My first VRMA Conference has now come to an end and it’s time for some reflection and absorption. I’ve caught up with some old industry friends here in Amsterdam, met some amazing new people and heard some really interesting and insightful speakers. It’s been a great first experience of a VRMA Conference.

VRMA Europe

Some of the speakers I especially enjoyed over the last two days spoke about topics relating to embracing the change in travellers expectations both before their trip and during. The speakers answered the big questions of how to evolve our marketing to keep up with the changes.

Thibault Masson of, gave an interesting presentation on how to implement Actionable Social Media tactics to attract and nurture leads. Making sure that you are working to build a solid list of email addresses from your social media channels is vital. A top ‘take away’ from Thibault’s talk included using Leadpages for lead magnets and make sure you are providing a solid piece of downloadable free content to attract and begin conversations with potential guests. (We use a lead magnet and offer a free guide to ‘Pitching Press Releases to Travel Editors’ to encourage the beginning of a conversation with us) so this is something that is applicable for ALL businesses.

The topic of the future of travel and ‘How do Millennials Redefine Travel?’, formed the basis of Airbnb’s Benjamin Glaenzer’s presentation. Benjamin talked about the travel trends of Millennials and what these mean for property managers. First, some facts. Currently, Millennials make up 25% of the active traveller population This is set to rise to 50% by 2020. Millennials travel on average 4.2 x a year (more than the 3 x the ‘normal’ traveller) and 70% say they have a desire to visit every single continent. In order to attract these key travellers, the answer according to Airbnb, is to provide flexibility in booking and have a focus on experience, hospitality and authenticity. Benjamin told that China is Airbnb’s fastest growing market for outbound travellers and to note that these Millennials travel and use their own social products.

Another presentation that I enjoyed was Alan Egan from Rent More Weeks. Alan’s topic title was “The Only Credible Alternative to Listing Sites” and he talked about how understanding (and making sure that you are visible), in the 5 Stages of Travel is vital. These stages include the Dreaming, Research, Booking, Experience and finally the Sharing phase. One point Alan raised was that if you can understand the dreaming phase of your future guest, then you can base the core of your marketing strategy around this. The Sharing phase encompasses all of the four other stages and that “digital bragging is part of our daily lives”.  Alan warned against the dangers of host/property-centric marketing and what he referred to as Single Point Marketing. Owners and managers need a creative content strategy and to look towards Multiple Point Marketing that adds value, information and is constantly fresh.

Heather Bayer of Cottage Link Rental Management had a different audience focus in her presentation on owner acquisition and retention. In “Getting New Owners and Keeping Them”, Heather said that a key element of attracting new owners is in finding out what their ‘pain points’ are, and then making sure that your service solves these worries. What are your USP’s, and what can you do to ensure that you are providing an attractive service? Building trust can also be nurtured by providing your owners with good quality content and information including a professionally compiled Owner Attraction Package. Heather adheres to the policy of ‘help, don’t sell’ in her marketing to owners. For retaining owners, the key elements that your property management company should be focussing on is being hot on communication, encouraging loyalty and fostering a community of owners. This community also helps with communication and loyalty.

There were many other fantastic speakers and presentations during the two days of VRMA Europe and I’m just sorry I didn’t get to hear them all or meet everyone. I guess I’ll need to save that for next time!

The next stop on the conference timetable for me is the Vacation Rental Success Summit in Toronto this coming May. I’m very happy to report that I will be one of the speakers at this event and will be presenting a workshop on “Understanding how proactive PR can benefit your vacation rental business”.

If you are a vacation rental host, owner or manager or agent – then this is the place to be this May! You can book your spot here.


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