Fancy That: An Israeli-British Entrepreneur Is Building The Michelin Guide For Luxury Vacation Homes
Tel Aviv is one of the newest destinations to be included in The Plum Guide, a high-end holiday rental property guide, which is carving its own niche in the hospitality industry alongside Airbnb, Maison Privee, VRBO, BridgeStreet, and others. The Plum Guide is run by an Israeli-born, UK-based entrepreneur who is on a mission to offer travelers the best places to stay in the best destinations with a guarantee that the places are as nice as they say they are.
“Tel Aviv is definitely considered a world destination,” Doron Meyassed, founder and CEO of The Plum Guide, tells NoCamels in a phone interview from London. “We’re targeting an audience that we call the mature urban creative, so our bullseye target market is 35 to 55-year-olds, who all live in mega-cities like New York, Paris, Berlin, San Francisco, etc., and who tend to be interested in the world of art, music and design, food. Tel Aviv has become an amazing popular destination [in this market].”
Meyassed (which also means “founder” in Hebrew) says there are about 400 homes in Tel Aviv that could pass The Plum Guide Test – the company is still vetting the properties according to its scientific survey that covers 150 points from proximity to cafes and transport, shower pressure to Wifi speed when selecting which homes to feature.
“We are on a mission to build a marketplace of the world’s most beautiful holiday homes. This isn’t some vague qualitative ambition. We mean it. We are taking a systematic and obsessive approach to vetting every single home on the planet and accepting only the top 1 percent,” says Meyassed.
The service began in London in 2015 and quickly expanded to Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Paris, and Rome. This past week, The Plum Guide raised $18.5 million in a financing round led by the UK-based Talis Capital, with participation from Latitude and Hearst Ventures, and Octopus Ventures.
By next month, The Plum Guide expects to roll out to six new cities, including Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Madrid, and Tel Aviv.
And by the end of the year, it expects to offer almost 12,000 verified homes in sought-after cities for holiday rentals.
“The consumer market has entered into an age of curation where data, ratings and reviews need to be carved into useful information to support buying decisions,” said investor Matus Maar, managing partner and co-founder at Talis Capital.
“We see huge value in businesses and teams that create a competitive advantage by being strategically data driven. The Plum Guide has something very special and customers are already showing amazing loyalty for its hand-picked and meticulously-vetted holiday rentals,” he said.
“The Plum Guide appeals strongly to the affluent, discriminating traveler as we have seen in its impressive growth in the last three years,” said Megumi Ikeda, managing director Hearst Ventures. “Endorsement from professional critics and experts has always been worth having and holiday accommodation is no exception to this rule. As The Plum Guide adds more cities, it will become even more useful to the customer base who are already convinced by its rigorous approach to vetting properties.”
Indeed, staying in a short-term rental in the heart of a new destination, can make a travel experience so much better. If the photos and description of the rented place don’t match the expectation, however, it can also make it so much worse.
Meyassed says he founded The Plum Guide to “solve the problem of inconsistent quality,” encountered by people booking a vacation rental online. His company has a self-developed algorithm and vets every property in person, to curate and verify its listings.
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“We see our mission as waging war on disappointing holidays. It is crazy that spend so long researching our holidays, so many websites, so many reviews and yet people more often than not feel disappointed by their accommodation,” Meyassed tells NoCamels.
The travel and hospitality industries have changed drastically over the past decade as new technologies and initiatives have been introduced, not least due to Airbnb. The global vacation rental market size alone is expected to reach over $190 billion by 2021 and companies are vying for a share of the pie. Most recently, Israeli startup Guesty, which developed software for property managers to run their rental listings on a variety of booking channels raised $35M in Series C funding.
But The Plum Guide has a very specific goal in mind, as it seeks to appeal to lucrative well-off travelers.
“Our view is that the way it works today [in finding a good place to stay] is completely flawed, going through thousands of reviews to figure out if this place is right for you. The Plum Guide doesn’t have reviews. The home either gets accepted or doesn’t,” says Meyassed.
And that approach – either you’re in or out — has resonated with its customer base of mature affluent individuals, who make up the majority of Plum’s 1.3 million global users.
“Most rental platforms are trying to get as many people as possible to use their site. We are clearly targeting a highly discerning group of affluent professionals that live in global megacities, love to travel and value great design, quality and locations,” says Meyassed. “Previously they have stayed away from the open marketplace booking platforms, which they consider too risky compared with the reassurance that a hotel provides.”
The Plum Guide has ongoing surveys and projects to meet its customers’ needs. Meyassed says they’re now running projects with industry experts on mattress quality, design of living room spaces that are most conducive to conversation, and more.
Meyassed tells NoCamels that his company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) scores — a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships — far outperform industry peers in a sector notorious for over-promising but under-delivering.
“We are building the Michelin guide for homes,” says Meyassed.
Asked why choose a holiday home over a hotel, the 35-year-old entrepreneur says there are three big reasons: a sense of authenticity, space, and cost.
“You get a sense of really being present in the city when you rent a home, if you’re a family or a group of friends it is so nice to be in a place with a living room or a terrace, and especially if you’re a big group, it can be far more cost effective than a hotel,” he says.
Viva Sarah Press is a journalist and speaker. She writes and talks about the creativity and innovation taking place in Israel and beyond. www.vivaspress.com