Interview with Lou Chan, co-founder and managing director
Tell us about GuestReady and why you started this business
GuestReady is a global Airbnb management service, aiming to take the hassle away from being Airbnb host while maximising profitability. Airbnb and other complimentary platforms have become increasingly popular among leisure and business travellers who are looking for alternative to long-term stays at hotels or serviced apartments. As the short term rental industry is maturing, there is a natural need for more efficiency, professionalism and standardisation. For non-professional hosts, this is hard to achieve, which is where we step in.
How did you choose which cities to launch in?
The cities that we launched in are generally amongst the top choices of travellers and businessmen – with being global in mind, it’s also natural for us to start by establishing footprints in both Europe and Asia, where our founding team has extensive experiences launching businesses in.
How big is the Airbnb market in HK?
Based on our market research and other sources of publicly available data, there are currently about 6,500 properties listed on Airbnb in HK; in the past 9 months, Hong Kong listings have grown by 59%, suggesting an upswing in terms of fresh supply of properties can be expected too. The most typical price range of HK Airbnb listings are about 700-800/night, with high potential for properties in key area to charge more.
What are your biggest challenges?
Hong Kong people are smart with business opportunities; while hosting on Airbnb may not be mainstream yet, many have experienced it outbound and are open to the concept, which signals bright future ahead. In fact, many clients enjoyed working with us so much that they entrust us with managing the maintenance/upgrades of the property. This is part of our service, but it certainly takes up more time then we originally budgeted.
Is there anything that surprised you so far?
Despite less appetite is expected momentarily for tourisms in HK, Airbnb bookings on various level of properties still remain high. Last minute deal hunters, however, are also on the rise as compared to people who are paying for unique experiences.
What’s been the most memorable moment in running your business?
It is our mission to make sure all the hassle is taken away from being an Airbnb host, and we deal with it through both technology and the personal touch of local expertise. During the earliest days, I would personally need to work with trusted and licensed handyman on maintenance of some newly signed properties, just to make sure they are GuestReady.
What do you think of HK’s startup ecosystem?
There’s no doubt that startups generally has been in a bubble; yet perhaps the worse time has passed, by natural selection. Every startup, especially the young and seed stage ones, needs to remember that business is business. It is of course a nice feeling to have found a team to work with and put fancy titles on each others, but if one wants to succeed, then always put the interest of paying customer in front of yourself, as if you are drinking from a firehose. Learn as much as you can about them within a short period of time, grow with the best bet on your product, attain product/market fit.