Expedia is trying to nudge the travel industry towards fairness. The company helps startups solve their own problems and learns from them along the way. Also, startups are learning from each other.
Lorraine Woodward, founder of a short-term rental software platform for people with disabilities, says she gets a lot of accessibility lip service from big travel companies.
Many companies have internal diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, but all of them are arguably lacking when it comes to serving travelers. Action is needed instead.
As such, we are optimistic that our new partnership with Expedia Group could lead to change in the industry.
Her company, Becoming Rental, is one of 12 travel tech startups that are part of the first cohort of Expedia Group’s new Open World Accelerator program.
“When a company makes these kinds of commitments, I think other companies will follow suit. But we need a leader and we believe that with our help Expedia can make it happen. said Woodward.
learn from each other
Becoming Rentable is a short-term rental listing platform that includes 36 filters for different types of disabilities, including those using wheelchairs and walkers, as well as blind, deaf, and autistic am.
The company also offers a paid evaluation and certification service for property owners and managers to ensure that their vacation rentals are accessible in some way. , startups can help with that too.
Woodward founded the company with her own experience in mind. She and her two adult sons have muscular dystrophy and are severely limited in what they can do. She designed a fully accessible beach house in North Carolina to provide a reliable option.Since she listed the home as Vacation Her Rental and rumors about its accessibility spread, more than 350 families have turned to this beach house. She said she took advantage of the space.
The problem Woodward sees with listings on popular vacation rental booking platforms is that often able-bodied property owners don’t understand the real needs of people of varying levels of ability. am. As such, property owners often label a property as accessible even when it is not. “Wheelchair accessible” may mean different things to different people using wheelchairs.
“We kept finding it. I promise if you go to any of these big platforms, you’ll see the same thing,” said Woodward.
An estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide have a disability, including about 61 million in the United States. The majority of them would like to travel, but are unable to due to accessibility issues. This is what Woodward said he learned through countless hours of research and conversation. This is a big part of the market that can get left behind.
Vrbo, Expedia’s short-term rental booking platform, has not been exempt from criticism. The platform currently only has two of his filters, one for wheelchair accessibility and one for elevators. This is another problem common to many platforms.
“We hope that by working with us they will modify and change the way they do business,” Woodward said. “I think that’s what’s great about this program. Not only do they benefit from their talent, their knowledge and their staff, but the business and he as a brand of Vrbo, I feel like they can add something.” .”
Expedia Group confirmed that it’s an idea — learning from each other. We have not shared any plans for any updates planned for Vrbo. The company previously said the accelerator was specifically designed to foster innovation in the industry and remove barriers to travel.
Founded in 2021, Becoming Rentals has 1,200 properties listed across the United States, and Woodward hopes to rapidly increase that number, enhance its software offerings, and expand its valuation services.
Travel tech startup collaboration
All 12 startups participating in the accelerator recently spent a week in Seattle with the Expedia team to kick off the program. There are already multiple plans among startups to collaborate with each other. One of his connections with Becoming Rental was Misterb&b. Misterb&b is a Paris-based short-term rental booking platform dedicated to the LGBTQ community.
According to CEO Matthieu Jost, Misterb&b has a portfolio of more than 1 million properties, which are listed exclusively on its platform. All hosts and travelers are part of the LGBTQ community.
Jost founded the startup in 2014 after being denied a vacation rental because he and his partner were a same-sex couple. He cited recent cases of discrimination via Airbnb as an example of why his platform is still needed in 2022.
In addition to discrimination, he said his platform addresses safety issues for hosts and renters. I also added a layer.
“Safety and lack of connection are really two challenges for the traveling LGBTQ community,” says Jost.
Through a potential partnership with Becoming Rental and one of several other disability-focused startups, he looks forward to making his platform more inclusive.
“We definitely have people with disabilities in our community, so we started initial conversations with a few other startups to see how Misterb&b could address a community within a community.” says Jost. “This is what we try to leverage during the program.”
Greether founder Vanessa Karel says that collaborations with others are also in early stages.
California-based Greether is one of several tech startups participating in a program focused on travel services for women. The Greether platform verifies female travelers and connects them with women who can act as tour guides at their destinations and share important safety information.
Carell said the platform primarily addresses safety concerns women face while traveling.
The startup has greeters in 450 cities in 90 countries, she said. There is a lot of demand in Latin American countries, so the company plans to expand there this year. Karel also plans to partner with other women-led tourism companies around the world.