Despite being in existence for almost a century in the United States and even longer in Europe, the vacation rental industry is now more mainstream than ever.
Now a $30b+ industry, short-term rentals are big business and headline news. This growth and awareness brings with it a powerful opportunity, especially for those professional vacation rental managers who can distinguish themselves in the space. Here are the primary forces making a significant impact on the industry.
Just a decade ago, vacation rentals were focused on category awareness – finding travelers and consumers. The sharing economy has made vacation rentals front-page news. From the astronomical growth of Airbnb to Expedia’s acquisition of HomeAway/Vrbo to Booking.com’s focus on the space, the traveler now has vacation rental options constantly at their fingertips. Just go to any major online travel website; vacation rentals are now a prominent category.
This awareness has brought about an upswing in demand, a change in the traveler, and a change in guest expectations. Shorter stays, shorter booking windows, younger guests focused on experiences: these are challenges that necessitate staying up-to-speed and ahead of the game to thrive.
This growth is being heavily driven by these online distribution tools and listing sites. And there is more to come. A category that used to rely on catalogs and word of mouth now focuses heavily on complex marketing campaigns and utilization of business intelligence to find new travelers and properties for those guests. The aforementioned listings sites are currently driving this increased demand, but now Google is also getting in the game. Similar to Google Flights and other travel search functions of the global giant, vacation rentals are now being featured in certain markets using their algorithms and mapping technology. This will continue to drive change.
That said, at the end of the day, these sites are booking tools, not property managers. The actual relationship between the guest and their vacation is facilitated and driven by the property manager. And once these relationships are established, the traveler’s perception of the industry can really be driven. Professional vacation rental managers know how to ensure a great experience in a clean, safe property where the guests will want to come back. This is the reason that, despite these innovations in distribution, many travelers still book directly with the management company. A recent study by VRMA showed that their members book on average about 40 percent of their bookings directly.
To better accommodate this demand and streamline operations, vacation rental managers leverage increasingly sophisticated technology. From property management software systems that manage all aspects of a booking to smart home technology like Amazon Alexa and everything in-between — 3D property tours, keyless entry, and high-tech monitoring systems — there is a significant amount of innovation taking place. The growth of the VRMA International Conference — 30 percent YOY for the past few years — has resulted in an exhibit hall with 110+ exhibiting companies displaying the latest products and services.
Due to this popularity, there is an increased need to educate the public and regulators on the space. Professional property managers present a huge opportunity for states, cities, and towns to capitalize on this growing sector by instituting fair regulations that protect the consumer, provide a safe travel experience, and properly collect and remit taxes to the authorities. Everyone wins when a professional property manager is running point on these experiences. The education should be ongoing whether there are regulations or not. Get involved with a local group and tell the positive story that’s been told for decades.
The best way to harness and regulate this growth all comes back to professional vacation rental property managers. Members of VRMA, for instance, adhere to a strict code of ethics, have access to the latest education and information, leverage the VRMA certificate program, and will participate in the forthcoming company accreditation program that will distinguish the fly-by-night bad actors in the space from the upstanding professional companies who are providing so much to our local economies. Now is the time for professionalism to safely drive this growth into the future.
VRMA, [email protected]