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Midweek Motivation What Makes A Vacation Rental Professional?

Our industry is at a pivotal juncture.
  • Vacation rental demand at all-time high means...
  • New owners & managers need guidance and...
  • Guests need training or else...
  • Unrealistic expectations produce...
  • Bad actors who...
  • Tarnish the craft and contribute to unfair regulation in your region
Until our diverse community can agree on a common definition of "what makes us professional" -- our independence resembles not a blessing but a curse.

But we can reverse this vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle!

So what makes a vacation rental operation professional?

Together with my swimming buddy Gary, last night we put down some thoughts to get us started (with theme in parenthesis). I will edit this list based on comments in the thread below...

1. You do vacation rentals full-time OR have done vacation rentals part-time for 2+ years (take it seriously)
2. Your reviews demonstrate you are guest focused (hospitality)
3. You generate a profit (business)
4. You create and adhere to safety and cleanliness SOPs or standard operating procedures (standards)
5. You have a physical presence in the community (local)
6. You strive for industry improvement (activist)

Is any vacation rental entrepreneur, large or small, that possesses most or all of these factors a vacation rental professional?

What are we missing?
What can be improved?


If we as a community can all agree on the factors that make us professional, we can distance ourselves from unprofessionals AND ensure more guests get consistent experiences, which in turn bring the professionals many benefits for a long time.



Running List of "How to do this" for each factor above (in italics below)...

1. You do vacation rentals full-time OR have done vacation rentals part-time for 2+ years
2. Your reviews demonstrate you are guest focused (hospitality)
- Communication with the guest is paramount (proactive is best) but answering questions via text, email or answering the phone in a very timely manner is vital. If issues arise with clients they are attended to as soon as possible
- Be transparent: don't make false comparisons or unverified claims,
3. You generate a profit (business)
- Understand why people want to go to your location, Who your ideal guests are and what they want, Which amenities will satisfy their ideal guests' search filters, How to price their property, How to differentiate and market their property to appeal to their ideal guests (branding, photography, video, copy, reviews, publicity), How to manage guest expectations, Which expenses make money and which don't
4. You create and adhere to safety and cleanliness SOPs or standard operating procedures (standards)
5. You have a physical presence in the community (local)
- Add value to both the community (new jobs, philanthropy, etc) and help guests have a "time of their life."
- If you do not have a physical presence there, find someone to be your physical presence there
6. You strive for industry improvement (activist)
- Stay informed on trends, best practices, and local and state regulations, set process improvement goals
- You act like an activist or a evangelist on behalf of the professional industry any chance you get
 
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MattP

Counselor
Inner Circle
I know we do this for revenue / income, but I also look at this as adding value to both the community (new jobs, philanthropy, etc) but also helping guests have a "time of their life." Hawaii can be a once in a lifetime destination and when people let me know they had the best time / trip / experience ever, that makes me feel good to.

Now, not sure that you need to be full time or done this part time for 2 years, I would add here the you need to take it seriously and treat it like a job. I'm amazed at how often I hear people are so relieved I've called them back or emailed back as the last owner / host they called has not. Treat this like a job / career if you want it to act like one back to you!
 

BrendaS

Sampiere (Brenda) Family
Inner Circle
Safety and cleanliness of the properties are at the forefront of your mind.

Communication with the guest is paramount (proactive is best) but answering questions via text, email or answering the phone in a very timely manner is vital.
 

CindyR

Attaché
Inner Circle
Our industry is at a pivotal juncture.
  • Vacation rental demand at all-time high means...
  • Owners & managers need guidance and...
  • Guests need training or else...
  • Bad actors occur as a result of unrealistic expectations thus...
  • Tarnishing the craft and leading to unfair regulation
Until our diverse community can agree on a common definition of "what makes us professional" -- our independence resembles not a blessing but a curse.

But we can reverse this vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle!

So what makes a vacation rental operation professional?

Here are some thoughts to get us started (with theme in parenthesis). I will edit this list based on comments in the thread below...

