In January, we started the discussion Encouraging Conferences for 2022 and so many community members chimed in.

***
When Bob Iger and Disney faced the looming disruption that streaming platforms caused to the conventional world of TV and film, they went on a buying spree picking up famous brands such as ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, Lukas Films Star Wars…etc. Why? They believed that no matter the disruptions to the landscape of media (plenty of which were unforeseeable back then) that owning quality branded IP would stand the test of time. Quality branded shows and films (that no one could reproduce) gave them a leg up on Apple, Amazon, and others.

My conclusion at the end of conference season is that no matter the unforeseeable disruptions to the STR sector -- no matter the amount of money that pours in, new players that enter, legacy players that exit, threats that appear -- the exact same recipe in our sector will stand the test of time.

Those building quality branded IP are the future of STRs.

To clarify what each of those words means (to me).

Quality
Quality shows in reviews and retention rates (guests, employees, homeowners). There is a pending downfall of non-quality operators with poor reviews and retention rates who experienced a crutch boom post-covid, but will soon disappear because the race to the bottom only ends one way. Be quality, my friends.

Branded
Branded results in people booking again or referring business over time. In some cases, you are the brand (which is fine if you choose to stay small). In other cases, it’s your limited edition features set that distinguish your brand from others. Your brand can get a huge boost from advocacy and regulation efforts. Your brand can suffer if you're not involved. But from logo to design to values and mission statement…all woven consistency throughout communications, branding is a huge area for improvement: use the best agency you can afford.

Intellectual Property (IP)
Your IP (aka. your secret sauce) boils down to how well you understand the business’ operational complexity (there are a lot of moving parts) and the process you have devised to solve it. The law protects your recipe from unauthorized use. What makes this moment in our industry unique is how many people are creating their own IP and sharing it freely with others. Learn the operational complexity, devise your version of solving it, teach people your craft.

2023 will probably bring more change to the STR industry than any year prior but those who are building quality branded IP are best positioned to ride the wave on their terms.

***My second biggest takeaway is that Hospitality gestures are the new marketing. But instead of include that here, I have prepared a workshop about it called PARLAY, which will be available soon.

What is your big takeaway from 2022 Conference Season?
 
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I enjoyed the Book Direct Show because it was practical and filled with actionable advice. My one sentence takeaway:

Communicate inclusivity, instill trust, confirm best price guarantee, showcase what we offer in a video clip, create a stronger connection by video messaging, and get involved in starting a STR Advocacy Alliance in our area.

Here is a break down of my top action items:
  • ***We are inclusive but have not communicated that adequately on our website, or in our listings. We plan to address this as our top priority
  • Short Term Rental Alliance - "Get involved or donate money to people who are doing this work on your behalf" info https://www.rentresponsibly.org/
  • Run some mock bookings on different platforms to see what guests pay - confirm our website is the cheapest.
  • Review our Book Now page to make sure there are trust signals
  • State somewhere that we renting legally within the bylaws.
  • Create an Area Drone video to better feature our prime location
  • Video Message tool Bomb Bomb mentioned at conference. Coincidentally received a host bombbomb message about where to catch a fabulous sunrise in Palm Springs Beach. It was so personal and helpful
 
For me, it was my first time out of the State of Hawaii since 2019 and it was so great to be with my peers in the vacation rental industry and continue to learn about all of the technology that can be used to make us more efficient and effective during the labor shortages we are experiencing almost everywhere. The secret sauce is how to maintain the personal touch while automating a big portion of our business.
 
I enjoyed the Book Direct Show because it was practical and filled with actionable advice. My one sentence takeaway:

Communicate inclusivity, instill trust, confirm best price guarantee, showcase what we offer in a video clip, create a stronger connection by video messaging, and get involved in starting a STR Advocacy Alliance in our area.

