US: A newly-funded vacation rental service that specialises in offering timeshares in resort destinations, KOALA, has announced it will officially launch on 3 August.
Claiming to be the “first and only company to disrupt the $30 billion timeshare industry since the market segment was created in the 1960s”, KOALA raised $3.4 million in its first funding round led by Ira Lubert and Dean Adler [from Lubert-Adler Real Estate Funds] just as the Covid-19 outbreak struck, on 23 March.
Timeshare rentals [sometimes known as vacation ownerships] operate under unique business models, whereby timeshare owners rent out their condo-style units in resorts to travellers, rather than live in them for personal use.
Unlike independent vacation rentals, where a single homeowner can offer their property for rent through platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo, timeshares are rented out by companies that own entire bookings and guests can book the stays that suit them, typically in week-long increments.
KOALA is seeking to disrupt a timeshare industry that it believes has historically been “monopolised” by developers such as Hilton, Marriott and Disney, leading to more than 22 million individual unit owners renting out their condo-style units.
Its co-founder, Mike Kennedy, previously worked as a senior sales executive for Hilton Grand Vacations at The Hilton Club in New York City. He believes timeshare owners and renters have previously been forced to navigate a “complex and outdated system” to use their timeshares and / or make profits on their investments, so he has set out a vision to create a more seamless user experience and connect owners and renters directly.
This connection is set to be achieved by creating an accessible timeshare marketplace that uses KOALA’s own proprietary technology. In doing so, the startup wants to cater increasingly to the millennial demographic by providing desirable and affordable options for vacations in timeshares.
In the current climate, KOALA sees itself as being well-positioned to weather the Covid-19 storm, compared to competitors in the sharing economy, through its timeshare marketplace that allows guests from anywhere in the world to rent out a time in one of its units.
Speaking to the startup’s website, Kennedy predicted a surge in demand for clean, professionally-managed vacation rentals in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kennedy said: “We expect that the demand for professionally-managed vacation rentals that offer cleanliness and certainty, as timeshares do, will be even higher. We are taking this moment to ensure we have the capability to easily onboard supply and scale with this demand.”
KOALA emphasises that it only lists units in verified resorts with check-in desks and staff to increase guest trust and confidence. Timeshare owners will not be required to pay fees to list their units through the marketplace, according to Kennedy, as the startup uses a commission-based business model.