• Vacation rentals can be life-changing. But due to a surge in popularity, the requirements of the job are more challenging than ever. VRMB Communities is a private forum that helps thoughtful owners & managers automate and delegate tasks, so you can focus on the activities that win loyalty and direct bookings. Preview Private Forum Here
IDEA: I recently learned the word “strip mining” which destroys landscapes when trees, plants, topsoil are cleared. This leads to erosion when the rain washes away the loose soil until the foundation is gone. OK, I didn’t only just learn the word (I’d heard it before).

But only recently did I learn it as a metaphor for what can happen to our ecosystem if we don’t work together to protect and preserve our trees, plants, and topsoil.

Recognizing that (a) some forces drawn to our “sexy sector” (ex. venture capital) have tendencies to be extractive (ie. prioritizing their individual gain over the wellbeing of the community) but also recognizing that (b) many of these forces are unstoppable (market dynamics baby) our next best chance to preserve is to c) offer these very forces a low hanging opportunity to support what we know the ecosystem really needs.

Some of them will seize the opportunity with open arms: some will do so begrudgingly. But in both cases, doing so will win them an even stronger financial position. Why? Because they are viewed positively: they have contributed, which is to say, our ground-up movement benefitted as a whole and embraced their momentum.

Unfortunately, some entrants will ignore the opportunity and continue to strip mine the place until it’s sore. And I can’t think of much to stop that: those companies should be ashamed.

ACTION: Instead of just crossing our fingers and hoping these new entrants (owners, managers, investors, vendors) contribute in the way they “should,” the next most productive thing we — the core stakeholders — can do, is to invent and offer them an easy way to help preserve the industry we call home. The more creative and no-brainer the collaborative opportunity, the more we all thrive.
  • Reach out to new vacation rental owners and managers in town and invite them to tea ( Debi Debi would you mind summarizing your host teas concept below?). Proximity to these newcomers is key. Distance destroys. Treat them with caution but start with the benefit of the doubt.
  • Reach out to past guests (and in correspondence) sharing your choice environmental cause and tack $1/night towards your cause using the presumptive close (@HeleenaSideris could you quick-summarize your land preservation model?) This achieves (my obsession) a Win-Win-Win in which guests, hosts, and communities thrive.
  • Reach out to former guests/homeowners and give them the chance to support your local cause(s). Triple win.
  • Reach out to existing competitors and invite them to pool resources on bulk purchasing, brainpower on destination advertising, and strength in numbers when it comes to advocacy. Competitors will make or break you ( Robin Robin mind sharing your findings here?)
  • Reach out to technology companies benefitting from your work and invite them to support your community efforts (financially or otherwise) with opportunities to sponsor small events or power group initiatives. (@Andy McNulty at TouchStay and @DavidJacoby at Hostfully are visionary at spotting this trend -- mind sharing the benefits of this support?)
  • Reach out to industry associations and offer your success stories: share those case studies with the world! In the Your Success on VRMB Communities we trade these things like they’re baseball cards.
Notice all these examples start with “reach out” — I haven’t come across any other way than proactively being the first to reach out.

QUESTION: Have you seen/invented a new way for forces (owners, managers, investors, vendors) to support (not merely extract from) the industry you call home?
 

Karla

Karla, Owner of Tropical Blessings
Inner Circle
Matt Landau Matt Landau I think just about everyone has heard of the term “strip mining” but before addressing it figuratively it’s interesting to contemplate it literally in relation to St. John where it’s less likely to happen than it does in many other locations but it still regrettably can and does.

Most who know St. John will remain forever grateful to Laurance Rockefeller who had considerable wealth, purchased 70% of St. John’s 20 square mile
land mass in the 50’s and donated it to the National Park. Most of St. John is forever protected from the overdevelopment that exists in many Caribbean vacation destinations.

For those who might not know National Parks in the United States are part of the Department of the Interior and the total number of National Parks in the US is about 400. It’s worth pausing for a moment to contemplate the implications of the National Parks and experiencing gratitude for their existence.

The total population of St. John is only about 5K residents. There’s a very strong sense of community on St. John. It’s not uncommon for grassroots movements to start up on island. Perhaps feel passionate about preserving the island itself and also passionately dedicated to supporting the wellbeing of of each other. It warmed my heart but didn’t surprise me to recently view a photo of a committee that was recently formed to start working toward establishing an assisted living center for seniors on St. John.