You do vacation rentals full-time OR have done vacation rentals part-time for 2+ years (take it seriously)
Your reviews demonstrate you are guest focused (hospitality)
How to do this: Communication with the guest is paramount (proactive is best) but answering questions via text, email or answering the phone in a very timely manner is vital.
You generate a profit (business)
You create and adhere to safety and cleanliness SOPs or standard operating procedures (standards)
You have a physical presence in the community (local)
How to do this: Add value to both the community (new jobs, philanthropy, etc) and help guests have a "time of their life."
You strive for continuous improvement
How to do this: Stay informed on trends, best practices, and local and state regulations

Is any vacation rental entrepreneur, large or small, that possesses most or all of these factors a vacation rental professional?

What are we missing?
What can be improved?


If we as a community can all agree on the factors that make us professional, we can distance ourselves from unprofessionals AND ensure more guests get consistent experiences, which in turn bring the professionals many benefits for a long time.
* Engage in ethical marketing practices, i.e. be transparent, don't make false comparisons or unverified claims, protect customer data and privacy
 

AlexW

Counselor
Inner Circle
Our industry is at a pivotal juncture.
  • Vacation rental demand at all-time high means...
  • Owners & managers need guidance and...
  • Guests need training or else...
  • Bad actors occur as a result of unrealistic expectations thus...
  • Tarnishing the craft and leading to unfair regulation
Until our diverse community can agree on a common definition of "what makes us professional" -- our independence resembles not a blessing but a curse.

But we can reverse this vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle!

So what makes a vacation rental operation professional?

Here are some thoughts to get us started (with theme in parenthesis). I will edit this list based on comments in the thread below...

You do vacation rentals full-time OR have done vacation rentals part-time for 2+ years (take it seriously)
Your reviews demonstrate you are guest focused (hospitality)
How to do this: Communication with the guest is paramount (proactive is best) but answering questions via text, email or answering the phone in a very timely manner is vital.
You generate a profit (business)
You create and adhere to safety and cleanliness SOPs or standard operating procedures (standards)
You have a physical presence in the community (local)
How to do this: Add value to both the community (new jobs, philanthropy, etc) and help guests have a "time of their life."
You strive for continuous improvement
How to do this: Stay informed on trends, best practices, and local and state regulations

Is any vacation rental entrepreneur, large or small, that possesses most or all of these factors a vacation rental professional?

What are we missing?
What can be improved?


If we as a community can all agree on the factors that make us professional, we can distance ourselves from unprofessionals AND ensure more guests get consistent experiences, which in turn bring the professionals many benefits for a long time.
I know this sounds a little antiseptic, but, do you use a PMS to manage your bookings? A lot of these micro PMS are popping up (i.e. My VR Host) that cater to what are essentially RBO's. To me, this has always categorized them as going from amateur to professional. It's an investment in your business. And not a cheap one.
 

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle


This harkens back to my earlier posts/threads talking about doing things for guests in vacation rentals that simply can't be done in a vacation rental.

Do you take vacations at home? Does anyone? A stay-cation is not the same thing as traveling someplace other than where you normally live.

I have noticed with a combination of frustration and amusement all of the repeated posts about involvement with the local community in this forum over the past few years, and resisted the urge to respond (again) pointing out that this doesn't make a lot of sense. A vacation rental is a vacation home that others may rent for their vacation. Just how many vacation homes are located where their owner lives? As opposed to where they vacation?

As I described earlier, a 'vacation rental' local to the owner is only a rental used by others on vacation. Or a BnB without the B. It is simply not the same thing as a true vacation rental. Does this matter? Well, I would propose that an owner's not being local to the area where their vacation rental is, is going to give them an understanding and empathy for their guests that no one else is going to have. You have to be away from home and out of your normal element to truly appreciate what it's like for others experiencing that. It has lead us to do things with our vacation homes, and providing things for our guests, that the locals don't want or care to do. And boy do our guests appreciate and notice those differences.

