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VRMA International Conference 2019 Review

By 16th October 2019 No Comments

The VRMA International Conference is the largest vacation rental conference in the world and was held in New Orleans this year. For all our European clients and friends who were unable to attend, we have outlined what you missed, including some key takeaways from some of the best sessions.

The conference started on Sunday 13th Oct in the exhibit hall where delegates got a chance to meet some of the most innovative software companies in the vacation rental industry.

The sessions began on Monday 14th October. Here is a detailed breakdown of the day:

Updates from VRMA Executive Team:

 Mike Copps – Executive Director of VRMA opened by mentioning that this year’s conference has been the biggest by far with 2000+ attendees and 120+ exhibitors. He shared the following information:

  • Launch of the Vacation Rental Week – March 9th-13th 2020, where VRMA will lead the flag-waving.
  • Launch of the VRMA Accreditation Program (APPMC) – This will help with consumer confidence (guests) and also property owner’s confidence in letting you manage their properties. There are 8 standards to adhere to.

Next, Jodi Taylor Refosco – President of VRMA made the following announcements:

  • Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals Sessions (VRHP) will merge into VRMA – This will help to provide certification for housekeeping professionals.
  • The 2020-2022 Strategic Goals – were also disclosed.

VRMA International Conference 2019 Review

Image Source @VRMA

Key Sessions:

Hotels and Vacation Rentals: The Past, Present, and Future.

  • Presented by Jennifer Hsieh – Homes & Villas, Marriott International.

 Marriott International recently announced its official entry into the home rental industry via their Homes & Villas platform. Jennifer took the stage for the keynote speech to outline Marriott’s plans and take a look at the wider industry.

She also outlined the insights from Marriott Bonvoy Members thoughts about vacation rentals and how this leads to spotting an opportunity.  Marriott initially started with a pilot in London, partnering with a property management company and then worked with their best properties. 3 nights minimum, no housekeeping and strict cancellation policy were the initial points of difference from the hotel model.

Post this trial, Marriott realised that the model worked but also that it would work better by partnering with property management companies, not compete against existing ones.

Longer Stays, Larger Houses, Leisure are the three pillars why Marriott view vacation rentals as a complementary business to hotel business.

She also introduced their latest offering – Homes & Villas brand, a global home rental comprised of thousands of curated homes, castles and cabins in 150+ markets.

Image Source @VRMA @Homes and Villas- Marriott International

Image Source @VRMA @Homes and Villas- Marriott Internationa

Image Source @VRMA @Homes and Villas- Marriott International

There are lots of destinations with no Marriott Hotels, so this is a new opportunity to enter markets. There are 4 key standards for any properties listed on Marriott.Image Source @VRMA @Homes and Villas- Marriott International

5 months into the venture, Jennifer shared key feedback:

  1. Huge media coverage (over 38 billion impressions to date).
  2. Quality guest feedback stated that properties were consistent with Marriott standards.
  3. 5 million redemption points have been used to date used – (guests are using a large number of points to book properties).

Fireside Chat with Jeff Hurst -VRBO & Oliver Grémillon -Booking.com. Moderated by Simon Lehmann. Image Source @VRMA, @VRBO, @Booking.com

Oliver Grémillon outlined that Booking.com are agnostic on connectivity and solely focus on distribution not buying property management companies. Property managers need to be wary about some connectivity providers that are not fully integrated and not focused on VR, so Booking.com is pushing the quality of connectivity.

Booking.com focus on partnerships, with examples being Noise Aware. The goal is to curate providers for property managers to ensure they are selecting quality products. The goal is not to drive revenue for Booking.com but educate providers.

The conversation then turned to the announcement about Booking.com’s new AI rating program. Click this link for more information.

The most used field on Booking.com is the selection of 3, 4 or 5 stars when searching for properties. This means that when Vacation Rentals are served alongside hotel rooms and this is where the rating system becomes more important.  Booking.com are applying the same criteria at scale to level the field, but obviously, property managers are nervous. Ultimately rating systems on vacation rentals need to improve and become universal to enhance guest confidence.

What Does it Mean to be an Independent Property Management Company in 2019?

  • Presented by Pierre Becerril- Transparent who shared some great insights.

Image Source @VRMA @Transparent

Property Management Software Execs Talk the Tech that’s Powering the Future of the Short-Term Rental Industry.

  •  Presented by Amiad Soto- Guesty; B.J. Shell- VRBO; Grant Fawcett- CiiRus, and Brett Parry – Streamline.

Round table discussion with the four widest used Property Management Software systems. Topics included task automation, payment processing and communication.

The conversation started with what is broken in the eco-system. Fawcett highlighted the sheer volume of PMS systems makes it difficult for the consumers as they look great but don’t have the functionality you need as a property management company.

Soto made the point that local operators offer a good service in their territory and are very specific. They don’t have enough resources to grow globally but looking at the hotel industry, it has ended up with 5 big players, not just one winner.

Shell stated that the industry is seeing huge innovation with companies moving faster, it isn’t a bad thing for the market but a challenge for property managers as they need to cut through the noise.

Soto stated that Guesty sees itself now as a platform, not just a PMS and that integrations are key to the market. Guesty wants to be the de-facto platform that 3rd parties push data and services into their platform, but the property management companies only use Guesty to access these services (so less training for their staff).

Parry talked about the complexity of the market and that multiple PMS providers are offering options but not every company runs at the same pace or operate in the same way.

Soto advises that property managers should engage in new technology, as often, they don’t know they have an issue that can be simply solved by tech. The other key issue is to ensure you can connect with the team behind the software.

Fawcett suggested that property managers chose software with features that work out of the box, and not to get sold on what may happen later. Also, the differing fees that PMS charge are key, as different models suit different property managers.

The discussion then changed to whether PMS’ have over customised their software to appeal to all property managers rather than creating a standard. Shell stated that the VRBO software realised that their software would work for everyone and built towards creating a standard.

Tuesday 15th October began with the VRMA Battleground.

 Back for a second year, 5 start-ups took the stage to impress future clients and investors. The competition offered great insight into potential disruption in the market over the next 1-2 years. Vacation rental managers have witnessed huge disruption over the last 10 years, what will be next? Here’s a description of each company.

All The Rooms

All The Rooms is the world’s first vacation rental search engine and expert in vacation rental data. They combine helping people to find their perfect vacation rental with helping homeowners, property managers, investors and governments understand their local vacation home market.

Beachy 

Beachy is software that makes it easy for resorts and service providers to create exceptional guest experiences at the beach, pool, and beyond.

Daycation 

Daycation has a curated network of on-demand hotel amenities that you can reserve and unlock.

OnceThere

OnceThere is an e-commerce platform connecting any activity to any lodging provider, from major hotel chains to independent hoteliers to vacation rental managers.

Occasion Genius 

Occasion Genius connects individuals to events that they care about before they happen.

The 5 companies duked it out on stage for the converted prize and Beachy was announced as the winner.

Special mention to both Beyond Pricing and NoiseAware who both delivered awesome parties on Monday night.

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