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Industry Perspectives

Key takeaways from this year’s VRMA International Conference

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Following this year’s VRMA International Conference, we asked attendees from Booking.com to share what they learned during the three-day event

The Vacation Rental Management Association’s International Conference, an annual highlight for the short-term rental industry, took place last month in San Antonio. We asked a selection of Booking.com employees who attended the event about their experiences. 

Eduardo Quinones, Booking Home Account Manager, says: From talking with partners, I noticed that they understand the uncertainty of the current situation and are looking for new ways to be proactive and prepared for any challenges ahead. In particular, they have a real hunger for new technology and want to find new ways to grow revenue. 

It was acknowledged that vacation rentals were well positioned to capture demand during the pandemic, in large part due to the privacy and space they offer guests. But there’s also the sentiment that this spike in demand won’t last forever and things will stabilise. Knowing this, diversification of distribution channels was a topic that came up, with property managers wondering if this approach will offer them more options to market their properties in the future.

Melanie Bourgeois, Key Account Manager Partner Services, says: Technology, professionalism and the guest experience were prevalent topics. We know there’s heightened demand for vacation rentals right now, so there were many conversations about how to deliver a seamless experience for guests at scale. As a result, technology solutions to scale the customer experience were a big focus this year. 

Also, more than ever, branding was a topic that stood out to me. There’s more focus on how partners can balance Online Travel Platforms, like Booking.com, with building their personal brand to offer a seamless guest experience that attracts repeat business. 

Haleigh Borgan, Booking Home Account Manager, says: I loved the Industry Trends session. The speakers provided some really good data and discussion around what is happening now and what to look for in 2022, such as group demand starting to return in the US. Another personal highlight was getting to meet partners who I have onboarded face-to-face. It was really exciting to see them in person, shake their hand and thank them for their business. 

Much of the discussion throughout the event was around recovery. A topic that stood out to me is professionalism in the context of attracting business travellers, who are booking work-friendly vacation rental properties more and more. In order to maintain this demand, companies need to ensure high standards of cleanliness and health precautions. Many corporations will require this of properties to protect their travelling employees. 

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Christa Levesque, Booking Home Manager, says: COVID-19 has changed the way people travel. The traveller trends that have emerged over the last year and a half were key topics of conversations at the event. For example, drive-to markets continue to be a big trend in the US, so having a shorter length of stay option is important to cater to guests searching for a last-minute trip to a drivable destination. Families and remote workers also continue to be important markets. Property managers can tap into this demand by highlighting amenities geared towards these audiences.  

Don Murray, Key Account Manager Partner Services, says: How to choose the best channel manager or property management system was a topic widely discussed in both sessions and in the exhibit hall. There were a lot of questions about channel managers’ functionality capabilities, and which property management systems have direct connections with major online travel platforms. 

Another takeaway of mine was the advice that Steve Milo, CEO of VTrips and a well-known industry leader, gave in his session 20 Vacation Rental Lessons for 2021 about the best strategies for payment-related issues. 

Fatima DeSilva, Connectivity Partner Business Manager, says: The session on diversity and inclusion really stood out to me. The panel and audience touched on uncomfortable and eye-opening topics that we wouldn’t normally discuss at a conference, while offering guidance to property owners and property management companies on how to make every guest feel welcome. From offering toiletries that better cater to people of colour to using inclusive language, there were a lot of ideas shared around how to action the changes needed within the industry. 

Kathryn Cervantes, Connectivity Partner Business Manager, says: I may be biased, but the Connectivity session was the most memorable for me. Overall, software and technology were major themes of the conference, and a highlight from this session was putting that into context of how core APIs – such as rates and availability, reservations and content – are now widely available and evolving into tools that enhance operations and improve guest communications – such as messaging, reviews and customised content.

 

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Takeaway
  • The 2021 VRMA International Conference took place in San Antonio, US, last month
  • Hot topics included recovery, technology and the ongoing professionalisation of the short-term rental industry 
  • Sessions covered a wide variety of topics including industry trends, connectivity and diversity and inclusion