Uncertainty: Uncertainty might also be here to stay, if we keep on having travel restrictions, which means shorter booking windows (last minute bookings), and the need for flexible booking policies. On that topic HomeExchange’s value proposition is second to none: since no money changes hands, cancellations do not mean refunds, and are very easy to manage.

As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emmanuel Arnaud.

Emmanuel Arnaud is the CEO of HomeExchange. A graduate of HEC Paris business school and the Harvard Kennedy School (Arthur-Sachs Fellow), he has used his passion for sustainable development to make advances in the energy sector and to drive his entrepreneurship activities.

As a student, he co-founded Ghonsla, a company specializing in sustainable insulation solutions in Pakistan. After graduation, he tackled First Solar’s strategic marketing in France. Arnaud then combined his first passion, sustainable development, with his second passion, traveling, when he had an idea that would revolutionize the home exchange market: the creation of a point-based system to organize non-simultaneous housing exchanges.

Arnaud co-founded GuestToGuest in 2011 as an organization to drive sustainable growth. In 2017, GuestToGuest acquired U.S.-based HomeExchange, creating a world leader in the home swapping market. Both companies merged in 2018 into the new HomeExchange platform under one global brand and vision. Solidly anchored in the sharing economy, HomeExchange is a promising alternative to traditional hospitality markets, ensuring that peer-to-peer transactions become increasingly mainstream.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a member of HomeExchange.com, the American pioneer of home exchanging. I got frustrated by how difficult it was to organize exchanges on the platform because they had to be reciprocal. So, I created a competitor (Guesttoguest.com) which enabled non-reciprocal exchanges through a points system, grew the company and ended up buying HomeExchange.com and renamed the merged company that way.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

You may think the success or failure of the company you founded defines you as a person. It does not. Many founders’ first ideas do not work, and they make their breakthrough on idea number 2 or 3. So if at some point it becomes a choice between your health and your company, protect yourself and your loved ones — it is the best decision, but it might also be the best career move.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My partner Charles-Edouard Girard. Had I not meant him, I very well would have given up on the company I had been building alone for 2 years, but the vote of confidence of having someone as smart and qualified as him join the adventure made me realize I was right to believe in it in the first place.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

I don’t have one, the same way I don’t have a favorite meal. Sometimes I feel like a romantic getaway with my wife with tons of service is what I need, and sometimes it’s hiking with the whole family and toughing it out. The right kind of vacation is that one that fits your current needs, makes you feel more alive and happier than everyday life, and that helps you connect with yourself, your loved ones and the world around you

Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I joined Founderspledge and made my first donation last year.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would launch a movement for more ethical tech. A little bit like Bcorp, but focused on the challenges specific to our industry: privacy, addiction to screens, polarization of debates, etc.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

At HomeExchange, we’re rewriting what it means to travel in today’s world. Our platform offers the everyday traveler the opportunity to visit new places in an authentic way — all at an accessible price point ($150/year) for unlimited travel.

Because of the way members engage with each other within our platform, we also bring personal connection into the travel and hospitality industry. Our members actually have conversations with each other — telling them about their homes, their surroundings and their cultures. And now more than ever as we approach a new era of travel, that personal and authentic connection means something. It means security, it means excitement, and, above all, it means trust.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

As I mentioned above, our platform and model — after the annual membership fee — is completely free. Traveling is expensive, so we’re working to make it not only more affordable for people all around the globe, but also more accessible. There is no additional cost to exchange your home, no need for any additional money to exchange hands. So, the main pain point we’re addressing is that people want to travel more but can’t afford to. With us, they can.

We’re also working to address the lack of trust a lot of travelers have when they use other home-rental platforms. Unlike others, there’s no risk — everything is taken care of by HomeExchange and we’ve got Ambassadors, as well as additional support, available around the clock to provide assistance should anyone need it.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

The first way we bring huge disruption to the industry is by offering unlimited free accommodation to all our members. Which means they can travel more often, and better, since they can use their savings to treat themselves. It’s a complete paradigm shift in the world of travel.

At our core we are a company maximizing the usage of existing homes: rather than having your home sit empty and you going to a hotel, your home is used by other people, and you are staying in a real home. This means we don’t need to build more hotels or compete with locals for real estate the way the renting websites do.

Exchanging homes not only helps decrease our overall carbon footprint and impact on the earth, but it also supports the communities in which our members are traveling. Traveling sustainability has never been more critical for a healthy world and that is our ultimate goal.

As you know, COVID-19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

Again, this brings us to the concept of sustainability and making travel, as a whole, greener and better for the earth. First, travel and hospitality companies should look to incorporate and execute smart strategies that focus on reducing our global carbon footprint. This can be done by renovating people’s homes and then using these same homes for other people’s vacations — like our model. The companies and organizations can also look to…

I’d say:

1. Local: Demand will be more local, so hospitality companies need to acquire inventory closer to their demand main markets

2. Longer stays: Remote work created demand for longer term stays, and hospitality companies need to cater to that demand

3. Safety: COVID seems like it might become seasonal, increasing the demand for private spaces as opposed to common spaces, and trustworthy sanitization practices

4. Uncertainty: Uncertainty might also be here to stay, if we keep on having travel restrictions, which means shorter booking windows (last minute bookings), and the need for flexible booking policies. On that topic HomeExchange’s value proposition is second to none: since no money changes hands, cancellations do not mean refunds, and are very easy to manage.

5. Green: this pandemic has helped drive the point home that if we keep on doing things the way we do, our civilization is running to its end. We must consume, live and travel in a better way.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can visit the HomeExchange website (www.homeexchange.com) for more information, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For myself, you can reach me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.