Vacation rental marketplace KOALA officially goes live

US: Vacation rental marketplace KOALA has officially launched this week, as it seeks to reshape the global $30 billion timeshare industry.

Co-founded by CEO Mike Kennedy and COO James Burbridge, KOALA has already raised $3.4 million in Series A capital led by investment specialists Ira Lubert and Dean Adler. The platform aims to enable timeshare owners to easily rent their properties to anyone in the world, while offering vacationers the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a timeshare without actually purchasing one.

Kennedy said: “KOALA satisfies a previously unfulfilled need in the travel space. Travellers are often asked to choose between multiple hotel rooms and unverified home rentals whose glossy photos, to put it mildly, don’t reflect reality.

“It connects travellers to verified listings with the space of a home rental and the amenities of their favourite hotel. Moreover, KOALA’s direct-from-owner listings offer travellers significant savings relative to what they’d pay for similar accommodations on the large travel sites,” he added.

Kennedy acknowledged that now might not seem an opportune time to wade into the travel sector, however he explained the differences between accommodations on KOALA and both apartment rentals and the typical hotel.

He added: “Travellers on KOALA get instant access to major brands like Wyndham, Marriott, and Hilton—all of which have implemented detailed cleaning and operational procedures to keep guests safe. Additionally, the condo-style spaces available on KOALA take much of the hassle out of social distancing.”

Working as a senior sales executive for the Hilton Club, Kennedy recognised that both owners and renters had to navigate a “complex and outdated” marketplace. He said he was inspired to “change the conversation” by creating a technology-based platform that enabled owners and renters to easily and securely connect.

Burbidge said: “Our goal was to create a platform that would empower timeshare owners, draw a new generation of guests, and bring certainty to timeshare travel while giving everyone a voice. KOALA’s innovations are game-changing – and long overdue.”

KOALA’s streamlined search function is designed to make it easy for renters to browse timeshare accommodations. Each listing offers details on the resort’s location and onsite amenities, as well as images.

Its listings include resorts in key destinations, such as the Sheraton Broadway Plantation in Myrtle Beach, Wyndham Park City, and Marriott’s Canyon Villas in Phoenix. Most are set in resorts with prime features such as beachfront access, infinity pools, and full-service concierges, with available suites ranging from studios to four-bedroom penthouses.

Unlike its competitors, the co-founders say the company charges no fees for annual memberships [or to browse listings]. Meanwhile, owners receive $1 million in host insurance to protect their properties from damage, and KOALA charges eight per cent commission per successful booking.

Kennedy said: “We named KOALA to bring a fuzzy presence to the notoriously hard-edged world of timeshares but more than that, it brings a new way to transact, travel, and enjoy stunning resorts without the hassle. As travel picks up again, we’re positioned to benefit every player in timeshares.”