Here is a break down of my top action items:
  • ***We are inclusive but have not communicated that adequately on our website, or in our listings. We plan to address this as our top priority
  • Short Term Rental Alliance - "Get involved or donate money to people who are doing this work on your behalf" info https://www.rentresponsibly.org/
  • Run some mock bookings on different platforms to see what guests pay - confirm our website is the cheapest.
  • Review our Book Now page to make sure there are trust signals
  • State somewhere that we renting legally within the bylaws.
  • Create an Area Drone video to better feature our prime location
  • Video Message tool Bomb Bomb mentioned at conference. Coincidentally received a host bombbomb message about where to catch a fabulous sunrise in Palm Springs Beach. It was so personal and helpful
Thanks Susanne!! I'm so glad you enjoyed the Book Direct Show. Damian and I do aim to have content that is actionable, ie no infomercials! and I am so glad you got some takeaways to apply to your business. I loved it, and thought both panels were excellent! I particularly loved the music and dancing on day one! What a way to start a day! And conference! :)

Since I am an organiser, I have a different take on conferences now.
- Check the SIZE of the conference. If you want connection, then select the smaller ones. They are more intimate and it is easier to connect with fellow managers, sponsors/ vendors, etc. Networking is important as you also learn from talking to fellow managers. VRMA was big (2000-3000? attendees).
- Make sure to check out all the sponsors/vendor booths as there's a lot of great software/ services out there.

And don't attend too many, or risk getting burnt out. Like me. That's all.
 
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For me, it was my first time out of the State of Hawaii since 2019 and it was so great to be with my peers in the vacation rental industry and continue to learn about all of the technology that can be used to make us more efficient and effective during the labor shortages we are experiencing almost everywhere. The secret sauce is how to maintain the personal touch while automating a big portion of our business.
It was great to meet you in person LindaS LindaS and Jed Jed. So true about personal touch, it is challenging to scale great guest service/interaction.
 
Matt, fantastic recap man. Gosh, my sister and I are still processing and organizing everything we learned at VRMA last week, so my takeaways may be scrambled eggs at the moment, but I'm happy to share anyway ;)


Without a doubt, my biggest takeaway from VRMA (our only conference this year) is summed up PERFECTLY by Matt's post, so I am just going to quote a quick bit of it: "...no matter the unforeseeable disruptions to the STR sector -- no matter the amount of money that pours in, new players that enter, legacy players that exit, threats that appear -- the exact same recipe in our sector will stand the test of time. Those building quality branded IP are the future of STRs."

I can absolutely attest to this with our family owned and operated cabin rental business here in the Smokies. There were times when it felt like we were in the middle of a tornado with the chaos and carnage of capital swirling all around us... the sweet and easy vibe of our mom-and-pop market was uprooted and thrown around to investors, we were hemorrhaging cabins to sales and the new owners wanted to do Airbnb because the real estate agents were basically lying about the rental projections of "passive income"... At times I worried about what the future of this industry would look like and wondered how we could compete with all these big new players in the game. BUT, we knew so long as we kept hospitality at the core of our values, and tied that hospitality to our brand, our home would still be standing once the tornado had passed (to continue the metaphor)

Transition to takeaway #2...

In an effort to get creative with our "brand" and engage our guests and industry, we started creating a lot of fun videos in 2022 - videos for property managers to relate to and laugh at, videos highlighting the insanity of real estate prices in destination markets, videos showing the awesomeness of being family owned and operated and actually having fun at work, and then most recently, we made funny Check-In and Check-out videos that we send to our guests to help them along with their reservations.

Our videos have been a hit for our guests, employees, friends and LinkedIn community, but going into this conference we had no idea we were actually "on to something" with this kind of content. We were just having fun with our brand and those who already knew about us. So our biggest takeaway from the VRMA conference came from the "TikTok Generation" panel. We learned that this is how the younger generations actually prefer to be advertised to- through funny, sincere, relatable videos (preferably on TikTok).

