How Handiscover simplifies wheelchair-friendly holidays

Handiscover is the world’s largest platform for accessible vacation rentals with over 23,000 properties in 52 countries – all classified based on accessibility requirements so that guests can find the perfect lodging for their mobility level or special needs. But how did they get here? We interviewed Sebastien Archambeaud, founder and CEO at Handiscover, who shares with us his personal journey. 

Sebastien founded Handiscover in 2015 as the father of a young son who has a muscle condition and uses a wheelchair. He noticed a huge gap in the market as he was travelling around with his family and went through a lot of trouble to book wheelchair-friendly holidays. Having a professional background in management and marketplaces, he decided to launch a startup that would help the millions of differently abled and elderly people with limited mobility.

How does Handiscover work?

“Since there are no universally accepted norms of accessibility, we’ve created our own algorithm capable of classifying properties based on a specific set of requirements. Each vacation rental or hotel room in our site is sorted into one of 3 categories based on the level of accessibility:

– For people who can walk up a maximum of 15 stairs.
– For people who can only handle one step at a time. These properties are quite accessible but not up to the latest standards.
– For people who need a fully accessible accommodation. These have accessible bathrooms and toilets, wider doors, etc.

These 3 levels are marked by easy-to-understand icons that guests can take into account when searching for an accommodation that best suits their needs. And it’s very easy for property owners and manager! By answering our Questionnaire, their rentals get listed and be properly classified in our site.”

What kind of properties can get listed on Handiscover?

“We are a reliable partner providing vacation homes for guests looking for a calm, relaxed holiday. Our guests are typically families with one disabled child or a grandparent with a disability or limited mobility. So it is fundamentally important to us that our guests don’t have to face unexpected surprises regarding the accessibility of the property. Such a bad experience could completely ruin their stay. It’s imperative that homeowners fill out our accessibility questionnaire as thoroughly as possible, and we will take care to correctly classify their properties in terms of accessibility.”

Tell us more about the travellers who book on Handiscover.

“An average booking is for middle-income families of 3-5 people. The average stay is a week for holidays and 3 days for city breaks. For city trips, our guests usually look for an apartment in the city centre to avoid too much travel, especially if they have limited mobility. For longer holidays, a house is preferred.”


Are there quick fixes to make vacation rentals accessible?

“Definitely, they are some quite inexpensive fixes that will improve your property accessibility at least for part of the disabled community. A first one is having a ramp (does not need to be permanent construction) to cope with eventual steps to enter the building. The concrete constructions of the past are long gone now and you can get high-quality removable ramps for good prices. You can also get a handrail for the toilet (removable ones availale), a shower chair or a bench with grab rails for the bathtub. We see that the number of accessible vacation rentals is increasing, but not as fast as hotels which are more bound by regulations to a certain quota. Due to lack of accessibility knowledge, the vacation rental industry is a bit behind but could make a great leap forward investing in some inexpensive accessibility equipment.

Which are your most successful destinations today?

“Outside the U.K, which has been up until now our focus market on the consumer side, favourite destinations include big cities such as Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and then regions like Mallorca, Canaries, south France, Croatia, Florida and Thailand.”

What so successful property managers do differently?

“We have our own accessibility standard and accessibility questionnaire that you need to fill in so our algorithm can classify your properties. So having that accurately done and topped with great pictures of key areas of your properties that are defined on Handiscover are key for conversion.”

Where are you looking to expand?

“We are looking to deepen our supply in our current focus regions above and to build supply in Spain in all touristic areas, broaden us in France, Italy Croatian, Greece, and open up Germany, Nordic, the Carribean with Cuba in particular and in South Africa.”

How to connect to Handiscover with Rentals United?

“We pull new properties on a daily basis, so as soon as you register your account on Handiscover and indicate your Rentals United ID, you can be live within 24h.”

Here’s how it works:

– Upload your properties to Rentals United. Go to Services and add Handiscover
– Create an account with Handiscover and fill in the accessibility questionnaire
– Your properties will be uploaded by Rentals United
– Your rates, calendars and property info, including photos and amenities, will update automatically
– Commission: 10% from your rates


Start advertising your accessible properties on Handiscover and multiple listing sites.

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3 Takeaways from Heather & Mike Bayer’s VR Success Summit in Toronto

3 Takeaways From Heather & Mike Bayer’s VR Success Summit

Last weekend I flew to Toronto to attend Heather and Mike Bayer’s Vacation Rental Success Summit.

It was well worth a transatlantic flight, for I personally got interesting insights, both as a property owner and as someone who’s passionate about our industry.
The takeaways were many for anyone attending. My 3 biggest were:

1. Meeting Likeminded People in Person

Likeminded VR Pros learning from one another every time. (left to right) Marcus Räder, Eric Mason, Deborah Labi, Rod Fitts, Sue and Richard Vaughton, Martin Picard, Maria Schuh, Jayne McCaw, myself

Managing your rentals can be not as easy at times: you feel the pressure of keeping up with constant changes affecting our day to day practice – restrictive regulations, increasing competition, pervasive OTAs rules – and question what should you do next to ensure you keep being successful at what you do.

You may feel lonely facing challenges that seem getting bigger as we move on and you sometimes lose mojo, get confused or get lost in a whirlwind of activities that reduce your productivity, focus and results.
You do well, then you plateau, get stuck and can’t figure out how to get back on track and move on to the next goal.
Getting outside of your microenvironment and challenging yourself to attend industry events like these makes you discover how many people are on the same boat, how many found solutions that got them back on track and how many peers share your same exact fears, frustrations and determination to succeed. It’s a relief, a realignment to your mission and a recharge.
You may think it’s weird to hear this from me, but I came up with the Vacation Rental World Summit to get together with fantastic, progressive people, surround myself with some of the best minds in the industry, learn from everyone how to be a better person, a better businessman and create a movement of likeminded people who regularly meet to discuss and share where they stand, where they’re aiming at and how to get there.

2. Stay Up To Date On What’s Coming And Learn From Industry Pros to Stay Ahead of the Game

Andrew McConnell – VR Trends and what they mean for your marketing

Another great takeaway is the possibility to learn what’s new and trending today, which products are coming out and can make our life easier – both from a PM and Host point of view -, which direction may take our future and how to prepare so we don’t get crushed or go out of business. Or even learn what the future will be to predict whether we still want to be part of it or is it maybe time to consider an exit strategy.

I found quite fascinating Andrew McConnell’s analysis of the actual situation and its future possible implications and scenarios.

The size of the industry is projected to reach $170 Billion by 2019, with $204 Billion spent by guests by 2025. Loads of cash is pouring into funding companies in this space and we’re already seeing a consolidation that will likely bring to convergence in the near future. You can expect the biggies to get bigger. You can expect to compete with companies that run at a loss to buy market share and set others out of business. And you can expect an eventual shakeout that will leave a trace, like in all economic cycles witnessed in the past.

What does this all mean to us? In such a dynamic and challenging environment, we’ll be expected to deliver professional standards with the personal touch that makes us stand out. At the same time though, we’ll have to make sure we won’t be everything to everyone, in fact we’ll need to be exactly the right thing to the right people.

In conclusion, we won’t want to compete against the big players to try and beat them, for we stand a better chance to thrive if we take advantage of their platforms to build awareness over our own brand and provide an experience that’s unique, authentic and unparalleled to all our guests, who then become our biggest fans, and raving ambassadors of our own rentals back home.

3. Enthusiasm