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Skift Studio: Luxury Retreats Founder on How a Vacation Rental Site Grows Up

Skift Take

Vacation rentals’ popularity has boomed in recent years and gained considerable consumer awareness giving companies the opportunity to grab an ever larger customer base as long as they keep pace with mobile and local advancements.

— Samantha Shankman

Editor’s Note: This is the first in Skift’s new video series Skift Studio which will feature short interviews with founders, executives, designers, and marketers in the travel space that pass through our offices in New York City. In our first episode, our camera coughed up a bit with auto focus, apologies on background whirring noise, we’ll fix with future episodes.

Vacation rental site Luxury Retreats was launched several years earlier than Homeaway, Airbnb, and similar rental sites that have turned personal home rentals into a common type of accommodation.

Founder and CEO Joe Poulin bootstrapped the Montreal-based company from its launch in 1999 until 2012 when he raised the company’s first $5 million round of fundraising.

Poulin is now looking to expand the company’s listings in the urban market and is planning to release a new mobile product in coming months.

Skift recently caught up with Poulin to learn more about the luxury accommodations market, what role curation and user reviews play in rental listings, and how the company is growing to keep pace with a quickly expanding market.

A few highlights from the video are as follows:

  • Luxury Retreats has far fewer properties (2,500) than other vacation rental companies, but differentiates its product with hand-picked homes that are regularly inspected for quality.
  • Luxury Retreats does not use a membership program, because it does not see it as a sustainable business model.
  • User reviews are a necessity in travel today, especially if a company doesn’t have a brand name as well known as Starwood or Hilton.
  • Tablets are more important than smartphones when considering mobile products for vacation rental bookers.

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