TPG Talks webinar recording: Alternatives to hotels, including timeshare booking with KOALA

Aug 15, 2020

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COVID-19 has disrupted the way we think about travel. Traditional hotels are quickly adapting to give customers confidence in their product, but millions of Americans are turning to different lodging options for their next trip. On this week’s TPG Talks webinar, we took a close look at these great alternatives to a traditional property — including short-term home and apartment rentals along with timeshare resellers.

Joining us was Mike Kennedy, Cofounder and CEO of KOALA, a new online marketplace that connects travelers to timeshare owners. During the webinar, he announced an exclusive discount for TPG readers. Simply book your first stay through KOALA’s site, use the promo code THEPOINTSGUY and get $150 off your trip.

(Photo courtesy of KOALA)
(Photo courtesy of KOALA)

Read on for more details on this new platform as well as a recap of the webinar, including the full recording.

In This Post

Overview of KOALA

As discussed on the webinar, KOALA is a new platform that allows existing timeshare owners to list their unused nights or weeks for anyone to book. While there are ways to do this right now, there are a couple of main benefits to KOALA. The first is a verification process to ensure that the property you’re booking (and owner of said property) are both legitimate.

“We have a third-party — the resort — that can verify that each listing is accurate,” Mike said. “We guarantee that the unit you book is the one you check into or your money back. It’s very simple.”

He went on to point out that this process happens on the front end, before a unit even goes live on the platform — including verification of the host. This provides valuable peace of mind for customers, as you’ll know exactly what you’re getting when you book a stay.

Another key benefit? Transparency. KOALA’s listings are inclusive of all costs associated with a stay — including taxes, resort fees and any other charges associated with your trip. According to Mike, “You’ll see exactly what you pay with us, and if there are any resort fees, you’ll see them clearly elucidated on the platform.”

But the real victory comes in the potential for cost savings. While owners set the prices of their timeshares, the KOALA team provides price checks, comps and data in the background to alert them if a price is being set too high.

The end result? The potential for some substantial savings.

As an example, he showed the Marriott Summit Watch in Park City, UT. For a five-night stay in mid-February, you could book a two-bedroom villa with a full kitchen that sleeps up to 8 guests for $725/night — or a total of $3,806.

(Photo courtesy of KOALA)
(Photo courtesy of KOALA)

That exact same room type is available on for $1,265 — a grand total of more than $7,000 for the five-night stay.

(Photo courtesy of Expedia)
(Photo courtesy of Expedia)

This represents a significant savings while simultaneously offering peace of mind for travelers, as you know exactly what to expect upon your arrival.

Benefits to timeshare owners

KOALA also provides benefits for those who own a timeshare and are looking to rent out unused nights or weeks. For starters, there’s no up-front fee for listing on the platform. If your timeshare is rented on the site, KOALA will take a small, 8% commission. If it’s not booked, there’s no cost.

In addition, they’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

“We’ve built out a database of the resorts,” Mike said, “so the owners don’t have to do any descriptions, they don’t have to upload photos.” KOALA has even identified the various units at those resorts — which sometimes can have a minuscule difference (like “oceanview” vs. “oceanfront”). Listing is thus a simple, three-step process:

  1. Select your resort.
  2. Choose your unit type.
  3. Set the dates and price.

“We’ve really tried to make this super intuitive and and super easy,” he added.

If you (or a loved one) has a timeshare that you’re looking to rent out, be sure to check out KOALA to see if it meets your needs.

Other alternative lodging options

A view from an Airbnb near Joshua Tree National Park (Photo by Chris Dong / The Points Guy)
A view from an Airbnb near Joshua Tree National Park (Photo by Chris Dong / The Points Guy)

Of course, timeshares represent just one form of alternative accommodations. Vacation rentals are another key option — including well-known brands like Airbnb and Vrbo — as are vacation resorts affiliated with larger brands. There are a number of important benefits to looking beyond traditional lodging choices:

  • Additional space and amenities: In many cases, booking vacation rentals or other alternatives can provide more space than your typical, standard hotel room — and can also include other, home-like amenities (full kitchens, for example). Sure, there are suites in a traditional hotel that provide additional room for your family, but these often don’t replicate what you’d experience at home.
  • Cost savings: In addition, larger rooms at regular hotels can be expensive, whereas booking condos, apartments or entire houses can be much more affordable. Many platforms even offer discounts for longer stays — typically a week or more — which is what I found on my July trip to Asheville, NC.
  • New destinations: These alternatives can also enable you to explore new places where traditional hotel chains don’t have a large presence (or any at all). This is what I experienced on my incredible trip to Colmar, France in November 2015 — incidentally my very first booking with Airbnb. I would’ve never visited this incredible town had I been solely focused on major hotels.
  • Social distance: Finally, the right lodging option can afford more social distancing opportunities than a standard hotel. While chains like Marriott and Hilton are taking great lengths to ensure cleanliness and minimize the risk of transmitting coronavirus, traditional lodging still means shared lobbies, hallways and elevators (in most cases). On my North Carolina trip, we had a house all to ourselves on two acres.

Of course, there’s a lot more to discuss with these options, so watch the full webinar recording below — and scroll down for follow-up reading that can make your next trip (whenever that will be) even more enjoyable.

Webinar recording

Follow-up reading and important links

TPG Talks is a series of live webinars hosted by team members from The Points Guy, covering various aspects of the travel, credit card and loyalty industries. Join from anywhere in the world on any device to learn tips and tricks that’ll get you closer to your next dream vacation.

For a list of previous sessions, visit our TPG Talks hub page, or click on any of the links below for individual recaps:

Featured image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy. 

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