So what would 'being local' mean to a definition of a vacation rental professional? Are we saying that only local property managers can be professional, but owners can't be? Unless they're local too?

A physical local presence in the community? How can that possibly be a prerequisite for one being 'professional'?

It seems to me that the fundamental issue in being professional is how one takes care of their guests, above all else. Other things do matter too of course.

I'm absolutely not local to the community where my properties are located, and I know it to be a fact that personally I take better care of my guests, and my properties, than many (dare I say it... most?) local property managers do with their portfolios.

Nobody is going to suggest that for this reason I'm 'not professional' without a huge pushback.
 
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Stephen

Counselor
I always say to friends that I could just rent out "little Jimmy's room" now that he's away at school; leave the dusty pennant on the wall and his old twin bed OR...I could create the ultimate home away from home experience for my guests to build impeccable word of mouth referrals that create return customers. This includes delivering (or working on) the type of top notch experience found in a 5 star hotel without losing our "unique identity or quality" not found in the 5 star. We look at quality guides produced by travel companies and major hospitality organizations to set process improvement goals. It is worth it to create increased value for my guests that reflects in market conscious pricing. As time passes, travelers learn to watch out for rentals that are nothing more than Jimmy's room.
 

Stephen

Counselor

I have a significant concern with this. Oh heck, I'll call it what it is... a big problem with this!

It harkens back to my earlier posts/threads talking about doing things for guests in vacation rentals that simply can't be done in a vacation rental.

Do you take vacations at home? Does anyone? A stay-cation is not the same thing as traveling someplace other than where you normally live.

I have noticed with a combination of frustration and amusement all of the repeated posts about involvement with the local community in this forum over the past few years, and resisted the urge to respond (again) pointing out that this doesn't make a lot of sense. A vacation rental is a vacation home that others may rent for their vacation. Just how many vacation homes are located where their owner lives? As opposed to where they vacation?

As I described earlier, a 'vacation rental' local to the owner is only a rental used by others on vacation. Or a BnB without the B. It is simply not the same thing as a true vacation rental. Does this matter? Well, I would propose that an owner's not being local to the area where their vacation rental is, is going to give them an understanding and empathy for their guests that no one else is going to have. You have to be away from home and out of your normal element to truly appreciate what it's like for others experiencing that. It has lead us to do things with our vacation homes, and providing things for our guests, that the locals don't want or care to do. And boy do our guests appreciate and notice those differences.

So what would 'being local' mean to a definition of a vacation rental professional? Are we saying that only local property managers can be professional, but owners can't be? Unless they're local too?

A physical local presence in the community? How can that possibly be a prerequisite for one being 'professional'?

It seems to me that the fundamental issue in being professional is how one takes care of their guests, above all else. Other things do matter too of course.

I'm absolutely not local to the community where my properties are located, and I know it to be a fact that personally I take better care of my guests, and my properties, than many (dare I say it... most?) local property managers do with their portfolios.

Nobody is going to suggest that for this reason I'm 'not professional' without a huge pushback.



This harkens back to my earlier posts/threads talking about doing things for guests in vacation rentals that simply can't be done in a vacation rental.

Do you take vacations at home? Does anyone? A stay-cation is not the same thing as traveling someplace other than where you normally live.

I have noticed with a combination of frustration and amusement all of the repeated posts about involvement with the local community in this forum over the past few years, and resisted the urge to respond (again) pointing out that this doesn't make a lot of sense. A vacation rental is a vacation home that others may rent for their vacation. Just how many vacation homes are located where their owner lives? As opposed to where they vacation?

As I described earlier, a 'vacation rental' local to the owner is only a rental used by others on vacation. Or a BnB without the B. It is simply not the same thing as a true vacation rental. Does this matter? Well, I would propose that an owner's not being local to the area where their vacation rental is, is going to give them an understanding and empathy for their guests that no one else is going to have. You have to be away from home and out of your normal element to truly appreciate what it's like for others experiencing that. It has lead us to do things with our vacation homes, and providing things for our guests, that the locals don't want or care to do. And boy do our guests appreciate and notice those differences.