That’s how things work in Love City. People care about the island and also care about each other and strongly object to strip mining the precious and remarkably beautiful Caribbean landscape that makes up little St. John. People also object to strip mining the dynamics of a very special community too.

Reach outs take place, people call other likeminded people together who form alliances that rally and promote causes which prompt collective actions to protect, preserve and promote what truly matters. There’s a fierce love for St. John, shared by those who know it well, it’s pretty impressive and…..I’m still IN.

Out of curiosity I decided to look up the number of nonprofit organizations on St. John. I counted 22 of them but I’m aware of some that are not on the list but decided against paying $39.95 to download the entire list and a new non-profit will always be starting up. I think it’s safe to estimate the number to be 50.

I’m a strong advocate of Friends of the Park but there are other causes I believe in and I’m a quiet little warrior about some of them. I asked my friend, Barb, an avid snorkeler who wrote a blog about it, why she wouldn’t take visitors out snorkeling with her since she knew so much about marine life. She sighed and said it was just too depressing, playing the role of tourist guide to those who couldn’t care less about the importance of preserving the wonders of our precious St. John waters.

Significant Coral damage unquestionably resulted from the devastation wreaked by the back to back cat 5 Hurricanes,Irma and Maria when they struck the VI dead center in 2017. I was horrified when Barb told me about the three O’s a very significant problem that took root long before those hurricane happened. You have no power to stop hurricanes but it’s possible to decide you want to stop the strip mining of the oceans which demands a call to action.

I had never given my attention to the contents of sunscreens before before but suddenly I was hearing about Oxybenzone, Octocrylene and Octinoxate for the first time and I listened an awful strip mining story: a concentration of amounts of these poisonous chemicals harm the Coral reefs that protect the VI shoreline. Some of our territorial waters contain 40x the acceptance levels of those chemicals. I had already observed that our crystal waters definitely looked more cloudy when compared to the crystal clear waters I first snorkeled in many years ago but it had never occurred to me to question it. Barb’s story was a sad and scary one but I’m glad I heard it.

The good news is that activists became alerted, educated and informed about this threat to marine life as a very serious ecological problem. A sufficient number of people reached out to others about it that last year the VI legislature voted to ban the distribution, sale and use all sunscreens containing the three O’s. Only reef safe sunscreens are now permitted. Awareness of the problem is growing. I believe both Hawaii and Key West intend to pass similar legal ordinances in this year 2021 if they haven’t done so already.

I wonder how many tourists have any awareness of the dire consequences that commonly used sunscreens carred.The VI law was passed only last year and it’s a good one. Sometimes I tell guests not to bother packing sunscreen but to instead plan on picking up reef safe sunscreen at Chelsea Pharmacy.

People who live on and love St. John are committed to so many important Island causes some of which have sprung into existence after I discovered St. John in 1986 and dedication to them remains active and thriving today.

I remember when KATS (Kids And The Sea) was formed. The ACC (Animal Care Center) was also established after I moved to the island. As the number of island residents increased so did the the number of feral cats and dogs. I will always remember Sis Frank too who started will up the St. John Council of the Arts. I am also crazy about the Love City Pan Dragons, an intercultural group of St. John youth who learn to play steel pan, practice regularly, benefit greatly from the discipline, grow socially and the group always delight both visitors and locals when they perform, now and then a great surprise to see.

I notice so many Save Coral Bay bumper stickers on St. John cars. East End residents gathered together up in arms, rightfully objecting to the construction of big marina combined with a shopping/dining plaza and eventually a ferry terminal. All of that would transform and disrupt the natural beauty and sense of community on that quiet end of the island. Big money threatened to overpower and strip mine a beautiful place and way of life that should be left undisturbed. However, intelligent little voices should not be underestimated, together can together become a chorus of big voice that make a difference. I absolutely love that about St. John and I’ve never witnessed anything quite like it anywhere else before.

Once in awhile to I’ll toss in a humorous curve at those I’m know will understand understand what I mean and take a chance on others who will probably understand it: I’ve been in love with a rock for over 30 years, we remain committed to each other, rarely argue and have precisely zero intentions of ever getting a divorce. Strip mining has no place in our relationship and fortunately that truth resonates with many others who love the same rock as much as I do.

Does anyone feel good about the idea of strip mining our rock? I sure don’t like the idea at all. What single words and phrases occur to you when you think about strip mining? For me the thought of strip mining brings negative words to mind on instant reflex: Selfish. Greedy. Detached. Thoughtless. Disrespectful. Arrogant. Duplicitous. Shortsighted. Dangerous. Harmful. Destructive.

