On October 3-6th of 2021, over 1700 Vacation Rental Management Professionals came together in San Antonio, Texas for the VRMA (Vacation Rental Management Association) International Conference. 11 SkyRun staff members across SkyRun HQ and locations attended the conference to learn, innovate, and collaborate with colleagues, partners, and peers in Vacation Rental Management. As always, the event was an invigorating opportunity to hear about the trending topics in the industry, with panels on everything from guest satisfaction to revenue management to marketing.
Here are our top takeaways from the conference:
1.The VRM industry is booming – Demand in the last year has been at an all-time high, with RevPAR (revenue per available room) across the industry up 44% and all signs pointing to demand remaining strong into the coming year.
2.Inventory is key – With demand so high, by far the greatest hurdle to growth is inventory. The businesses who are most aggressive and sophisticated in their homeowner acquisition tactics will stand to yield the highest returns. With increased inventory/supply comes better bargaining power for organizations like SkyRun. Better bargaining power represents savings that can be passed down to SkyRun homeowners.
4.Digital marketing is under-leveraged – The digital marketing sessions presented demonstrated a very basic understanding of digital marketing, and throughout sessions it was clear that many operators are too focused on the high volume of day-to-day operations to spend a lot of time on marketing. The “big box” venture-backed companies are highly sophisticated in this realm and are eating up the smaller locally owned businesses when it comes to digital presence, awareness, & reach. Businesses who invest properly in digital marketing stand to see high return due to limited local competition in this arena.
5.Hunger for technology – There seems to be a strong desire for an all-in-one PMS platform, with very few players attempting to deliver. ~80% of vendors were exhibiting pieces of the technology puzzle to cobble together a comprehensive solution. This presence of so many piecemeal components is telling that none of the existing all-in-ones are fully delivering the silver-bullet solution that the industry is looking for. That being said, SkyRun’s software provides many of the solutions that other systems are lacking.
6.Data, data, data – Technology can only do so much if it does not have adequate data to do its job. Dynamic pricing engines are emerging that can utilize machine learning to help make pricing decisions. With or without machine learning, dynamic pricing becomes a guessing game if you don’t have good, reliable data. Airbnb & Vrbo are starting to restrict their data feeds, complicating the acquisition of comp data to build dynamic pricing models. Likewise, marketing decisions are best made from data in order to make best use of limited budgets. Defining and measuring KPIs and collecting first party consumer data are just two ways that VRMs can make better use of marketing dollars using data.
7.Communication is an art form - In today’s connected world, consumers expect clear, consistent communication from brands. Whether it be pre-visit communication with guests to set visit expectations or regular communication with homeowners to demonstrate industry expertise and attentive property care, there is opportunity for VRM professionals to build trusting relationships with customers and clients through personalized and proactive communication. The tools in SkyRun's software make homeowner and guest communication simple and easy.
8.Build your brand – With the industry growing so rapidly, there are more and more players in the Vacation Rental Management space—all vying for the attention of homeowners and guests. With so much competition, it is more important than ever that VRM brands are able to articulate their unique offering and how it differentiates them from the rest. Setting yourself apart is done visually (logos, images, fonts, colors), verbally (through compelling value propositions and clear messaging), and implicitly (through staff attitudes and community connections). SkyRun offers Destination Owners the power of a national brand and the tools to communicate the SkyRun difference within their market.
As always, SkyRun is keeping its finger on the pulse of the industry and empowering each SkyRun location to continue to be on the forefront of innovations and proactive in facing any challenges.
Maura brings her “full-stack” marketing expertise to SkyRun as the Director of Marketing, overseeing the organization’s owned, earned, and paid campaigns. She is passionate about the arts and the outdoors.