Vacation rentals are red-hot in more than one way
The topic of vacation rentals in Kailua is so controversial that some retail business owners won't talk about it with a reporter on the record, for fear of losing customers and/or gaining enemies. It's pretty much the same for bed-and-breakfasts.
Proposed regulations surrounding both types of transient accommodations are working their way through the city bureaucracy right now.
Your columnist is not taking one side or the other, but given the controversy, it is a bit eyebrow-raising that a Kailua resident has started an online vacation rental service, tinysurfer.com.
Vacation rentals represent the fastest-growing segment of the visitor industry, said co-founder Jeff Berzolla, "and the Internet's driving it."
He is fully aware of the controversy and follows news coverage.
"Oahu doesn't seem to be embracing it," as emotions are high on all sides, but given increasing popularity of vacation rentals and B&Bs, "it'll happen here," he predicts.
Many locales worldwide have regulations for operation along with complaint mechanisms to get permits removed. "That's how it is around the world and they function well," he said.
As of Friday, tinysurfer.com had 40 listings for Hawaii vacation rentals and 13 are in Kailua while 10 are in Lanikai. The rest are on or heading out to the North Shore, Maui and Kauai.
The site is not just about Hawaii, however. Clicking through tags on the site reveals vacation rentals in various places including California, the Caribbean, Colorado, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Mexico, South Carolina and Texas.
Owners get to post properties for free, which gives Berzolla content. His business model will have the site generate income through affiliate relationships with businesses such as Expedia.
The site is "in beta" right now, he said, but has numerous properties listed by folks who have found him via word of mouth. "Everything we do is viral," though that may change, he said.
It may have to, given that as of Friday, Googling the term "Hawaii vacation rental" netted 803,000 results and the term "Hawaii vacation rentals" to add the plural of the word got 765,000 results.
Why jump into such a huge ocean? "It's a fun industry," he said of tourism, though he added, "I've always been an Internet person." It is a way to combine both interests.
"People want to feel local when they travel ... particularly repeat visitors."
They've been-there-done-that, as far as a resort experience, so upon coming back to a destination they love, "they want a kitchen," Berzolla said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org