The short-term rental industry 2020: Ones to Watch

Worldwide: Following the release of our ten predictions for the short-term rental industry in 2020 this time last week, we have identified ten figures that we believe are ‘ones to watch’ in the space over the next 12 months.

Making up the list are a mixture of well-established and up-and-coming names in the short-term rental industry whose progress we believe will be worth monitoring in 2020, based on their contributions to the sector to date.

Take a look at the list below to see who made the cut and our justification for why they are included in our “Ones to Watch” list:

A qualified paralegal, property manager and shipbroker, Santos launched Canadian turnkey interior design firm Fulhaus in 2015 after six years working in the legal departments of Air Canada. The Montreal-based company specialises in designing and furnishing short-term rentals, as well as simplifying the design process for owners and managers to furnish their own rentals with Fulhaus’ dedicated ‘Haus-in-a-box’ product.

In 2019, Santos and her colleagues, Sydney Krause and Pierce Atkinson, appeared on the Canadian version of popular entrepreneurial television programme, Dragon’s Den, to pitch their interior decoration package while asking for a $1 million investment in exchange for a ten per cent share of the business from a ‘stylish partner for some in-house help’. It will therefore be intriguing to see how Fulhaus’ ambitions extend throughout 2020, particularly as it seeks to cater to the business travel segment, with 30 per cent of home-share bookings in 2020 set to be booked by business travellers on the move.

Affectionately dubbed a “She-e-o” by her colleagues, Santos is a regular attendee and speaker at industry events, including VRMA Europe, Serviced Apartment Summit Americas and HOST in London, due to her insight into interior design, property management and real estate, and revenue models in particular.

You can view Andria Santos’ LinkedIn profile here.

  • Ritesh Agarwal: OYO Hotels & Homes founder and CEO

Undoubtedly one of the biggest market disruptors of 2019 has been OYO Hotels & Homes, spearheaded by CEO Ritesh Agarwal, and it is looking to revolutionise the whole hospitality landscape as we know it.

The Indian hospitality startup has made big moves across the respective travel accommodations sectors this year, now claiming to be the world’s fastest-growing hotel chain and the operator of more than 125,000 homes in over 80 countries . In August, it announced it would inject up to 300 million euros [$335.28 million] into its vacation rental home business to expand its increasing European footprint, following its acquisitions of Amsterdam-based holiday rental company @Leisure [and subsequent rebranding of its rental category as OYO Vacation Homes] and Danish data science firm Danamica.

It recently emerged that Agarwal has paid $693 million to gain an estimated 15 per cent stake in OYO from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital India, which has doubled the company’s valuation to almost $10 billion. This suggests we will see further big moves to broaden OYO’s attention beyond its traditional hotels business into the vacation rental sector.

Labelled the “elephant in the room” by AJL Consulting CEO Simon Lehmann, we anticipate that 2020 will be another milestone year ahead for OYO as it continues its expansion into the European vacation rental market.

You can view Ritesh Agarwal’s LinkedIn profile here.

  • Aziza Chaouachi: founder and CEO

Paris-based travel community and marketplace,, is rapidly making a name for itself in the travel tech space since launching two years ago and at the heart of it is the founder and CEO, Aziza Chaouachi. 

Its progress from nascent startup to fully-fledged company has been rapid: the lifestyle app’s community network now reaches 65,000 millennials [60 per cent of whom are women] and it has more than 100 employees across six European markets [it has offices in Paris, Amsterdam, London, Madrid, Rome and Lisbon], with plans to open in the United States by the end of the year. Moreover, it has just raised $14 million in seed funding to offer millennials the opportunity to travel more without taking on more debt. The company claims it is the “largest seed funding round in travel tech worldwide”.

Ultimately, Chaouachi aims to establish as the “next generation of OTA” [online travel agency] by helping to boost millennials’ buying power.

Her role as co-founder and CEO mean she can also be a pioneer for more women to hold senior positions in companies operating in the travel tech space. For this reason, she merits her inclusion in our “Ones to Watch” list.

You can view Aziza Chaouachi’s LinkedIn profile here.

  • Laurence Tosi: WestCap founder and managing partner, and former Airbnb CFO

Former Airbnb CFO and current WestCap investor, Laurence “L.T” A. Tosi, is the next ‘one to watch’ on our list for 2020, following his keynote talk at the recent Skift Short-Term Rental Summit.

