Conrad O’Connell is the founder of BuildUp Bookings, a digital marketing agency that works with vacation rental managers to drive more direct bookings. 

New this year, VRMA Spring Forum in Charlotte, NC is a replacement from the VRMA regional conferences that have been active for the past few years.

While the Spring Forum is largely a new event, it was just as interesting and information-dense as the VRMA events that you’ve likely come to know and love.

I had the pleasure of speaking on Tuesday afternoon with “Peeking Under The Hood: Analyzing Marketing Results From 55+ Vacation Rental Companies” — a session on how vacation rental management companies actually drive direct bookings. The room was full and we got great feedback that the session information was helpful!

Here are my top three insights I from VRMA Spring Forum:

No Clear Leader In Smart Home Technology

Smart home technology for vacation rental properties is early, messy and there’s no clear market leader. But one will emerge. A theme I saw repeated throughout the vendor showcase and chatting with people at the conference tells me that we’re still very early on with smart home tech for vacation rental properties. Sure, many property managers have moved over to keyless locks — but the rest of the home hasn’t seen much of an upgrade in this decade. Between thermostats, lights, entertainment and even smart speakers, running “residential” tools in a vacation rental is asking for trouble or misuse. A dozen companies are aiming to solve these issues with software that aims to make homes smarter: telling VRMs when guests arrive and leave, controlling the thermostat remotely to save on utility bills and even providing safety tools for guests. At some point (in a few years I suspect), guests will come to expect a “smart” vacation rental property that has all of these features and more. But the hurdles to get this tech ready for primetime linger.

The “All-In-One-Platform” Is Still An Ideal

Many vacation rental software companies are attempting to build “all in one platforms” — but few of their users actually live that ideal. With upstart software platforms mixed together with established ones in the same room, you’re bound to hear some… different opinions. But one theme that I felt throughout the conference in chatting with the users of software platforms it that the “all in one” mantra many platforms have doesn’t pass the real world use cases of their business. It’s difficult to nail down every feature a VRM needs and wants in their day to day operations, and some believe that the best platform is one that integrates best… and doesn’t try to do it all in one interface. The software market is more fragmented than ever, with dozens of players all vying for the same customers. Who will last?

No One Can Ignore Regulation

Those in heavily regulated markets have known this battle for years – but the truth is that there’s truly no place on the planet that is immune to all forms of rental regulation. Even in heavily populated vacation rental markets where the economy is driven completely by tourism, local governments can (and often are) influenced into regulation that can harm your bottom line. Or, at the worst, destroy your business. The best defense to aggressive regulation is actually good offense: forming groups that have a voice at local city council events, share the story of the economic impact of vacation rental guests in your economy and actually being a key part of the conversation.


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