So what would 'being local' mean to a definition of a vacation rental professional? Are we saying that only local property managers can be professional, but owners can't be? Unless they're local too?

A physical local presence in the community? How can that possibly be a prerequisite for one being 'professional'?

It seems to me that the fundamental issue in being professional is how one takes care of their guests, above all else. Other things do matter too of course.

I'm absolutely not local to the community where my properties are located, and I know it to be a fact that personally I take better care of my guests, and my properties, than many (dare I say it... most?) local property managers do with their portfolios.

Nobody is going to suggest that for this reason I'm 'not professional' without a huge pushback.
Congrats Rob! Love the idea that an out of town owner has a vacationer's perspective. Something for me to remember. "What's it like to travel to my place and be a guest at my rental?" Awesome! Local or not it sounds like you are doing a great job succeeding and taking care of your guests. Many owners (local or not) don't do so well...Cheers!
 

Alessandra

Counselor
As many have said, communication is really key here. I also believe that when or if issues arise with clients they are attended to as soon as possible so that their experience with your vacation rental or vacation is not ruined.

Example: I once had a family stay at my rental who had asked prior to their trip if I had a stove and I told them I had an induction cooktop (which is written on the listing). Once they arrived they had emailed me and said, the cooktop was not working. They had travelled with their own pots and pans because they were Kosher and an induction cooktop needs certain cookware or it will not turn on. I explained this to them and they were upset because they could not use the cookware I provided in the rental because they were Kosher. I informed my team and told them to purchase a couple brand new pots and pans for them to use during their stay. We got the pots and pans to them immediately. They thanked me and were so happy my team and I went out of our way.

Also, an online presence. Marketing our vacation rentals makes us look professional.
 

BBig

Counselor
Inner Circle


This harkens back to my earlier posts/threads talking about doing things for guests in vacation rentals that simply can't be done in a vacation rental.

Do you take vacations at home? Does anyone? A stay-cation is not the same thing as traveling someplace other than where you normally live.

I have noticed with a combination of frustration and amusement all of the repeated posts about involvement with the local community in this forum over the past few years, and resisted the urge to respond (again) pointing out that this doesn't make a lot of sense. A vacation rental is a vacation home that others may rent for their vacation. Just how many vacation homes are located where their owner lives? As opposed to where they vacation?

As I described earlier, a 'vacation rental' local to the owner is only a rental used by others on vacation. Or a BnB without the B. It is simply not the same thing as a true vacation rental. Does this matter? Well, I would propose that an owner's not being local to the area where their vacation rental is, is going to give them an understanding and empathy for their guests that no one else is going to have. You have to be away from home and out of your normal element to truly appreciate what it's like for others experiencing that. It has lead us to do things with our vacation homes, and providing things for our guests, that the locals don't want or care to do. And boy do our guests appreciate and notice those differences.

So what would 'being local' mean to a definition of a vacation rental professional? Are we saying that only local property managers can be professional, but owners can't be? Unless they're local too?

A physical local presence in the community? How can that possibly be a prerequisite for one being 'professional'?

It seems to me that the fundamental issue in being professional is how one takes care of their guests, above all else. Other things do matter too of course.

I'm absolutely not local to the community where my properties are located, and I know it to be a fact that personally I take better care of my guests, and my properties, than many (dare I say it... most?) local property managers do with their portfolios.

Nobody is going to suggest that for this reason I'm 'not professional' without a huge pushback.
Just my two cents: I have been out of the vacation rental market for almost 2 years and both of my former houses (located in Grand Cayman) were purchased by people living in Florida (I live in Cayman); however, I offered (and they took me up on same) to assist them with anything they needed to ensure an ongoing success with their new rental property (for which I am not compensated - other than the ability to stay at the properties when they are empty - and we still pay some rent and cleaning fees). I did and do it so that the good names that we spent so long building up are not wasted - it's a small island and a reputation can be felled in minutes here. I feel that, even though the new owners do not have a physical presence here, I AM their physical presence.

