VRS274 – Nawlins wrap up – The Vacation Rental Women’s Summit

Having just returned from the Vacation Rental Women’s Summit, I’ve had a week to reflect on the takeaways and to also hear from other attendees about their thoughts. Conference organizer and publisher of VRM Intel, Amy Hinote, joins me to talk about the event and give us her highlights from an amazing two days in New Orleans.

I was going to summarise the Summit myself but Jennifer Spencer, a regular contributor to the New to Short Term Rentals, Airbnb and Hosting group on Facebook, did it so much better than me, so with her permission I am reproducing it below:

“Here’s my 5 Star review of the inaugural VRWS (Vacation Rental Women’s Summit) held in New Orleans last week at the Ritz Carlton. I attended with Hillary Gibson. The event was well organized with 4 keynote speakers and 54 mini break-out sessions (45 minutes long) covering a wide variety of topics including VR trends, Google and VRs, regulations, marketing your VR, how to exceed guest expectations, how to approach investors and so much more. With so many great topics it was hard to select only 7 sessions. I wished I could have seen them all. The keynote speakers were just – WOW! – with well-delivered messages that were super inspirational. I left the Summit feeling energized and it gave me time to reflect on new ideas.

The event focused on some of the great qualities that make women well suited to the VR business but it was inclusive for all to attend. Many men did attend and the atmosphere was positive and welcoming. I walked away with key learnings for my vacation rental and I gained insight into global vacation industry trends. I made some new connections Katy Waldschmidt (Owner Rez). I also met some Facebook “friends” in real life who I’ve only previously engaged with online (Annie Switzer and many others). And I was able to connect with many industry influencers (Tyann Marcink, Heather Bayer, Matt Landau just to name a few) who were accessible and easy to approach.

Below is a quick summary of the keynote addresses:

HomeAway’s Chief Product Officer, Tina Weyand was the first keynote speaker at the conference. She presented on industry trends and highlighted how the human connection is key for the VR industry. She shared how women are naturally wired to be great hosts as we tend to be more empathetic than our male counterparts. And empathy is key to hospitality. 56% of women manage VR’s . And 70% of travel decisions are made by women. Overall she highlighted how important to create amazing experiences together.

We also heard from the Real Downtown Abbey owner Lady Carnarvon who presented on bringing people together with a story, branding and authenticity. Her stories and the history of Highclere Castle were super interesting. Lady Carnarvon's presentation outlined the definition of brand, creating and telling the story of the brand while providing meaningful connections with guests to help amplify their experiences.

Leslie Preston, founder of Bachcare, a large New Zealand property management company that manages 2,000 homes, presented on how important it is to have a strong team to scale your business. How you need to hire an A-team to grow (if you hire B people, they will hire C people) and letting go of perfection (80% is ok). I was impressed with Bachcare’s marketing and use of commission-based representatives to run their company locally.


My favorite and most inspirational keynote speaker was Elizabeth Gilbert the author of Eat Pray Love. She was an amazing storyteller and hilarious. I laughed and I cried. She spoke about living a creatively lived life and took us on her journey of how she challenged herself to live creatively. She spoke to choosing curiosity over fear. To be open instead of closing down (“I said yes when I meant no”). To connect with people (life meeting life – “What are you most excited about right now”) even when it is uncomfortable. And most important, that it is worth it to take the risk because the alternative of doing nothing sucks. That life is happening now. I definitely left inspired after hearing her speak and felt I could apply her broad message to many areas of my businesses and life in general.

Of course, food and entertainment is so important to making an event special and this one didn’t fail to win kudos all round. From the superbly presented Downton Abbey High Tea to the fabulous spread put on at The Red Fish Grill Mardi Gras Party (sponsored by Red Sky Insurance), we were royally fed and watered. My waistline is still recovering from chocolate bread pudding and Bananas Foster!!

You’ll also hear my experience of the apartment in Canal St that Mike found on Airbnb, and why it made me wonder about the Superhost status!


Photos courtesy of April Peeler Burns