  • The younger generations are actually using TikTok like Google to find restaurants to eat at, cities to visit, fun places to experience, PROPERTIES TO RENT.
  • We learned that they largely dislike, and tend not to trust, traditional advertising and branding.
  • They don't like sales pitches, or email campaigns.
  • They have an 8 second attention span and the ability to flick their thumb and scroll to the next piece of content if something doesn't truly capture their attention, so it's crucial to come out of the gate within 8 seconds to keep them hooked.
  • Turns out they're a largely optimistic generation, and they tend to have a sensitivity towards what is genuine, sincere and potentially trustworthy.
Certainly there's more to it than these few bullet points, but these are the takeaways from that particular panel that I wanted to share with everyone. Basically, do not shy away from being goofy, random, untraditional and fun within your branding campaigns! It'll go a lot further than you think, with all generations, but especially with Gen Z and Millennials who are, literally, the future of our industry for decades to come.

So, again, maybe this was all scrambled eggs, but I have a reservation I have to run to and can't wrap it up beyond this LOL, but if I've offered insight to even one other person, that's what counts.

Much love!

-Lauren
 
Vegas was intense. It was my first VRMA. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of attendees and the energy in all the sessions. It felt like a community, more like a family. VRMA represents a huge industry and not just another STR conference. We are in hospitality business, not STR. We need to build more awareness about the industry because STR (buzz word, I’m not saying Airbnb) casts a shadow on true hospitality heroes, aka limited editions :)

My main takeaways: focus on brand building and quality over quantity. Technology is here to improve operations, but it’s hard to scale local touch and attention to guest experience. Become a local hero in your market before expanding to other markets. To be successful in this business you need to be passionate about solving problems for you owners, protect their property and at the same time deliver great guest experience. No wonder why many big box managers are not very successful in both.

Matt Landau Matt Landau you are true industry champion! Great job with the Homerunners, I'm sure it's only the beginning.
 
These are some incredible takeaways y’all have shared! 💥

My 2022 Conference Season Takeaways are as follows:
  • The vacation rental community is an electric, eclectic, eccentric bunch – a group that has a passion for excellence and determination to survive and thrive! Watch out 2023! 🤸🏻‍♀️
  • While I started out in this industry in STR property management, I now mainly focus on helping folks build STR alliances in communities around the country. I was inspired to see how many people attended the advocacy & regulations sessions and how engaged and strategic we've become
  • More operators than ever before are facing bans and unfair regulations -- no matter if you're in a different city, state, country or continent -- our challenges and solutions are far more similar than different
  • NOW is an opportunity to unite our voices, join forces together and communicate publicly that we are caring and contributing members of our community. Action: Ask your local alliance how you can help. Share with them your skillsets and ask them what activities you might be able to help with. You don’t need to “know how to do advocacy.” Or be into politics. No local alliance? Start one.
  • At end of the day, we all need a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Our (regulation) struggles are real and the energy required is endless. We want to know that we’re not alone, but more than anything, we want others to know the breath of our struggles (and in every detail 😉 ). Action: find someone in another destination that’s also facing regulation challenges and become each other’s "Community Building Cheerleader" and agree to terms of listening and sharing. We all know how much better we feel when we have an opportunity to get something off our chest and how much we get inspired by each other
  • We’re more excited than ever before to share what we’ve learned in hopes of helping others be successful through the lessons we’ve learned through blood, sweat and tears
  • And I shared in a post on LinkedIn, ✨ The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is a little extra — and that’s exactly what the vacation rental community brings to lodging.✨ #BringOnTheExtra
Can't wait until we're reunited again!
 
