This weekend I had the great pleasure of attending and speaking at the Vacation Rental Success Summit in Toronto. This energetic 2-day industry conference, now moving into its third year, was packed full of industry experts from marketing, technology and business strategy.

Owners and property managers came from all over the United States and Canada to attend the summit. There were also a few attendees from Europe, and one owner came all the way from Australia. The buzz and enthusiasm was palpable at times, and one of the biggest take-aways for me was being re-reminded about the excitement of being in an industry that has such scope for change.

Vacation Rental Success Summit

Over the course of the weekend, I heard some fantastic presentations. David Agnotti from SmokyMountains.com talked about the importance of leveraging your marketing, storytelling and experiences to build a brand. He also talked about going the extra, extra mile in order to provide an unbeatable guest (and owner) experience. David’s own story of SmokyMountains.com is truly remarkable, having built a valuable resource and brand for his niche region through content marketing as well as an exemplary product.

Eric Mason, the CEO of SpaceAgent.io, shared his vast knowledge of the vacation rental industry with us and talked about the beginnings of the growth in the vacation rental industry and the impact on the global travel & tourism market as a whole. In 2011, one in 10 travellers stayed in private accommodation on their travels. By 2016, this number had grown to 1 in 3. Eric also talked about the volume of vacation rentals and the potential impact of the ‘shadow inventory’ of private space not currently open to market.

Aaron Zifkin, Regional Director of Americas Operations at Airbnb, shared with us the 5 ‘Mega Trends’ that are dramatically impacting a changing world of travel. These changes involve the way people experience travel, the imminent buying power of Gen Z and Millenials (having 76% by 2025), the growth of Chinese tourism, the importance of connection and the desire for experiences over pure product. Aaron also talked about the fact that is it estimated that 72% of vacation rentals currently remain empty, and also how Airbnb are finding ways to work with property managers. Aaron also reminded us that travel & tourism accounts for 10% of the Global Economy. More than oil and gas.

John Graham from ReachLocal.com did an excellent job of educating us on the power of digital marketing and provided 25 usable tips for improving and maximising marketing efforts. These included search marketing, social marketing and mobile marketing. If I could only pick a couple of ‘take-aways’ from John’s talk – mobile is paramount and everyone is listening. Great for marketers, scary for consumers.

Richard Vaughton of Rentivo, talked about the challenges, potential pitfalls and also great benefits of property management companies coming together in collectives, and collaborating their marketing efforts to build powerful local ‘mini brands’. Richard shared with us the case study of Love Cottages, a group of 50 property managers in the UK who have come together to do exactly that.

The final keynote speaker over the weekend was the fabulous Matt Landau, genius behind the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and fearless leader of the Inner Circle community. Matt talked about the opportunity for vacation rental businesses to build sustainable ‘Limited Edition’ businesses that can cut through the competition and are miles apart and ahead of commodity lead accommodation providers. Matt inspired the room with his vision and passion.

I was honoured to give a presentation myself at the conference. I spoke about my passion for PR, how PR fits in a changing digital world, and what the benefits of being proactive with PR can have for vacation rental businesses.

There were many other great speakers that I heard over the weekend and lots of inspiring conversations that I enjoyed with other service providers, owners and managers. If you haven’t been to one of these industry events yet, I highly recommend them. There is nothing like meeting and engaging with your industry in ‘the flesh’.

Next year, the Vacation Rental Success Summit is heading down south to San Antonio, Texas and it will be sure to be another wonderful event for all those in the industry.

I hope to see you there!

Jessica

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