Oddly enough strip mining of an insidious nature hung over our six condominiums like dark cloud that obscured our unity as owners for a very long time until one other owner and I teamed up and started working on ways to stop it. We believe in saying no to something that isn’t right and beautiful and doesn’t work. We know it needs be replaced with what is right and beautiful and does indeed work.

I was largely on my own with that one for a long awhile. I love Tropical Blessings and am passionately devoted to personally facilitating excellent experiences for those who stay. I wasn’t about to let a bully strip mine my soul and get in the way of the dream vision that finally tumbled into my life and launched into reality in 2011 even though I was readying up for my dream long before that.

I’m relieved I didn’t fully discern or understand the dirty politics and power that overshadowed and undermined our six condominiums when I bought one of them over a decade ago. I had my suspicions that they weren’t operating optimally together as a whole at the beginning. I did exert certain efforts to right what was wrong with that but I primarily focused on establishing my own success as an independent VR owner. First things first and hello to a steep leaning curve and a wild rollercoaster ride. Nonetheless I was determined to hang in and hang on and make happen actualized a dream despite all odds against it. Idealism, optimism and dedication took the helm and I decided to sail through whatever storms I encounter, no matter what.

I never expected to privately and informally establish the Unsinkable Molly Brown Foundation but it ended up being a brilliant move. I’m not sure how Moly Brown even caught my attention as a figurative role model for me but I’m very glad she did. Molly, born in 1867 inspired me and still does. She survived the sinking of the Titanic and was also an activist and a philanthropist. She seemed like a heroine to me, the beat the odds and figuratively speaking was a surprising inspiration to me as an independent vacation rental owner. I work my butt off off with the intention of saying yes to that which is good, bright and beautiful and and saying no to that which isn’t. Would Molly ever accept strip mining? Absolutely not and neither will I. Like Molly did also I intend to survive and flourish.

I’m fully engaged in success as an independent VR businesswoman who cares deeply about our community and also about our visitors who I encourage to both enjoy and participate in our community. We warmly welcome those who do.

Our six condominiums are like a microcosm of a world where strip mining is permitted or it isn’t. Among my other focuses I’m now giving my attention to actively blocking strip mining. I have formed an alliance with a new owner who is a fellow dreamer and is as excited about being a vacation rental owner as I am. We’ve raised rates together are disregarding the fact that others still won’t.

I’ve identified this newcomer as a true condominium team player who cares about how we work together and that’s very good. I happen to have been troubled for a long time about the what I see as major shortcomings of our pool terrace. I have recently dedicated considerable time, attention and research into substantiating my position that there are many good reasons and ways to improve it, I’m a catalyst for a cause: let’s get creative, support the good and get rid of the bad, Adios to strip mining that evokes a sense of barrenness.

Our COA will meet soon and I've already introduced some reasonably budget friendly ideas for a major pool terrace upgrade. My new comrade is backing me about that and others have encouraged me with comments like, “Great ideas, Karla!” and “Thank you for your efforts to improve our pool terrace.” I haven’t even referenced the idea of strip mining but I believe we’re heading in the direction of collectively kicking it out of our microcosmic condominium world and advocating for something so much better. That’s what happens with reach outs, often a lot of work but work that is definitely worth doing and all who agree are welcome to join the choir and practice singing together in harmony which usually ends up sounding melodic and, all in all, quite excellent.
 
Last edited:

Robin

Counselor
Inner Circle
Yes agreed, Matt. It has been invaluable to collaborate with other VRMs in our local area. We are battling regulation and without a coordinated effort, which has been also quarterbacked by Rent Responsibly, we would have struggled to preserve our current environment. Collaborating with competitors may seem counter-intuitive, but we now have mutually respectful competition with those that have worked together. Others who do not get involved do not get such kind treatment :)
 

Debi

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
At Host2Host we were just developing a monthly Host Tea program when the pandemic descended upon us. The intention was to have a different member host a tea at their property. We wanted to gather, share our enthusiasm for hosting and introduce potential new members to our trade association. Reeling under the effects of the pandemic, we realized we needed to offer support to our existing hosts and that new members would likely not be joining us for a while. We pivoted then to our Wednesday Host Coffees which have now joined our monthly meeting as a cornerstone for H2H. At our 5 year mark, we are rapidly coming to our 100th meetup and the number of coffees held are very close to that number. I'm proud to say that we have created a very loyal host community.
 
Top