Fresh on the tails of the VRWS in Florence, I’m on another flight back, heading home from another conference, reflecting once again on the state of the international vacation rental industry.

Tonight’s flight is from Orlando, and this week’s conference was the excellent Vacation Rental Management Association’s annual National.

More than 1400 attendees, including 400 first timers, gathered together for almost three days of debate, education, information and knowledge sharing. Although I have attended VRMA Europe, this was my first National conference and it didn’t disappoint.

Attending conferences is a great opportunity for me to have face-to-face time with some of our clients and connect with industry colleagues. But even more so, conferences are vital for full immersion into all aspects of this industry vertical, and as a public relations specialist in the vacation rental industry, I need to keep my thumb firmly on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry now, and have an ear to the ground about what is coming around the corner.

Every speaker I listened to and all of the panel discussions I attended were interesting, dynamic and thought-provoking. They were also very open. I heard from some incredibly switched on property managers running very successful businesses with tightly run operations that fully embrace technical advantages. These PM’s were more than happy to share details of their knowledge and experience with others.

There was more talk of the rise of the millennials (guess who from), heated debate about the relevance of property managers in the future, predictions for the next big travel disrupter (Facebook?), shared strategies for growth and owner acquisition, musings about the plans of Google, and discussion about the megatrends coming out for travel that will impact us all.

Key facts that were shared over the conference and that jumped out at me included:

  • 8% of the US GDP is travel and this is the fastest growing industry
  • Only 2% of the Chinese population currently have passports
  • Airbnb has 4 million listings worldwide
  • In the last 10 years Airbnb has had more than 200 million guest check-ins
  • 1 in 3 US travellers stayed in private accommodation in 2016 (it was 1 in 10 in 2011)
  • 1.8 billion international tourists are predicted for 2020
  • Half of all online searches happen on Amazon
  • 70% of bookers don’t know who they booked their vacation rental through
  • Only 10% of trips can be fully influenced in terms of location – The Dream Trips
  • Airbnb has 1,400 treehouses, 3,000 castles and 9,000 boats listed…..

During his keynote on Monday morning, Nate Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer, announced Host Tools, a suite of tools created for professional property managers to help them easily integrate multiple listings with the platform. Key indication that Airbnb is serious about penetrating the professional vacation rental industry. And why not with a global market estimated to be worth $194 billion in 2021?

However, during all the razzmatazz, learning and networking, my two favourite ‘take-aways’ of the conference were simple and straight forward and came from Lino Maldonado from Wyndham and Simon Lehmann from Phocuswright. Lino said that the key to success for property managers was to, “Keep your learning hat and your listening ears on” and Simon concluded his talk with, “When you have finished changing, you are finished”.

Both pearls of wisdom and both a good hint for the current international vacation rental market.

About Jessica Gillingham

Jessica is the director of Abode PR. Jessica writes and speaks regularly on topics related to public relations, the short-term rental industry and the travel industry. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, a director of Visit Bath and founder of industry resource PillowTalk Media.


Posted in Our Thinking, Short-Term Rental Industry