Speaking at the Summit, Tosi said “only the largest and most sophisticated players can thrive”, including those companies that invest in technology, data science and marketing to scale up their businesses. For that reason, he has invested in upscale furnished lodging provider Sonder and still retains a stake in Airbnb, as he deems these companies to be market leaders in operating the technology and real estate sides of their businesses effectively and their teams have the necessary knowledge of both to be sustainable.

Even less than two years after leaving Airbnb over a rumoured rift with CEO Brian Chesky, Tosi still has a commanding voice in the industry. While we do not know his next move in 2020, his warnings about the industry need to be heeded as the companies that understand the complexities of their businesses and offer the best solutions will be those that succeed in 2020 and beyond.

You can view Laurence Tosi’s LinkedIn profile here.

  • Aoife McArdle: Airbnb global head of Olympics

Airbnb has been stung by much criticism in 2019 but one employee on its books, Aoife McArdle, has seen her stock rise sharply in the role of global head of Olympics, following the company’s announcement of a nine-year $500 million sponsorship deal with the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees [IOC / IPC] from 2020. At the same time, Airbnb has launched its Olympian Experiences program to follow up on growing demand for unique, curated experiences by millennials and Gen Z demographics.

IOC president Thomas Bach called the deal a “landmark partnership and transformative agreement” but despite this acknowledgement, the announcement has also drawn significant controversy, especially in Paris – the host city of the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. The city’s socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo has been a notable opponent of the Games’ partnership with the short-term rental platform, which has some 60,000 listings in Paris, saying that it “destabilises local businesses and competes harshly with traditional hotels”.

In her seven years at Airbnb, McArdle has progressed from general counsel – EMEA to global head of business affairs and social impacts, and it is the latter role which Airbnb hopes McArdle will harness to make the Games more feasible and sustainable for host communities by providing them with direct revenue. We will get our first look at Airbnb’s partnership with the IOC and IPC in 2020 and it will be interesting to watch how it transpires over the nine-year period agreement.

With the role of head of experiences at Airbnb now also vacant after Joe Zadeh’s departure, one wonders whether McArdle, or even Lisa Martinez, head of food and drink experiences, will be considered as his replacement.

You can view Aoife McArdle’s LinkedIn profile here.

  • Graham Donoghue: Sykes Holiday Cottages CEO

2019 was the year when property management company Vacasa became a unicorn [reaching a valuation surpassing $1 billion] and 2020 looks to be the year when Sykes, led by Graham Donoghue, will compete to assert its dominance in the property management space.

This year, Sykes made its first step into the international market with the acquisition of New Zealand’s holiday rental firm Bachcare, while enjoying a record year which saw year-on-year bookings rise by 26 per cent and yearly profits shoot up to over £20 million leading up to September 2019. Now managing over 17,500 properties worldwide, the company also secured fresh undisclosed investment from private equity firm Vitruvian Partners to fund its rapid domestic and international plans.

If 2019 is anything to go by, the Sykes team will be “one to watch” in a year that is likely to see further merger and acquisitions [M&A] from industry heavyweights. Speaking to Private Equity Wire, Donoghue said Sykes was “now in a strong position to scale further into a booming staycation market”, which is firmly backed up by the company’s strategy to serve more than 3.5 million holidaymakers annually by 2023 and grow its staff to over 1,000 employees.

You can view Graham Donoghue’s LinkedIn profile here.

Already a firmly-recognised name in short-term rental circles, de Souza Lage is CMO of Barcelona-based channel manager Rentals United, and more recently founder of VrTech Events, which work as free afterwork forums for vacation rental professionals and tech companies to network and discuss the future of the industry.  

However, one of de Souza Lage’s most noteworthy contributions to the industry in 2019 came when she highlighted the lack of female representation at vacation rental events and in senior job positions at this year’s Vacation Rental World Summit in Como, Italy. She launched her #TieonStage initiative to promote greater inclusion for women at events and conferences, and the movement has now gained large traction and momentum around the world as a result.

On top of this, she has moved into podcasting by interviewing property managers and CEOs of management companies in her new “Secret Sauce” series, and leads the VrTech Startup Competition to accelerate innovation within the space.

Off the back of Rentals United’s partnership with Google and $4.25 million investment earlier this year, de Souza Lage’s pledge to innovate and grow the industry make her “one to watch” in 2020.

You can view Vanessa de Souza Lage’s LinkedIn profile here.

