One-on-One with CEO, T.J. Mahony

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  1. In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with T.J. Mahony, CEO of, a leading vacation rental website that powers the vacation rentals section of TripAdvisor.
    FlipKey has over 160,000 properties in 7,000 cities worldwide– making it one of the fastest-growing vacation rental companies out there. FlipKey has won awards from Travel + Leisure, Sunset Magazine, and the New York Post.

    T.J. Mahony, CEO, Flipkey
    “On average, a family can yield savings of 30% by staying in a vacation rental when compared to comparable hotels.”
    – T.J. Mahony, CEO of
    Vacation rentals and house exchanges via sites, like,, and FlipKey are becoming part of the norm when considering where to stay while traveling. How does FlipKey fit in – or better yet – stand out?
    FlipKey aims to streamline the vacation rental experience so that it’s as easy, convenient, and safe as possible for both the traveler and the home owner to make arrangements. One of the biggest areas where FlipKey stands out is in trust and security. We built the site on our guest review system, which is designed to only allow reviews by travelers who have actually stayed in the vacation rental. We also have stringent security protocols that we use to screen and verify every new property added to FlipKey. When you use FlipKey, you can trust you are engaging with a reputable owner and the experiences shared by other travelers are honest.
    Everyone wants a good deal when they travel. Is FlipKey’s success largely based on the economy and home rentals’ lower prices? How much, on average, does one save by opting for a rental as opposed to a traditional hotel?
    Some of the growth in vacation rentals is certainly a result of the economy bringing out more bargain-conscious travelers. However, much of the growth is the result of sites like FlipKey making vacation rentals more visible to the average traveler. Vacation rentals are often more affordable compared to hotels while offering more space, increased privacy, and great amenities. If you’re traveling with a group and you do some of your own cooking, then the savings can be significant. On average, a family can yield savings of 30% by staying in a vacation rental when compared to comparable hotels.

    How does FlipKey compete against HomeAway?
    For vacation rental owners and managers, FlipKey’s service is highly competitive with the HomeAway sites. FlipKey’s subscription pricing is less expensive than a basic HomeAway listing and we offer a unique 60-day free trial for all new customers. Moreover, we offer more built-in features such as unlimited photos; FlipKey Payments, which allows owners to accept credit cards for a 0% service charge; our industry-leading guest review system, and free listings on TripAdvisor websites that reach over 50 million monthly travelers.
    For travelers, FlipKey competes by offering an easy-to-use product. Not only is it easy to find the vacation rental you’re looking for on FlipKey and TripAdvisor, but we also make it easy to communicate directly with vacation rental owners and managers and book your rental. FlipKey also offers travelers the largest collection of authentic vacation rental reviews, which are hugely valuable to travelers searching for travel accommodations.
    What do you think of AirBnb and its model as compared to the “traditional” vacation house rental model? AirBnb in particular has had to deal with issues of security and safety where the renters would destroy property and that caused a lot of problems for them. How do you deal with those issues?
    It’s great that travelers are now able to search sites like FlipKey, TripAdvisor and AirBnB and discover that lodging choices extend far beyond a well-worn selection of hotel brands. Similarly, more and more homeowners are choosing to rent out their vacation homes. There are always security concerns when you deal with renting something as sensitive and valuable as your home – whether it’s a primary residence or a vacation home.
    Any security issues among vacation rentals are extremely rare. However, it’s only natural for homeowners to seek additional assurances. FlipKey now offers damage protection, travel insurance, and recently introduced a $10,000 peace of mind guarantee to help both owners and travelers feel more comfortable with the vacation rental experience.
    Does Flipkey see an opportunity to get into the room/sublet market or are they going to leave that to Airbnb?
    FlipKey concentrates primarily on standalone second homes. We allow reputable homeowners interested in promoting their primary home to participate in our marketplace, but it’s not currently a focus of our service.
    Is this option right for anyone? What’s the down-side to vacation rentals?
    I wouldn’t say there’s a downside to vacation rentals. However, there are some trips for which vacation rentals are less convenient. Many rentals have a minimum stay requirement, so if you’re only traveling for a night or two, then a rental may not be the best option.
    How do you vet the properties offered on FlipKey? Are there certain areas that are better than others and are there areas that you do not do business in?
    Before a listing goes live on FlipKey, we conduct extensive background checks of the owner and verify the authenticity of the rental property. We also strongly encourage owners to collect guest reviews as an endorsement of their property.
    What if you have a property that you’d like to rent out to travelers? How do you take part in promoting your property with FlipKey? How does compensation work and how much of a cut does FlipKey require?
    You can sign up to list your property with FlipKey. Right now, there’s a free 60-day trial, so you can sign up and test the site for FREE. FlipKey then promotes your home to millions of monthly travelers on and TripAdvisor – our parent company. We connect travelers directly with owners and we do not take a commission. After the 60-day trial, if owners would like to continue to promote their home they pay a simple monthly or annual subscription free.
    Is the vacation rental marketplace something that would benefit from revenue management the same way that other areas of the travel industry has to increase revenue for renters?
    Yes. The level of sophistication of vacation rental services has increased dramatically over the years. As services like FlipKey collect and analyze increasingly large amounts of demand, booking and general traveler data, it allows us to provide deeper insight to our customers to help them optimize pricing, promotional content and other factors that help maximize the value of their home.

    How is this travel stay option positioned for the future?
    Believe it or not, it’s estimated that there will be over $80 billion worth of worldwide vacation rental bookings in 2012. In fact, a recent European study indicated family vacationers are more likely to consider a vacation rental than a hotel. Vacation rentals are a huge market and with companies like FlipKey making it easier to find, book and enjoy these wonderful homes the category is growing extremely fast. We love what we do and we are constantly working on new features and adding new and interesting homes every day. For example, there are over 200 castles and luxury tree houses you can rent on FlipKey. Castles! Tree houses! The possibilities are endless.

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