This article was originally published in the Vacation Rental Management Association’s Arrival Magazine – Spring 2022
By Jessica Gillingham, founder and managing director of Abode PR
Over the last 18 months, the number of press stories related to vacation rentals has grown exponentially. A quick search on Muck Rack, a PR software tool that our agency uses to monitor media and journalist activity, counts close to 20,000 mentions in articles for the term ‘short-term rentals’ in addition to the more than 28,000 when searching ‘vacation rentals’.
Many of these articles focus on specific companies in specific geographies, but others relate to the wider industry. If you are a regular Skift, PhocusWire or Forbes reader or follow the national press, you will have seen a surge in interest in the vacation rentals sector. Add to this the proliferation of podcasts that now speak directly to a vacation rental audience and it looks like, certainly from a media perspective, that the industry is exploding.
This increased media interest, or from a PR perspective, this greater ‘share of voice’ tells me that vacation rentals surely have arrived. As a category of lodging, they are no longer seen by the media as the homey second cousin of hotels and resorts, but as a leading ‘brand’ in its own right. Fuelled, over the last few years by new entrants into the market, greater visibility on distribution channels, increased professionalisation, higher levels of investment and funding coupled with a global pandemic that made rentals a more attractive proposition for guests, vacation rentals are now mainstream.
In the national, business and trade press, the stories dominating the headlines have included tales of SPACs and IPOs, current, planned or expected. Large funding rounds with more dominant players expanding by buying up smaller operators. Emerging and changing business models, from rent-to-rent to flexing multifamily rentals. The continued move of hotel brands into the rental market as well as vice versa. And data stories that have underpined the growth, influence and increased market share of short-term rentals from a guest (consumer) perspective.
Further stories, not exactly directly related to the industry, but certainly linked, have covered the seismic shift, since the pandemic, in the way society is anticipated to live and work. This huge transition is expected (as we are already seeing) to have a sizeable impact (very positive) on short-term rentals as well as changing guest expectations for automation and higher standards. Looking at the industry from the perspective of a media lens, shows an industry that is growing in maturity as well as relevance.
Moving forwards, as we settle deeper into a post-pandemic global world and the dust begins to settle, the emphasis on business and the media that reports on it, will begin to shift. We will see more emphasis placed on matters related to the environment, social impact and governance. How a company both embodies and communicates its purpose. How it relates to its people both internal stakeholders (staff, guests, owners) and external (the community it operates within) will be highlighted alongside profit.
Reputation and culture are not just buzz words for the moment. They are the cognizant foundations for any business that plans to grow in a sustainable and purposeful way. When a company’s culture and reputation is seen as integral to its core and that company is able to communicate its purpose outwardly, then it will elicit trust and enjoy influence within the sector which it operates. More and more, as the vacation rental industry continues to enjoy greater ‘share of voice’ as well as more business, the media and the society that it reflects, will want to hear stories related to purpose. That will be the industry’s next big challenge.
About Jessica Gillingham
Jessica is the founder and managing director of Abode PR, an award-winning B2B public relations agency focused on raising the profile of transformative technology solutions operating within the global short-term rental, hotel and ‘living’ property sectors. With over 20 years of experience in public relations, hospitality and technology, Jessica is also an advisor, leadership mentor and industry commentator.