London-based startup onefinestay offers a unique experience to those who wish to rent a private dwelling on a short term basis and benefit from high-quality online and offline services.

[HOTR] Reinventing the premium hotel experience with private apartment rental service

According to IFOP, the French Institute of Public Opinion, 58% of all French people see short-term property rentals as a strong trend for future consumption patterns. Amid the growing popularity of the idea of using rather than owning, Airbnb has been enjoying great success with its accommodation letting service and now other startups are offering variations on the theme with short-term rentals of offices or sales spaces. One example is the London-based company onefinestay, founded in 2009, which, like Airbnb, offers short term apartment rental. However onefinestay is clearly differentiating itself by providing premium support and offering its clients “a different way of thinking about the concept of hospitality,” claims co-founder Greg Marsh, with whom  L’Atelier met up during the Hackers on the Runway event held on 1-2 July in Paris.

Combined online and offline service

Onefinestay’s approach is to appropriate the hotel concept and reinvent it. People can offer their homes for rent during their absence to other people who would like to discover the city and really experience what it is like for people who actually live there. Greg Marsh explained that the company strategy is 50-50 online and offline: “On the one hand we ‘ve developed the company as a traditional e-commerce firm with acquisition marketing, key words on search engines, collaboration with online and high street travel agencies, etc. However, it’s important that we also do all the things that a company wishing to provide a high quality service to its clients needs to do.” So in addition to providing visitors with a choice of homes made available by their owners on the website, onefinestay also offers a premium hand-holding service which includes personally giving the visitors the keys, the loan of an iPhone with practical local information, plus arranging the linen, towels and toiletries you would usually find in a hotel.

A hybrid service

From its beginnings in London back in 2010, onefinestay has now expanded to three more cities – New York City, Los Angeles and Paris – and has on its books thousands of homes to rent out. “Our service is similar to that offered by a traditional hotel but instead of operating in one single place we offer apartments which are located throughout the city,” pointed out the company’s co-founder. Greg Marsh has come up with the term ‘unhotel’ to describe this hybrid service which combines the premium quality of a hotel room with the feeling of a personalised real-life environment. Given that onefinestay prices usually start at $700 (€400) per night, Marsh sees his direct competitors as traditional hotels rather than Airbnb. Homeowners are paid according to a rental rate which the company website says is an average market price. The company is planning to expand to more cities next year, and will at the same time be continuing to build business in its existing, still growing, markets.

By Eliane HONG