US: ShortTermRentalz spoke to Marco del Rosario, the newly-appointed COO of VacationRenter, about how he will apply his experience from a similar role at Google and his company’s announcement about hiring and international expansion.
- Could you explain to us who VacationRenter and Wilbur Labs are and how they are connected?
VacationRenter is a vacation rental search engine that brings the best rentals from the top sites together all in one place. VacationRenter was built inside Wilbur Labs, a startup studio reinventing the way companies are built and scaled by using automation as a cornerstone.
Wilbur Labs looks for industries where automation can make a huge difference to the user experience. Vacation rentals are a great example of an industry with a lot of fragmentation, and as a result, it’s really hard for travellers to find what they are looking for. Since launching VacationRenter last year, Wilbur Labs has brought on a team with deep travel expertise to lead VacationRenter.
- As the COO, who will sit in the first executive seat of VacationRenter, how will you apply your previous experience at Google to this role?
I spent five and a half years at Google working in travel partnerships and products, where I learned a lot about the travel industry and ecosystem. I bring that travel expertise with me to VacationRenter, but even more so, working at Google showed me what it looks like to run a world-class team at scale. A lot of my approach to management, culture, and product has been heavily influenced by my time at Google.
- The company is already on track for significant expansion, exceeding $600m gross annual booking value: what was your motivation for joining and how will you be tasked with helping VacationRenter expand to reach a global market?
I met the Wilbur Labs founders, David and Phil, at Google. Coincidentally, we all started on the same day back in 2013, and while we took different paths at Google, we always kept in touch. In 2016, David and Phil left Google and founded Wilbur Labs. When they launched VacationRenter and started growing the company, they approached me and shared their vision of how automation could simplify the vacation rental industry. With the global vacation rental market size on track to reach $194bn by 2021, and as someone who frequently needs to book vacation rentals, I was excited by the opportunity to make finding the perfect rental as easy as possible.
With significant traction in the U.S., we now have our eyes set on global markets, where we will be adding international supply brands, localising content and rolling out multiple currency options. We’re on a mission to help people find the perfect vacation rental, no matter where they are, to ensure travellers around the world have the same, seamless experience while using VacationRenter.
- Ahead of your announcement on the plans for the future of VacationRenter, what can you already reveal to us about hiring, additional rental partners and international reach?
We are hiring across multiple roles on our team and continuing to build out supply partners as we grow. The first market we will be rolling out to is the United Kingdom, and we have a long list of markets we will be expanding to shortly after. We expect that within a few years, our global booking numbers will exceed what we are doing in the U.S.
- What will be your greatest challenges in implementing your plans in a crowded vacation rental tech industry?
We are really focused on building the easiest way to find the perfect vacation rental. We’ve already accomplished a lot, but we have a lot more to do. One of our biggest challenges will be building a product that works for every traveller, in every major market. By utilising automation and AI, we are confident we can make that happen.
- How will you be leveraging AI technology to address the latest trends in the travel space?
The automation and AI behind VacationRenter solves for three main pain points: time, value, and experience. Travellers are inundated with sites and apps they can use to book and plan their vacations. Options are fragmented, which means it could take travellers hours to find and book a vacation rental. With such fragmented results, it’s also difficult for travellers to know if they’ve found the best option for the best price. With our automation and AI, travellers save time, make informed purchase decisions, and have an overall better experience planning their trips.