As the peer-to-peer vacation rental market balloons, companies in that space are expanding the business model by offering central booking and concierge-style services. This is especially appealing for mid-market to upscale international travelers who haven’t gravitated toward peer-to-peer travel based on their uncertainties about the sharing economy.
Oasis Collections launched in Buenos Aires in 2009 with a small collection of design-forward apartments in the trendy Palermo District. Since then, they’ve expanded into seven other cities in Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay. This month during Art Basel Miami Beach, CEO Parker Stanberry announced the brand’s foray into North America beginning with Miami.
Stanberry says the unique proposition that Oasis Collections offers is a full-service, fully-customized destination experience beginning with the online search process. Like its London-based rival One Fine Stay, instead of booking directly with the property owner, clients book through Oasis. From there, they can then begin their trip planning process with as little or as much customization and handholding from Oasis’ reps as desired.
I met with Stanberry at Oasis Collections’ pop-up “Clubhouse” at the Sweetwater Beer Garden during Basel. He made it clear from the start that he doesn’t really view Oasis as Airbnb’s hipper, wealthier sibling as sometimes portrayed in the media.
“We’re completely different,” he explained. ”Of course both companies are centered around the concept of renting someone’s private home, which is gaining steam all across the spectrum. But Airbnb and HomeAway, while great companies and great models, are essentially just bulletin boards. There is no on-the-ground component, no curation, and no service proposition for guests.”
For international travelers, especially wealthy or business travelers, Stanberry says, “Booking a property on those platforms is a dice roll in terms of what the experience is going to be, and not everyone is going to be ok with that. Oasis is providing a huge level of curation of both the property and the destination that nobody else is.”
Clients are greeted at the property by a local member of Oasis’ guest experience team, who is available for consultation throughout the duration of the stay. The rep handles the basics like checking in guests and showing them around the property. Then there’s what Stanberry calls “the social concierge side.” The rep also provides local information and insider access to venues and local events that the guest might never have found through online search or recommendations.
“So if you’re here at Art Basel and you’re staying with us, hanging out here at Sweetwater, you’re plugged into this kind of cool local experience instantly,” Stanberry said. “That’s a big part of what we offer.”
Sweetwater consists basically of a small swimming pool, some neon-hued picnic tables and a two-seat bar located in an old 1960s condo building next to Bass Museum of Art one block back from W South Beach. Pretty servers were delivering Cointreau cocktails to pretty couples in the pool filled with lots of inflatable beach toys. A small sign reads “No sex in the pool.” It’s a complete surprise and welcome escape from the megawatt tourism machine across the street.
“I’ve lived in Miami on and off for 20 years and I’ve never heard of this place,” I said.
“Exactly,” smiled Stanberry.
There’s an active blog on the Oasis website where clients can research the destinations and learn about special events. Content runs the gamut from a New Years’ party invite in Uruguay to a recommendation for good Italian food in Miami.
Stanberry says, “The blog is important in terms of our brand ethos. We’re not an apartment rental company. We’re an expert hospitality company.”
The Oasis Clubhouse
The Sweetwater pop-up is a replica of Oasis Collections’ Clubhouse concept, presently operating year-round in Buenos Aires. Another is opening full-time in Rio this year, and there are seasonal Clubhouses open during high volume months in Punta Del Este and Cartagena.
The Oasis Clubhouse is basically a secondary and complementary business that acts as both a private members’ club for locals, and a cool base camp for visitors booking an Oasis property. It offers another unique interaction between guests and locals, and admission is included in the rental price.
Sample rental rates presently in Miami run from around $130 nightly for a South Beach studio to $6,000 for an eight-bedroom villa on a semi-private island. The bulk of Oasis properties fall in the $200-$400 range.
“It’s a better value proposition in every one of our destinations in terms of bang for buck compared to the local hotel inventory with a comparable product,” asserts Stanberry. “And since we have access to these properties year-round, we also offer extended stay solutions for corporate guests, which is another niche that no one is really serving now.”
Aside from its website, Oasis Collections lists properties on distribution channels such as Airbnb and HomeAway to provide maximum exposure for the property owners, but all bookings and communications go through the Buenos Aires HQ.
Moving forward, Stanberry expects to open four to five more destinations in the first half of 2014. He can’t commit to announcing specific cities yet but he says Mexico City, New York, San Francisco, Austin, London, Paris and Budapest are in development or on the radar.
Greg Oates covers hospitality trends and next generation hotels. He has participated in 1,000+ hotel site inspections in over 50 countries.