If the new owners get questions that they cannot answer, I can step in and give them suggestions about what I would do. If they ask for recommendations, I can give them my take on many service providers. Particularly during the time of COVID, I could let them know about the changing business scene, which restaurants/attractions/tourism partners have survived, where to get their news from (e.g. reliable information regarding opening of our borders and our quarantine policies and rules) and, a few times, we have even gone to the properties to fix or help with something immediate.

One of the home owners pivoted her rental to allow "quarantiners" to stay at her home, allowing people to enjoy a whole house and even the pool while quarantined (instead of in a hotel room). I was able to give her information about delivery services and health care monitoring so that the renters could get what they wanted/needed during their 2 week stay (not all delivery services are reliable and/or reasonably priced) and understand the consequences of not following the rules (3 people have been imprisoned to date and large fines have been imposed on others, depending on the circumstances).

I agree, Rob, that many local property owners are not professional but I do think that some people who are not situated near their vacation properties often abdicate their responsibilities to a property manager, which on this island, can also be located in the United States. Particularly in this new era of vacation rentals, I think it is important that, if an owner or property manager is not nearby and does not stay current with what is happening here and now, the guests may not have a good experience. Obviously, you are not one of those people but I have had a very different (and rewarding) experience.
 

BBig

Counselor
Inner Circle
Just my two cents: I have been out of the vacation rental market for almost 2 years and both of my former houses (located in Grand Cayman) were purchased by people living in Florida (I live in Cayman); however, I offered (and they took me up on same) to assist them with anything they needed to ensure an ongoing success with their new rental property (for which I am not compensated - other than the ability to stay at the properties when they are empty - and we still pay some rent and cleaning fees). I did and do it so that the good names that we spent so long building up are not wasted - it's a small island and a reputation can be felled in minutes here. I feel that, even though the new owners do not have a physical presence here, I AM their physical presence.

If the new owners get questions that they cannot answer, I can step in and give them suggestions about what I would do. If they ask for recommendations, I can give them my take on many service providers. Particularly during the time of COVID, I could let them know about the changing business scene, which restaurants/attractions/tourism partners have survived, where to get their news from (e.g. reliable information regarding opening of our borders and our quarantine policies and rules) and, a few times, we have even gone to the properties to fix or help with something immediate.

One of the home owners pivoted her rental to allow "quarantiners" to stay at her home, allowing people to enjoy a whole house and even the pool while quarantined (instead of in a hotel room). I was able to give her information about delivery services and health care monitoring so that the renters could get what they wanted/needed during their 2 week stay (not all delivery services are reliable and/or reasonably priced) and understand the consequences of not following the rules (3 people have been imprisoned to date and large fines have been imposed on others, depending on the circumstances).

I agree, Rob, that many local property owners are not professional but I do think that some people who are not situated near their vacation properties often abdicate their responsibilities to a property manager, which on this island, can also be located in the United States. Particularly in this new era of vacation rentals, I think it is important that, if an owner or property manager is not nearby and does not stay current with what is happening here and now, the guests may not have a good experience. Obviously, you are not one of those people but I have had a very different (and rewarding) experience.
And, sorry, I just saw that my signature still has the domain names below it; these are no longer valid.
 

JPrugh

Envoy
Inner Circle
The Inner Circle is filled to overflowing with professional vacation rental owners and managers, each aspiring and perspiring to improve. We all work diligently every day in every way with every stay. But what about our guests? Do they know how hard we work to make each stay look easy? My opinions:

New guests, especially those booking through OTAs, aren't sophisticated enough to discern a professional host from a subpar amateur host. Every time I read that someone booked or stayed in an Airbnb, a wisp of smoke wafts skyward from my scalp. Airbnb has become an eponym, defined as "the name of an activity, product or object that has become synonymous with that item." Kleenex, band-aid and zipper are all eponyms.

