Interview with Doug Stephenson, Founder and CEO at Short-Term Vacation Rental Platform: TravelNest

TravelNest aims to make marketing vacation rental properties easy for property owners – we call them hosts. My goal is for TravelNest to be the world’s most host-centric company, empowering hosts to realise their ambitions by unlocking the potential of their accommodation, everywhere.

Our software product launched in 2018, and offers a highly efficient way to list holiday accommodation on over 30 of the world’s top travel sites – think Airbnb,, Expedia, Vrbo, TripAdvisor, TUI and more. Combining AI, data and vacation rentals industry expertise, our approach to listing a property improves its performance on every booking site.

We boost bookings and revenue for our hosts. We are now active in more than 50 different markets worldwide and have successfully listed thousands of vacation rental properties – we’ve got everything from igloos to cottages, glamping pods and country houses.


How did you come up with the idea for the company?

Both my parents and grandparents have a holiday let businesses so I’ve had lots of experience in the vacation rentals industry from the host side. A huge number of vacation rental properties are not reaching their full potential, lying empty for more than half of each year.

This is the most severe issue hosts face and the most valuable problem to solve. I tried to help my parents out, but soon realised there isn’t an easy way for hosts to address this huge problem of unsold dates, and ramp up their marketing quickly.

Initially, I didn’t set out to set up a company, but I realised there was a huge untapped opportunity. What TravelNest offers to help hosts set their properties up on multiple bookings sites and present them in the best way to attract bookings really sets TravelNest apart. My family ended up being TravelNest’s very first customer and we manage all their properties now.


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs sounds straightforward, but in practice, have proved more challenging than I expected. Based on my experience as a CEO, these areas make a huge difference to the success of your business:

Hire the best team you can. It sounds like a no brainer to say ‘take hiring seriously’ and to surround yourself with the best possible people. For me, getting this right is about investing the time (and it does take a lot of time!), to find the right people, and not rushing the hiring process. It’s not simply a case of finding someone with the skills and capabilities you need, but really drilling down to establish whether they’re on the same cultural wavelength as you.

It’s just as important to find people whose values are closely aligned with yours, and we spend a lot of time on the cultural fit aspects of hiring.

Keep a laser-like focus on your customers. This might sound really obvious, but as a business grows, and particularly when it grows fast as many startups do, it can be very easy to take your eye off the problems your customers are facing.

Other things come along that distract you. It’s important to maintain your focus, and stay as close as you can to the core issue you’re solving for your customers.

What can we hope to see from TravelNest in the future?

Like many travel and tourism businesses, 2020 has been very tough for us. However, we have our sights set on continued growth, and I believe we are uniquely placed to take advantage of macro changes in travel trends and accommodation preferences that we’re seeing in response to COVID19. As we emerge from the pandemic, appetite for travel is going to be exceptionally strong, and we’re already seeing early signs of a bounceback, with staycations and vacation rental accommodation in high demand.

This year, we will put into action ambitious plans for market expansion, to consolidate and expand our presence in key countries across Europe as well as internationally. Alongside this, we’ll be focusing on the development of our core product. Our aim is to reinvent hosts’ marketing, and our product development will redesign the entire experience of vacation rental marketing, piece by piece. By focusing on automating as many of hosts’ marketing processes as possible, we’ll align our product around the entire property marketing and booking lifecycle. I am excited to put these plans into action and for TravelNest to play a key role in the recovery and bounce-back of the travel and tourism industry.