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My takeaways from a great season:
  • Education: there is a deep emphasis in our industry on education and I was surprised to have be such a theme in the events I went to this year. Not only are people actively curious and learning from their peers, but there seems to be a real commitment to more formal avenues like the sessions at VRMA. Each of the events that I went to were very informative and very well attended; which highlights how much intention we are bringing to the table to continue the steep climb towards industry maturity.
  • Race to the bottom: Among the leaders in the industry, we are seeing a race to the bottom; but in a good way. There is a trend of going deep on tough topics that are complex, nuanced and even existential that when answered, will help guide the industry towards the safeguards it will need to fully reach maturity and long term stability - and these leaders are looking bottom out on the issues so that we can construct real solutions on bedrock. This is a vital undertaking and one that I am proud to associate with as we share the orbit of some of the principal players in this movement.
  • Meaningful relationships move the needle: it is amazing how much magic can happen with collaboration. I have had the pleasure throughout my working career of working with several brilliant people, and when those combinations of different personalities, skill sets, and talents are combined, the result is often nothing short of magic. When we take the time to connect, whether at conferences, phone calls, or even over zoom, we put ourselves in a position to collaborate and create beautiful things. I will always be open for collaborating so if you’re ever interested, hit me up and let’s make something happen. In person interactions accelerate that process.
  • Innovation: innovation in the technology sector is continuing to improve and accelerate tools available to us. Commit to being a student of what is out there evolving and wherever possible, contribute where you can so that the tools that are created tomorrow have the benefit of your wisdom, and can work better for you when they become available.
 
My takeaways from a great season:
  • Education: there is a deep emphasis in our industry on education and I was surprised to have be such a theme in the events I went to this year. Not only are people actively curious and learning from their peers, but there seems to be a real commitment to more formal avenues like the sessions at VRMA. Each of the events that I went to were very informative and very well attended; which highlights how much intention we are bringing to the table to continue the steep climb towards industry maturity.
  • Race to the bottom: Among the leaders in the industry, we are seeing a race to the bottom; but in a good way. There is a trend of going deep on tough topics that are complex, nuanced and even existential that when answered, will help guide the industry towards the safeguards it will need to fully reach maturity and long term stability - and these leaders are looking bottom out on the issues so that we can construct real solutions on bedrock. This is a vital undertaking and one that I am proud to associate with as we share the orbit of some of the principal players in this movement.
  • Meaningful relationships move the needle: it is amazing how much magic can happen with collaboration. I have had the pleasure throughout my working career of working with several brilliant people, and when those combinations of different personalities, skill sets, and talents are combined, the result is often nothing short of magic. When we take the time to connect, whether at conferences, phone calls, or even over zoom, we put ourselves in a position to collaborate and create beautiful things. I will always be open for collaborating so if you’re ever interested, hit me up and let’s make something happen. In person interactions accelerate that process.
  • Innovation: innovation in the technology sector is continuing to improve and accelerate tools available to us. Commit to being a student of what is out there evolving and wherever possible, contribute where you can so that the tools that are created tomorrow have the benefit of your wisdom, and can work better for you when they become available.
For anyone who is interested in turning up their game, join Jed Jed and LindaS LindaS in our next Accelerator Program cohort here: https://community.vrmb.com/structured-learning/accelerator-program-bootcamp.1/
 
Vegas was intense. It was my first VRMA. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of attendees and the energy in all the sessions. It felt like a community, more like a family. VRMA represents a huge industry and not just another STR conference. We are in hospitality business, not STR. We need to build more awareness about the industry because STR (buzz word, I’m not saying Airbnb) casts a shadow on true hospitality heroes, aka limited editions :)

My main takeaways: focus on brand building and quality over quantity. Technology is here to improve operations, but it’s hard to scale local touch and attention to guest experience. Become a local hero in your market before expanding to other markets. To be successful in this business you need to be passionate about solving problems for you owners, protect their property and at the same time deliver great guest experience. No wonder why many big box managers are not very successful in both.

Matt Landau Matt Landau you are true industry champion! Great job with the Homerunners, I'm sure it's only the beginning.
I enjoyed your recap Roman :) I find it so energizing and hopeful that right on the heels of major investors/companies pouring capital into the STR industry to inhale contracts and real estate, the public wakes up to these tactics and *record scratch* they're like "yeah nah this ain't it".. People are genuinely seeking out quality, passion, experience, trust and privilege. Amazing.
 