Like it or not (mostly not), all of us are viewed through Airbnb's distorted lens. Sadly, guests view the Airbnb experience through that company's rose-colored glasses. Despite our professionalism reflected in our PMS, clear communication and top-notch staffing and service, we're still seen as quasi-generic Airbnbs.

So we're all treading water in a pool filled with hosts anointed by Airbnb and its twisted paperclip logo (others see something else!). At the its urging, thousands more are jumping in. Professionalism has become our SPF 50 sunscreen and personal flotation device. Our future's so bright, we need to wear shades! Meanwhile, noobs are trying, often failing, to keep their heads above water. And when rude guests cannonball their horror stories into the Twitter-sphere, all of us are drenched.

Our guests only know what they know, which frankly isn't all that much. Are they discerning enough to understand the difference between professional photographs and amateur ones with toilet seats left up? Some may be, but not all. Airbnb offers up its Superhost status, but frankly it's a very low bar to step over. Airbnb provides help for professional hosts. VRBO offered up its Fast Start Program for new hosts in late March 2021. These OTAs, certainly more, prefer quantity over quality.

So as we're rightfully self-satisfied with our professionalism, it's all for naught unless our guests can be enlightened. As much as we do to stand out from other vacation rental properties, what more can be done from the guest perspective?

Sorry for the mixed metaphors,
 
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Sallie

Envoy
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
Columnist
I get bouts of seething jealously of a couple I know who rent two of their three homes without breaking a sweat or losing any sleep.

One house is in coastal California, the other in the south of France—both desirable locations. They gave up their websites for each property and just list with Airbnb.

Their listings use photos Airbnb shot for free and their own iPhone images. The descriptive copy is fine but not great. No videos, no floor plans. No social media.

Both houses are well-decorated, well-maintained and kept spotless. They've rented the California house for 12+ years. They bought the France house, a duplex, a few years ago and have been renovating it. It's gorgeous. They rent the "done" half.

They don't provide bathrobes or welcome gifts. No personalized check-in or virtual greeting. Perhaps a bottle of wine.

Their guests cause very little damage beyond normal wear and tear, so repairs and replacements are normal.

The California house occupancy rate is about 70% of the available dates, and has 105 reviews averaging 4.8 stars. The France house occupancy rate is skewed by the pandemic, yet has 21 reviews averaging 4.6 stars.

They net enough profit to pay for their lifestyle, add to their investments, and make generous gifts to their grandchildren. They recently bought a tiny private island they plan to turn into a Glamping rental they'll also list on Airbnb for rentals next summer.

Are they professionals?

As @JPrugh wrote, if the location, decor and rate is right, does a guest care about anything else for their first booking?

I believe hosts who go above and beyond enjoy repeat bookings and more predictable occupancy/income—if their location isn't a once-in-a-lifetime vacation destination.

A "vacation rental professional" may be those who understand:
  • Why people want to go to their location
  • Who their ideal guests are and what they want
  • Which amenities will satisfy their ideal guests' search filters
  • How to price their property
  • How to differentiate and market their property to appeal to their ideal guests (branding, photography, video, copy, reviews, publicity)
  • How to manage guest expectations
  • Which expenses make money and which don't
 

JStokinger

Counselor
Inner Circle
I get bouts of seething jealously of a couple I know who rent two of their three homes without breaking a sweat or losing any sleep.

One house is in coastal California, the other in the south of France—both desirable locations. They gave up their websites for each property and just list with Airbnb.

Their listings use photos Airbnb shot for free and their own iPhone images. The descriptive copy is fine but not great. No videos, no floor plans. No social media.

Both houses are well-decorated, well-maintained and kept spotless. They've rented the California house for 12+ years. They bought the France house, a duplex, a few years ago and have been renovating it. It's gorgeous. They rent the "done" half.

