About Riviera Rental Guide
Riviera Rental Guide was conceived in 2006 to improve the online holiday rental experience. While trying to organise a family holiday in 2005, a director of the company was surprised to find how difficult and frustrating the process was.
There were hundreds of sites listing thousands of properties, but it was disheartening to wade through so many trying to get an impression from 4 or 5 pictures of each property. Having finally made a shortlist of 10 or so villas, emails were sent to owners and web enquiry forms were filled in. The results were disappointing, some villas were unavailable even though listed as available. Many enquiries returned with a list of personal questions about the renters and their family but most enquiries simply disappeared and no response was received whatsoever.
Several weeks later, a response came from the owner of a selected villa, and a deal was made to rent it. Then a gigantic leap of faith was taken and a large €10,000 deposit had to be transferred, but to a bank account in a different country to a private individual's bank account! Naturally there was a worry that the owner and the villa weren't genuine. Later the balance was to be transferred with the same trepidation. Luckily on that occasion the villa did exist and the families arrived for the holiday without problem.
Unfortunately, more surprises were in store. The villa was really nothing like the pictures, it had been quite exaggerated. Later, when a complaint was sent to the listing site, it was explained that it was clearly written in their terms and conditions that the accuracy of the listing was the sole responsibility of the owner. Later having reflected on the rental experience it was felt that there was a market for an internet site that could solve some of these problems and make the experience easier and more secure and as a first step, dialogue with renters and owners was undertaken to help fully understand their unique challenges.
It was found that holiday rental owners were also having a tough time of it. Their biggest problem was that each year they put hundreds of hours work into responding to enquiries from advertising sites, only to hear nothing back from the potential renter. They were being charged large sums to list their properties, the same for a tiny apartment as for a huge villa, and there were lots of extras that were needed to display the property properly that really pushed the prices up.
They added that receiving payment was a huge concern and because they were private individuals they could not qualify, nor could afford to commission the software for the kind of instant credit card payment technology that large businesses have access to, and it was apparent that customers needed to pay by credit card rather than risk transferring large amounts.
When the project began in earnest, this was the mission:
- Challenge 1: Create the best online source of local information on popular areas to help the potential renter choose the locality that suits them best and eradicate wasted holiday time.
- Challenge 2: Provide a list of rental properties that are 'Approved and Verified' by our personnel. We chose 'No Surprises' as our mantra and one of our mission statements.
- Challenge 3: Properties must not be misrepresented in any way.
- Challenge 4: Offer the best automatic availability system for property owners so that properties can be reserved instantly online with confidence.
- Challenge 5: To provide the best payments system so that customers can reserve with the minimum of fuss and time loss, using credit cards so that their purchase is protected.
- Challenge 6: Cut out the time wasting business of sending enquiries for everyone except those who actually need to enquire about something that pertains to them personally.
In 2007 we began designing systems and technology to simplify the process to meet the challenges. Gradually new features were introduced until customers began to comment on the simplicity of the system, ease of booking and usefulness of the guides and picture libraries. Month on month growth was extremely positive with very good customer feedback.
Customers have said it is faster and simpler to rent from us, and our properties are universally excellent. We have doubled and trebled our turnover year on year and have a lot of repeat customers. Business people who had previously said that the old enquiry system was reducing their staff to snails pace before conferences and exhibitions on the Riviera now say they are able to rent better value apartments for delegates in less than 5 minutes.
The technology sector applauded the efforts made, in 2009 a leading Google Systems Operator rated his Riviera Rental Guide holiday 9/10 and said: 'You are gold'. A district court judge has called our service 'excellent'. Actors, celebrities and film directors call on us for some very high profile villa rentals, some of which have been used on very well known TV shows. We provided the crew villas for the European leg of the biggest tour of the decade by the biggest band in the world; the U2 360 Tour, and hundreds of models sashay across the lawns or pose by the pools of our villas in fashion spreads for the global magazine industry on their regular French Riviera shoots.
- The destination guides receive hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. People who search for 'How to get to st tropez' are helped as much as those looking for a 'Villa to rent in mont boron'.
- Our local information is referenced by hundreds of top sources like Fodors, Lonely Planet, Wikipedia and more.
- Because each and every property is approved and verified with no exaggeration, customers love our rentals and we never get complaints.