My biggest takeaway from conference season is that there is a hunger to become better leaders and to better manage the financial health of our businesses. There is a huge opportunity to provide better support in these areas and 45-60 minutes on each is helpful, but not necessarily the most valuable way to handle. I attended a budgeting session in Vegas that was great and had much higher attendance than I anticipated. I listened closely to the questions and comments and realized that property mangers are eager to better understand their financials and how to track them. There should be multiple conference sessions on different aspects of financial help given the importance of it to business survival. I think leadership is another big area of opportunity. The intensive, and small format of the keystone is unmatched in it's ability to take us away from daily life to really explore ourselves, our motives, and our goals. I'd like to see it continue and help managers to develop their brands. I am excited to see where we go from here.
 
Matt, fantastic recap man. Gosh, my sister and I are still processing and organizing everything we learned at VRMA last week, so my takeaways may be scrambled eggs at the moment, but I'm happy to share anyway ;)


Without a doubt, my biggest takeaway from VRMA (our only conference this year) is summed up PERFECTLY by Matt's post, so I am just going to quote a quick bit of it: "...no matter the unforeseeable disruptions to the STR sector -- no matter the amount of money that pours in, new players that enter, legacy players that exit, threats that appear -- the exact same recipe in our sector will stand the test of time. Those building quality branded IP are the future of STRs."

I can absolutely attest to this with our family owned and operated cabin rental business here in the Smokies. There were times when it felt like we were in the middle of a tornado with the chaos and carnage of capital swirling all around us... the sweet and easy vibe of our mom-and-pop market was uprooted and thrown around to investors, we were hemorrhaging cabins to sales and the new owners wanted to do Airbnb because the real estate agents were basically lying about the rental projections of "passive income"... At times I worried about what the future of this industry would look like and wondered how we could compete with all these big new players in the game. BUT, we knew so long as we kept hospitality at the core of our values, and tied that hospitality to our brand, our home would still be standing once the tornado had passed (to continue the metaphor)

Transition to takeaway #2...

In an effort to get creative with our "brand" and engage our guests and industry, we started creating a lot of fun videos in 2022 - videos for property managers to relate to and laugh at, videos highlighting the insanity of real estate prices in destination markets, videos showing the awesomeness of being family owned and operated and actually having fun at work, and then most recently, we made funny Check-In and Check-out videos that we send to our guests to help them along with their reservations.

Our videos have been a hit for our guests, employees, friends and LinkedIn community, but going into this conference we had no idea we were actually "on to something" with this kind of content. We were just having fun with our brand and those who already knew about us. So our biggest takeaway from the VRMA conference came from the "TikTok Generation" panel. We learned that this is how the younger generations actually prefer to be advertised to- through funny, sincere, relatable videos (preferably on TikTok).

  • The younger generations are actually using TikTok like Google to find restaurants to eat at, cities to visit, fun places to experience, PROPERTIES TO RENT.
  • We learned that they largely dislike, and tend not to trust, traditional advertising and branding.
  • They don't like sales pitches, or email campaigns.
  • They have an 8 second attention span and the ability to flick their thumb and scroll to the next piece of content if something doesn't truly capture their attention, so it's crucial to come out of the gate within 8 seconds to keep them hooked.
  • Turns out they're a largely optimistic generation, and they tend to have a sensitivity towards what is genuine, sincere and potentially trustworthy.
Certainly there's more to it than these few bullet points, but these are the takeaways from that particular panel that I wanted to share with everyone. Basically, do not shy away from being goofy, random, untraditional and fun within your branding campaigns! It'll go a lot further than you think, with all generations, but especially with Gen Z and Millennials who are, literally, the future of our industry for decades to come.

So, again, maybe this was all scrambled eggs, but I have a reservation I have to run to and can't wrap it up beyond this LOL, but if I've offered insight to even one other person, that's what counts.

