I had an interesting and very educational few days at the Vacation Rental Managers Association Conference in San Antonio this week, and am now heading home for Ontario with a new perspective on the rental industry and with a lot of ideas to pursue.
Given that the vacation rental industry in North America still represents a small portion of the overall travel market there is a feeling of anticipation about the potential for growth and maturity in the market. There were hot discussions on a proposed distribution ‘switch’ that would allow agencies to present their inventory to a much wider audience and could see vacation homes showing up on sites such as Expedia and Travelocity in the future. ‘Hot’ was indeed the word as a situation arose between Home Away co-founder Carl Shepherd and Alex Risser, the current chair of VRMA, at the Home Away town hall meeting. Unfortunately I was not present at that meeting but Valyn Perini of the Open Travel Alliance describes it very succinctly in two posts on Tnooz. Since this will ultimately affect all of us who market our homes either through agencies or with listing sites such as Home Away, these aptly-titled articles are worth a read to get an understanding of where this business is going: Take That HomeAway – Time to Build an Industry Switch for Rentals, and High Noon at the Vacation Rental Saloon
It was a real pleasure to be amongst so many industry experts and to hear views from a wide range of perspectives. With delegates from small agencies representing less than 20 properties to the big Florida and South Carolina companies that manage 400+ homes, there was a lot of discussion on topics such as social networking, standards, niche marketing and of course, distribution.
Among the people I talked to were quite a few I’ve met on Twitter and Facebook and will be following up on the topics we discussed over the next few weeks. Mark Bordo of Cottage Country was there promoting the Ontario based listing site; I had lunch with Koryn Okey of Flipkey on a table where we discussed reviews and how they are impacting on consumer behavior and choices; and Mike McFadden of Luxury Real Estate shared his knowledge of renting high end homes in a competitive environment. Those I met all too briefly but will be following up with interviews soon, I hope, were Tom Gilmore of Vacation Home Rentals, John Slaughter at Vacation Storebuilder and Brent Hiegellke of Second Porch.
With all the knowledge and information shared over the few days, I felt like a kid in a candy store – it was tough to decide which sessions to attend and which to miss, but I was more than happy with my choices. Some had more focus on agency related issues, but much of the content was very relevant to RBOs. What was clear was that we are in a fast growing sector of the travel market and we all need to be on our toes to stay with the flow and maintain a competitive edge.