Travel-Tech Start Up Zeni Raises £450k to build communities of travellers
Zeni offers affordable, self-catered, city centre stays over the summer months making use of vacant high-end student accommodation. Funds will be used to expand Zeni’s geographical footprint, establish communities of travellers through curated activities and events and develop an online booking platform & marketplace of trusted local vendors. Investors include travel sector titans Stuart Ellis (Total Stay) and Stuart Nassos (Total Stay, Web Beds) and real estate developer Wavensmere Homes.
Co-founders Raj Patel (CEO) and Elena Lopez (CCO) trialled the concept with 20 rooms in 2019. Zeni grew during the pandemic to 400 rooms in 2020 and have close to 3,000 rooms in operation in 2021. Zeni has achieved over 70% occupancy each year and although guests traditionally book this type of accommodation through Airbnb, Booking.com and VRBO, the company has grown direct bookings from less than 2% in 2019 to over 15% in 2021 – “We’re expecting direct bookings to reach 30% by 2023,” says Patel.
Commenting on the raise, Stuart Nassos states “Zeni fixes a problem I’ve encountered various times over my career – the lack of self-catered accommodation with consistently high standard in city centre locations. Zeni’s team has performed wonders during a very difficult pandemic-affected period, and we’re excited about what the future holds”.
Zeni fuses the self-catered accommodation experience offered at holiday parks such as Butlins and Centre Parcs with the urban locations offered by Premier Inn and Travelodge, while removing the uncertainty presented by unbranded short-term rentals offered via Airbnb and Booking.com.
Zeni is all about bringing people together – be that big families in Zeni’s 8 bed apartments or solo travellers brought together through our curated in-house events. On community, Lopez comments “Having travelled alone for business a lot, I’m very aware of how lonely it can be. Our goal is simple – to provide guests their own private space but also a welcoming environment where they can meet fellow travellers.”
Online booking platform and marketplace
Zeni are developing an end to end, multi-tiered booking platform offering not just their unique accommodation, but a marketplace for trusted local vendors to offer the most important services required for Zeni’s guests. “We’re keen not to dilute the experience by cramming in too much, but we know there are certain key services our guests want or need and we want to offer them a trusted marketplace of local vendors when they go on holiday,” says Patel.
A 4-star offering is also in the works and due to launch early 2022. Patel confirms that the new brand is already being trialled with over 100 properties being operated across London, York, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds.