Dubai-born short-term rental company raises over $2m in private funding

Short Stay Vacation Home Rentals will use the amount to fuel further expansion in Dubai with ambitions to grow its portfolio to 500 properties across the city by the end of 2022

Short Stay currently manages 75 apartments across Dubai.

Following a private fund raise of AED7.2million ($2m) by SK group, Dubai-born Short Stay Vacation Homes Rental, a short-term rental management company, has its eyes set on further expansion across Dubai and potentially into other emirates as well, before moving on to other countries, its founder Jugal Khushalani told Arabian Business.

After a decade of experience in the hospitality industry – where he held roles in operations, consulting and development with brands such as Accor and Starwood – Khushalani decided to launch his own business, especially after he realised the increased interest in short-term rentals or holiday homes based in Dubai.

“Because of my experience, I was aware of the holiday-homes concept launching in several cities across the world as well as the hyper-success of Airbnb. I also realised that people wanted to come to Dubai and stay in apartments, as opposed to hotel rooms, due to the larger spaces, private kitchens and so on,” said Khushalani.

“In the majority of cases, owners make more money out of their investment on a short-term rental basis with a holiday-home company instead of giving it on a long-term rental basis,” said Khushalani.

“This is especially true in Dubai where there is a significant amount of demand almost year-round. Tourism is doing really well here, and in holiday homes here you can generate significantly higher occupancy levels and average use, also potentially better rates,” he explained.

The current trend of work-from-home, staycations and regional travel has increased the demand for short-term rentals, with some companies reporting 90 percent average occupancy in the most popular areas of the emirate, including Palm Jumeirah, Downtown, JBR, Dubai Marina and City Walk.

The UAE recorded a 54.7 percent hotel occupancy rate in 2020 – beaten only by China – while the global rate dropped to 37 percent under the weight of the ongoing pandemic – hotels in the Middle East region recorded just 43 percent occupancy on average.

Jugal Khushalani, founder of Short Stay Vacation Homes.

Short Stay generates bookings for the properties via direct channels, corporate partnerships and third-party booking platforms and handles all aspects of the listing, from guest relations, housekeeping, furnishing, photography, maintenance and more.

“The core business is exactly like any other hospitality business. Service is number one: as long as the guests are happy and you have five-stars under your name, your conversion rate starts increasing. We do whatever we can to make sure our guests have an exceptional stay, going above and beyond to ensure they are taken care of. We try to personalise their stay and cater to their needs, for example, having food in the fridge for those who check-in early,” explained Khushalani.

Short Stay manages 75 apartments across Dubai right now but, with their latest round of funding, there are plans to increase this number to 500 properties by the end of 2022. “Once we expand and scale here, we will look into other countries as well,” he said.

The management company is also investing in contemporary lifestyle interior design concepts to attract a wider segment of travellers at the moment and is looking to collaborate with local designers to give this “bespoke touch to all our apartments”, said Khushalani.

In explaining why Short Stay sought funding this year, Khushalani said the pandemic made them “revaluate our business strategy going forward and we realised that if we want to achieve our dream of what we set out to accomplish when we started our business, then we would need some funding from strategic partners”.

He has the following advice for other entrepreneurs seeking funding: “Don’t forget why you started the business in the first place, regardless of the ups and downs during the journey. More importantly is to never let the passion or drive go down – I’ve always been a passionate hotelier myself – as the people funding you will always notice it.”

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