- No undeserved superlatives are allowed in property descriptions and customers often say the properties really are much better in reality than in the pictures.
- The availability is religiously kept up to date by our fastidious partners so customers have very high confidence when booking. Our availability engine also recommends cheaper holiday dates to customers, and points out nearby events that they might be interested in.
- We now have the most sophisticated automatic online credit card payments system in the sector. It is the easiest, most flexible and the fastest to use. We are the only rental system offering such a range of automated payment options.
- The automatic system renders routine enquiries obsolete, but for customers who do need to enquire, we have phone, fax and internet contacts, live chat support and the mobile/cell phone number of the local representative is displayed alongside each property.
About the company
Riviera Rental Guide is a flexible and fast-moving company. In order to conquer the ever-changing technical hurdles of the internet where the vast majoring of holiday rentals are organised we intend to remain small and lean. Our team comprises a board of directors, some country managers and local representatives, owner liaison officers, researchers, writers, translators, and the programming team who bring it alive on the screen.
Riviera Rental Guide Ltd. is headquartered in Baggot Street, Dublin, Ireland, with small sub-offices in France and Italy. The company is a dynamic part of the innovative technology sector which operates from Ireland to bridge the gap between English speaking America, the United Kingdom & Ireland and the multilingual continent of Europe.
Dublin, Ireland was chosen because of the culture of digital innovation, super multilingual staff and proximity to other bigger influential companies who could help steer Riviera Rental Guide on to bigger things. Exposure to leading technology firms like Adobe, APC, Cisco, Facebook, IBM, Symantec, Microsoft, Google and others means that the sector is lively, forward looking and exciting to be a part of.
The company began operations focusing solely on the French Riviera as a proving ground for online and offline systems. We continue to try to understand the needs of both customers and owners in the hyper-competitive marketplace of the Mediterranean.
The company was financed by the directors, carries no debt and has made a profit each year since its inception.
About us and the economic downturn
With the recent changes in the global economy the company used the financial downturn to think up tools that would help customers continue enjoying great holidays even if their finances had been turned upside down.
The company has pioneered the concept of an automatic flexi-option payment plan for rental villas and apartments. It has been live on the site since October 2009 and offers any customer booking well in advance the facility of selecting the payment plan when reserving their chosen property, and the software will automatically calculate it into bite-sized morsels that are charged automatically to their credit card each month.
About us and new markets
We've introduced an entirely new concept in the holiday rental market and opened up a world of possibilities to owners and customers with VillaShare™ on the Facebook platform.
Now customers can choose a villa or apartment and just pay a tiny installment to reserve. Then they choose the VillaShare™ payment option. This loads the VillaShare™ application inside Facebook (http://apps.facebook.com/villashare/) where it takes just a few clicks to select the friends you'd like to invite. VillaShare™ automatically calculates everyone's share and takes care of all payments individually. It's a 5 minute solution to a nightmare organisational problem.
The VillaShare™ Facebook application is now in beta, and several sites looking to incorporate the VillaShare™ functionality are in the pipeline. This will expand the company's reach beyond France and Italy to accommodate owners and customers who wish to rent further afield.
About our pictures
All local pictures on Riviera Rental Guide are taken with SONY DSC F828 cameras with Carl Zeiss lens. No images are retouched in any way but are reduced in size for delivery over the internet.
About our local directory
Our local directory is a list of local useful amenities. If you have a local business that's of interest to visitors to the French or the Italian Rivera, please visit the directory using the links at the bottom of the page.
About our geo-tagging
Most of Riviera Rental Guide's pictures can be located on our interactive map. Go to any area inside 'Destinations' and click the 'Walkthrough' tab, the images are being displayed in the positions they were taken. This is achieved by GPS geo-positioning the camera at the exact time the image is taken, the latitude and longitude is written to the image file in extended EXIF data and interpreted by our software to display on the map. Our developers were awarded 'Best mapping implementation' by Google Maps technicians.
About our research
All Riviera Rental Guide research is carried out by real people who go to the places to write about them, photograph them and trawl through neighbourhoods finding amenities of use to our customers.
About our technology
Riviera Rental Guide strives to automate as much of the holiday rental experience as possible. With this goal, we have developed a suite of tools for our property partners to help them manage their individual properties and their property complexes. We have also tried to streamline the user experience so that the choosing and booking of a property is as 'self-service' as possible.