iStopOver

iStopOver

March 31, 2009 08:14 ET

iStopOver Makes its Debut in the 'Hometel' Market

Lets Homeowners Generate Income through Short-term Rentals of Rooms in their Homes; Offers a Cost-Effective Alternative to Pricey Hotels for Travelers

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 31, 2009) -

Editors Note: There is a video and a photo associated with this Press Release.

iStopOver is the newest member of the 'hometel' (home + hotel equals hometel) online marketplace. The service connects homeowners who have spare rooms to rent with travelers seeking affordable overnight or short-term accommodation. It is also the first of a new generation of products to offer social-media authentication using tools such as Facebook Connect and LinkedIn.

iStopOver is ideal for vacation or business travelers (guests) looking to slash travel costs, and for people attending major sporting or cultural events where hotel prices skyrocket and room availability is limited. For homeowners (hosts), it's a proven way to generate supplementary income by offering travelers home-away-from-home accommodation.

The concept is simple. Rather than paying to advertise available rooms in their homes through print and online classifieds, homeowners list their rooms for free with iStopOver, paying only a nominal transaction fee for every booking. iStopOver markets the listings to potential guests.

Designed with ease of use and flexibility in mind, iStopOver is unique in the hometel market. It is the first service of its kind to incorporate social media-based authentication of both hosts and guests to address the issue of trust - a potential barrier for either party. Using social media networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, hosts and guests can authenticate each other to establish a sense of trust before the transaction is completed. For example, when an 'authentication available' icon is shown on a host listing, guests can request access to details captured on a social network. Hosts are notified of an authentication request and can choose what information to share (e.g. school, work, relationship, photos, etc). iStopOver then makes that information available to the guest for 24 hours. A user rating system adds an additional level of trust to each transaction.

"I've experimented with other online classifieds in the past, but the one thing that always concerned me was the lack of knowledge about a pending guest," said Inna Sobel, a New York-based host on iStopOver. "Using iStopOver, I can review a potential guest's profile on a social network such as Facebook and feel more secure by validating that they are who they say they are. Their information from Facebook Connect tells me a lot about them and whether we would be compatible."

With iStopOver, guests find their hosts without the use of a travel agency. They simply go to www.iStopOver.com, search their city of choice, identify/select the accommodation they want and then rent directly from the homeowner. iStopOver provides the marketplace and facilitates the financial transaction, making the process of renting or finding accommodation easy for both hosts and guests. Hosts have the right to decline prospective guests. Similarly, if a guest arrives and finds the host accommodation does not meet expectations, money is refunded.

"iStopOver is a great alternative for both hosts and guests in any economy. Homeowners can use it to turn their homes into a short-term Bed and Breakfast, but without the hassles; while travelers can escape exorbitant fees charged by hotels," said Mark Skapinker, co-founder of iStopOver. "With accommodation that is priced well below average hotel rooms, renting a room on iStopOver offers real value. There is no impersonal check-in, loud noise from other guests, or hidden charges. In many cases, it gives travelers the opportunity to live like a local."

iStopOver is initially focusing on connecting hosts and guests in high density cities such as Boston, New York, San Francisco and Toronto, but has new hosts from all over the world signing on every day. Short term plans also include making iStopOver easily accessible to event attendees in high-demand locations such as those attending the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and the 2010 World Cup Soccer in South Africa.

"Cities where major sporting or cultural events are being held will become hotbeds for the hometel market," explains Skapinker. "We have the systems in place to extend our marketplace to hosts and guests around the world."

Leveraging the service's inherent flexibility, iStopOver can 'skin' the site for new markets, making it more visually appealing and contextually suitable for niche audiences as the service is built out to support new opportunities.

About iStopOver

iStopOver (www.iStopOver.com) offers an inexpensive and comfortable alternative to traditional hotels. It's great for people going on short-term trips, looking for a home-away-from-home, or just trying to travel on a budget. Guests can stay in B&B style accommodations and rent directly from the home owner through the website. Hosts can create listings, connect with prospective guests and manage all of their bookings. iStopOver offers a variety of tools to make traveling and hosting as simple as a few clicks of the mouse.

iStopOver is part of Brightspark 3.0 Inc, Canada's leading startup experts. Brightspark's founders and managers are experienced technology entrepreneurs that have been creating and running Software and Internet businesses for over 25 years. Brightspark's focus is to build and operate market leading Internet businesses.

Just the Facts

- iStopOver is the newest member of the 'hometel' (home + hotel equals hometel) online marketplace.

- iStopOver connects homeowners who have spare rooms available with business/vacation travelers seeking affordable overnight or short-term accommodation.

- First of a new generation of products to offer social-media authentication using tools such as Facebook Connect and LinkedIn.

- Social media authentication helps establish a sense of trust between hosts and guests before the transaction is completed.

- Homeowners (hosts) list their rooms for free with iStopOver and pay a nominal transaction fee for every booking. iStopOver markets listings to potential guests.

- Guests find hosts without a travel agency. They go to www.iStopOver.com, search their city of choice, identify/select the accommodation they want and then rent directly from the homeowner.

- iStopOver provides the marketplace and facilitates the financial transaction, making the process of renting or finding accommodation easy for both hosts and guests.

- iStopOver is initially focusing on connecting hosts and guests in high density cities such as Boston, New York, San Francisco and Toronto but has new hosts from all over the world signing on every day.

- Plans to make iStopOver easily accessible to conference attendees in high-demand locations such as those attending the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and the 2010 World Cup Soccer in South Africa.

Quick Links

Video: http://www.vimeo.com/3926020

Social Media News Release: http://www.istopover.com/news

Home Page: http://www.istopover.com/

FAQ: http://www.istopover.com/faq

Featured Listing: http://www.istopover.com/listings/1289

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=56065343417&ref=nf

Twitter: http://twitter.com/iStopOver

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hometel

To view the video associated with this press release, please visit the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVvYFIqMgoo

To view the photo associated with this press release, please visit the following link: http://www.marketwire.com/library/20090331-screen21_800.jpg

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