did an internship at an agency where I was responsible for helping property owners market their homes through booking platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com. I also worked as a marketing executive at City Relay, a London-based property management company, before joining a betting company, Betclic Group, where I stayed for three years.
My girlfriend and I later moved to Malta but now we are based in Brussels, where we have launched BecoStay.
BE: My experience in the travel industry began when I was working at Booking.com in London, initially in the customer service department and then as an office manager.
- How did you come up with the idea for launching the platform?
We started to “breed” our project in June 2019 as we felt it was time to properly research how to start our own business in the travel space. We began contacting developers and looking for the best services to have, and we eventually finalised the project in mid-to-late-June.
The business came about from a pretty simple idea. We are both very eco-responsible and when we are in the supermarket, we always make sure to buy local food and re-use our bags, so it is very ecological for us. In addition, we are making our own home and beauty care products and we are banning plastics.
However, when it came to booking holidays and apartments, we realised that it was very difficult to find different types of eco-friendly or “sustainable” accommodation. Even on sites such as Google and other well-known platforms with millions of listings, there was nothing to tick to say that the property was sustainable. In that sense, you have to do a lot of research and it takes a lot of time to find suitable accommodation.
People need to be more aware of sustainability and it is already something that is very strong in politics, especially when you see many members of parliament from green parties getting elected.
- To what extent is BecoStay filling a gap in an already competitive marketplace? Why is it important to have a platform dedicated to eco-friendly travel?
We are starting to respect the planet for the next generation but we did not have a proper product for sustainable accommodation. As a result, we decided to set a benchmark and start offering those types of accommodation, given that the very few we did find were basically pushing hotels, rather than short-term rentals.
With our platform, we want to highlight eco-friendly aspects and have people of the same mind book these types of accommodation, as there is a clear need for it.
Now that we have this idea, we want to make sure that we have something that is relevant for travellers. It is about regrouping all of these ecological aspects that a property manager can highlight. On that basis, we decided to come up with four “eco-criteria” on our page that are easy to understand and simple to use for property managers:
- Eco-amenities: everything that you do at home to make it more sustainable, e.g. using your own care products, no single-use plastics, food composter etc.
- Eco-material such as natural material used to build the accommodation, including wood, second-hand or recycled furniture etc.
- Eco-energy: everything related to sustainability such as wind energy, solar panels, natural heater systems etc.
- Eco-food for professionals: providing organic / vegan / vegetarian food, local food, growing your own food etc.
Within those four criteria, we have sub-criteria. A host can show what criteria each listing meets, while guests can use these features to refine their search. We want to make it very simple and handy so that people can look up everything from the place, type of accommodation, location etc – anything they feel they need to be sustainable.
- What was it like launching in the middle of the pandemic?
It took one year to have our first product launched as we were originally aiming to launch properly in February, but this had to be delayed to June 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now that we have passed the first stage of the project as borders start to reopen, we are now in the middle of the second stage, which is looking for funding and leverage so that we can raise money for advertising.
- You recently started a crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo: what do you hope to achieve with this?
The crowdfunding campaign is very important for us as we will use it to finance our advertising in the Internet and across social media. We also need this to develop some customisation for our website [having a French and Spanish version, blog page etc]. We have set a goal of reaching €30,000 in funding but we hope we can achieve a lot more than that if people go to the link provided here.
We are also working on a contribution system that will give back a percentage of BecoStay profits to different ecological projects in a medium- / long-term objective. It is very important for us in order to bring BecoStay to the next level and this is where we need help.
- How are you planning ahead for the future?
Sometimes you get the feeling that you are like a peanut in the Pacific Ocean as there are so many websites in the travel industry and it is a very competitive market. However, we are doing something that is very specific, focusing on very sustainable accommodations. We need to be advertising on social media and Google to get visibility, with 60 per cent of the funding going on advertising and 40 per cent on customisation, plus we will be revamping our website and ensuring we have versions translated into French and Spanish.
We currently have more than 160 properties listed worldwide in destinations such as South Africa, New Zealand, France, Italy and Portugal. Many of these properties now have their calendars open and are ready to be booked, but we expect that to increase a lot by the end of the year so that we can be offering a lot more choices such as apartments, farmhouses, tents, yachts etc. This will allow us to target people like us to list their homes on our platform.