His aha moment happened half a world away while driving through the Texas countryside and pondering on an embarrassing incident. A cleaner, Gregory Lewis recalls, did not turn up at his Dubai property that was to be rented by a guest. “This caused me issues,” he tells Property Weekly of the not-so-trivial challenge of fixing a snag from thousands of miles away. The guest was unsurprisingly upset seeing the apartment was “not clean nor presented in the five-star manner it always has been”. Fortunately, the unexpected hitch was quickly resolved, but more importantly, it proved a watershed moment for the enterprising entrepreneur.
“While driving through the countryside I came up with Airdxb,” he says of the realisation. “[It’s] a service that can take all this headache away.” The business model is as straightforward as it is practical: Airdxb manages short-term rental units on Airbnb on behalf of property owners who are unable to lease and maintain the residences by themselves. Lewis, a real estate executive with nearly two decades of experience, including seven years in Dubai, was so convinced of the idea he immediately made preparations to launch a full-scale business venture.
“The Airbnb concept is incredibly 21st century and why not be a part of it,” enthuses Lewis, while admitting the decision to leave the corporate world to start his own business from scratch is not without risks. “The concept and service I provide is brand new with no one to tell me how it’s going to work or even end. I like that feeling. Life’s about living and taking risks.”
Catering to tourists
Airdxb, which started operations just a few weeks ago, basically offers professionally managed short-term rental homes to Dubai visitors, while also providing a new revenue stream for property owners. “With the vast amount of [residential] units handing over in the next 18 months, around 85,000-90,000 units, and the 500,000 plus units under construction, why not offer these investors a different option,” says Lewis, further noting how Dubai’s rising tourist footfall is creating opportunities for short-term lease. “[We’re] seeing one million more visitors year on year for the past two to three years visiting Dubai, and a huge push to 20 million visitors over 2020. These people have to stay somewhere.”
According to the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), nearly 15.8 million tourists visited Dubai last year, up 6.2 per cent year-on-year. In the first half of this year, international tourists reached 8.1 million.
Many homeowners and tenants travel a lot. So why not offer a service to allow people to stay in their homes while they are away, hassle free.
- Gregory Lewis
While Airdxb is ideal for those who have invested in a second property, Lewis says arrangements can also be made with those currently occupying their homes, or even tenants. “Many homeowners and tenants travel a lot,” he says. “So why not offer a service to allow people to stay in their homes while they are away, hassle free.”
The top four locations preferred by guests are the Palm Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai, says Lewis. Adam White, a British finance executive who’s putting up his one-bedroom apartment in JBR for short-term rental, says the flexibility of the service and the hassle-free experience are a big plus for non-resident investors like him.
“I didn’t have to do anything,” says White. “I like the fact that the process is straight forward. If I want to come back [to Dubai] and stay, I can. Also, if I need to sell it as soon as possible to release funds, I can without having to serve a 12-month notice to a long-term tenant.”
Revenue can vary depending on the type of property and location. Lewis says in JBR annual gross returns from short-term rental can reach up to Dh400,000 for a three-bedroom unit, compared with the current annual rental rate of around Dh200,000. In Palm Jumeirah, a studio could earn between Dh120,000 and Dh130,000, he says, against Dh75,000 from an annual contract.
However, Lewis says most property owners are not aware of such alternative revenue streams available to them. “A lot have not considered it or aware that it is legal,” he says. “[But] I believe it will take its right full place on everyone’s smart phone beside Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in no time at all.”