  • Jannik Lawaetz: LuggageHero co-founder and CEO

As founder and CEO of luggage storage startup LuggageHero, Lawaetz has shot to global attention in the short-term rental space and now regularly appears as a speaker of signature industry events, such as HOST and the Short Stay Summit, as well as the upcoming Guest Experience Show in 2020.

The Copenhagen-based company, which operates in 37 major cities in Europe and North America, aims to provide safe and affordable hourly luggage storage in shops, cafes and hotels, racking up more than 1.7 million hours of bag storage in 1500+ drop off points since launching in 2016. Furthermore, it has so far raised over $2.25 million in funding, leading to its inclusion in Phocuswright’s list of “Hot 25 Startups for 2019”.

Lawaetz says the startup will add “several” cities to its network in the coming months, and judging by its expansion from three to 38 luggage storage locations in the last 12 months alone, we can expect Lawaetz to play a crucial role in spreading LuggageHero’s mission in 2020. This includes passing the two million hour mark for luggage storage as the startup seeks to prevent city travellers being stuck with their luggage pre-check-in and post-checkout by providing multiple drop-off locations.

You can view Jannik Lawaetz’ LinkedIn profile here.

  • Jennifer Hsieh: Homes & Villas by Marriott International vice president

As vice president of Homes & Villas by Marriott International, Jennifer Hsieh was instrumental in Marriott’s first entry into the home rental space this year. In April, the world’s largest hotel company launched the platform to make premium and luxury homes in 100+ global destinations accessible for its Bonvoy members. It coincided with a globally emerging trend which has seen the hotel industry seeks to broaden its accommodation offering into more niche lodging and short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb diversify in the opposite direction to appeal to a wider audience of business / corporate travellers. 

Hsieh has previously worked in insight, strategy and innovation roles at Marriott, which ultimately led to her promotion into the newly-created role of vice president for its first venture into the rental space. As such, 2020 could be her true breakout year as the company seeks to heighten industry standards in the short-term rental sector.

As well as being a frequent speaker at events on future trends [e.g. Skift Short-Term Rental Summit], Hsieh was named one of the Top 25 most influential people in the meetings industry in 2014 and recently received a Leadership Award in Innovation by Great Places to Work in 2019.

Marriott will be counting on Hsieh’s experience and input to make Marriott’s rental venture a success as large tech corporations such as Amazon and Google consider their next steps to muscle into the space.

You can view Jennifer Hsieh’s LinkedIn profile here.

  • Francis Davidson: Sonder co-founder and CEO

WeWork’s failed IPO and subsequent troubles have placed increased scrutiny on the master lease model and its sustainability for the future, as we explored in September’s thought leadership piece on ShortTermRentalz, entitled “The master lease model: will its bubble burst?”. One company looking to break the mould and new ground is Sonder and in particular, its ambitious CEO Francis Davidson. 

As more multifamily builder and investors look to build their own short-term rental strategy and operation, the spotlight will be on the likes of master lease advocates Sonder and Lyric to prove their profitability and build an adverse risk profile to ensure there is no repeat of the WeWork scenario. On the plus side, Sonder is well backed after securing $225 million in a fourth round of private equity funding in July, of which it is investing more than $20 million into its technology alone, at a time when Simon Lehmann predicts the tech space will consolidate quicker than the short-term rental space in 2020.

While we cannot foresee how Sonder will fare in the future in the face of competition from other apartment providers operating under the master lease model [such as Stay Alfred and Lyric], its accelerating growth since launching is undeniable. Davidson maintains that Sonder is “cutting edge” in its approach to the blurring of the hospitality, real estate and travel sectors by providing hotel-quality facilities and amenities in furnished spaces that can be rented for any time between one night and two years.

Sonder’s development under the leadership of Davidson will be impossible to ignore in 2020 and ShortTermRentalz will keep you updated on every stage of it.

You can view Francis Davidson’s LinkedIn profile here


Get in touch with us to let us know who we might have missed and who you think will be “one to watch” in the short-term rental industry in 2020. Who knows, it could be you on our 2021 list!

ShortTermRentalz has launched its inaugural awards ceremony for the short-term rental industry – The Shortyz – which will take place as a unique boat party on the Thames in London on Wednesday 11 March 2020. 

Among our 13 award categories are two categories to be awarded to individuals i.e. The ‘Rising Star’ and the ‘Pioneer Award’. Take a look at the category criteria at the link here and nominate yourself or your colleague at if you believe you / they would be a worthy recipient of either award.