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New Site Rents Apartments to Tourists

A visitor to Moscow towing her luggage. Tourists now have more options for renting apartments instead of booking hotel rooms. Vladimir Filonov

With the number of tourists growing at 11 percent per year, web site aims to lock in its position in the tourism industry by linking travelers with available apartments and houses.

Receiving startup funds of $500,000 from Fast Lane Ventures and reaching up to $3 million more from various investors, chief executive Dwight Linden launched the site on Sept. 1. He is striving to take advantage of the deficit of affordable hotel rooms in Russia and the CIS.

According to a 2011 report by the Moscow Committee on Tourism and the Hotel Industry, 2.9 million more foreigners reserved hotel rooms in 2011 than in 2000 and reservations by Russian citizens also increased 736,000.

According to the report, the average price for a two- or three-star hotel in 2011 was about 2,500 rubles ($82) per night while a four- or five-star hotel room cost an average of 7,302 rubles.

Marketing director of Oleg Midar said an apartment in Moscow offered through their services could cost anywhere between 1,000 rubles and 20,000 rubles per day.

Within two months, the company became one of the top three sites for short rentals, offering 10,000 accommodations in 150 areas throughout Russia. Each day, the web site receives 8,000 visitors, and more than 500 reservations have been registered through the site.

By the end of 2011, Linden said, the company expects to increase reservations by 50 percent, and by the end of 2012 to offer more than 30,000 accommodations, expanding into Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria and Montenegro.

Linden also said he sees an opportunity in birthday, reunion and wedding celebrations, and that the cottages and large apartments offered through the web site's services could provide an outlet for the high demand.

With added investment, the company plans to improve the usability of its web site, add functions for renters and landlords, including comments and complaints, as well as verifying the authenticity of uploaded information.

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