Much love!

-Lauren
Lauren! I don't think we got to meet again this year, but I believe I met you last year at VRMA in San Antonio. I was flying solo and it was my first time there and I believe you were sitting with Chelsea from Blixa, I think you guys had just met but I sat down with y'all and ate lunch ( I thin kit was Mexican food) and since then I swear I hear so many amazing things about you and your company. Anyway, you may not remember me an dthat's totally okay but I THINK if I remember this correctly you had a very cool business card, one that was brown -- not cardboard, but very mountain-y feel.

Anyway, loved this recap and also the use of "scrambled eggs" lol
 
Matt, our earlier chats on airport technology finally came to life in person and it was awesome getting to connect live and thank you again for the amazing Aba dinner recommendation. We went all out.

I think you did a fantastic job of recapping the conference season. I was so impressed with your specific presentation in Miami and was bummed we got stuck in VRMA set up and couldn't attend the Homerunners event but I relate very strongly to the Quality and Branded notes that you shared above.

Internally at Minoan these are two things we're constantly working on improving. Apple, Kleenex, Disney, etc. all of the examples you gave were excellent, and we definitely want to be known as a brand and an industry leader. That comes not only with how we are involved in the industry, but also our branding, our team, and how we engage with and support hosts and property managers.

I finally got to gold status on United bc of all the travel lol, and as happy as I am to not get on a plane again anytime soon, it was a fantastic conference season and I look forward to what next year has in store.

Sage
 
Lauren! I don't think we got to meet again this year, but I believe I met you last year at VRMA in San Antonio. I was flying solo and it was my first time there and I believe you were sitting with Chelsea from Blixa, I think you guys had just met but I sat down with y'all and ate lunch ( I thin kit was Mexican food) and since then I swear I hear so many amazing things about you and your company. Anyway, you may not remember me an dthat's totally okay but I THINK if I remember this correctly you had a very cool business card, one that was brown -- not cardboard, but very mountain-y feel.

Anyway, loved this recap and also the use of "scrambled eggs" lol
My word, your memory is so on-point that it made me giggle, like, wow. Yes, that's me, HELLO AGAIN SAGE!!! It's so nice to hear from you and thank you for all the kind words :) I can actually visualize our whole interaction too! I remember totally digging your business, and I'm sure the time between last VRMA and this year has been super favorable to you! You timing must have been perfect, right? Sure hope so :) Gosh it's so nice to hear from you :) are you on LinkedIn?
 
I really only went to one official one, then I went to Keystone Retreat and Saber with Casago. The NWVRP I almost didn't attend as I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money, these things can get expensive. I wanted to take more of my team, then I ended my class topic got picked to speak so I had to go, so my hubby and I just went and it was good, we ended up seeing Casago there and the rest is history. So in a nutshell they can be costly to miss! Had we not gone and found Casago we would still be struggling in many areas. Keystone and Saber were amazing!! Both different styles of retreats and maybe the future?? I am looking to budget for next years conferences and I would love to hear which ones you feel our valuable. There are a ton of them out there and being a seasoned business owner I feel some are just an expensive networking opportunity. I do feel at this point I should probably teaching more classes since I have been in the business so long. I also have control issues, lol and FOMO so I don't want to send staff to these in my place, lol. So looking to see which ones I haven't attended that I should next year, clearly VRMA is on the list, Amy Hinote's if she does it again? Another Keystone, YES PLEASE and Saber Uhm YES PLEASE. What are the top 5 you would recommend?
 
For me, it was my first time out of the State of Hawaii since 2019 and it was so great to be with my peers in the vacation rental industry and continue to learn about all of the technology that can be used to make us more efficient and effective during the labor shortages we are experiencing almost everywhere. The secret sauce is how to maintain the personal touch while automating a big portion of our business.
this is what I am really interested in right now, because there is so much technology, but where do you balance that with personal touch?
 

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