They don't provide bathrobes or welcome gifts. No personalized check-in or virtual greeting. Perhaps a bottle of wine.

Their guests cause very little damage beyond normal wear and tear, so repairs and replacements are normal.

The California house occupancy rate is about 70% of the available dates, and has 105 reviews averaging 4.8 stars. The France house occupancy rate is skewed by the pandemic, yet has 21 reviews averaging 4.6 stars.

They net enough profit to pay for their lifestyle, add to their investments, and make generous gifts to their grandchildren. They recently bought a tiny private island they plan to turn into a Glamping rental they'll also list on Airbnb for rentals next summer.

Are they professionals?

As @JPrugh wrote, if the location, decor and rate is right, does a guest care about anything else for their first booking?

I believe hosts who go above and beyond enjoy repeat bookings and more predictable occupancy/income—if their location isn't a once-in-a-lifetime vacation destination.

A "vacation rental professional" may be those who understand:
  • Why people want to go to their location
  • Who their ideal guests are and what they want
  • Which amenities will satisfy their ideal guests' search filters
  • How to price their property
  • How to differentiate and market their property to appeal to their ideal guests (branding, photography, video, copy, reviews, publicity)
  • How to manage guest expectations
  • Which expenses make money and which don't
My favorite response!

It's not the status-quo "professional" response, but I absolutely love it!

Everyone gets something different out of listing homes/units/properties for rent.

A "vacation rental professional" will get their desired outcome.

I might add *When to walk away (sell)* to the understand list
 

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
So as we're rightfully self-satisfied with our professionalism, it's all for naught unless our guests can be enlightened. As much as we do to stand out from other vacation rental properties, what more can be done from the guest perspective?
I was thinking about adding something like "You are an industry activist" or evangelist: after all, if WE don't sing this song of professionalism who will?
 

Toby

Counselor
Inner Circle
I might be oversimplifying it but isn’t a professional someone who does something at a level high enough to support himself from the proceeds…
 

MichelleR

Counselor
Inner Circle
What I tell everyone we work/are in contact with from landscaper to our cleaners to the neighboring businesses is to think that this trip is the guests only trip this year. Use the lens of what you can do to make it incredible. How would you feel if the bed wasn't made perfectly? If there was litter in front of the house? How amazing would it be if you walked into the local business and they greeted you as a friend?

In a nut shell how personable, warm and "as you would want a rental to be", can we, as a team, be?

We see that care reflected back to us in guests reviews and happiness levels!
 

Catherine

Envoy
Inner Circle
Also, I think professionals continually sharpen their sword through VRMB and all manner of education and cooperating/learning from other professionals - the rising tide carries all the boats!
Yes, you are willing to continually educate yourself on how to improve your business and Guest experience. You are open to receiving advice and critique from other successful professionals. This is not a hobby- it's a job and a commitment.
You understand the value of technology ( software tools), and learn when to delegate.
You treat your support staff with respect knowing that it takes a well-integrated team to provide the best guest experience.
You think of problems as challenges, and remain guest-centric always.
My fave: you find a fabulous cleaner! Lol! 👍🌷
 
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ShariT

Manager
Inner Circle
Our industry is at a pivotal juncture.
  • Vacation rental demand at all-time high means...
  • New owners & managers need guidance and...
  • Guests need training or else...
  • Unrealistic expectations produce...
  • Bad actors who...
  • Tarnish the craft and contribute to unfair regulation in your region
Until our diverse community can agree on a common definition of "what makes us professional" -- our independence resembles not a blessing but a curse.

But we can reverse this vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle!

So what makes a vacation rental operation professional?

Together with my swimming buddy Gary, last night we put down some thoughts to get us started (with theme in parenthesis). I will edit this list based on comments in the thread below...

1. You do vacation rentals full-time OR have done vacation rentals part-time for 2+ years (take it seriously)
2. Your reviews demonstrate you are guest focused (hospitality)
3. You generate a profit (business)
4. You create and adhere to safety and cleanliness SOPs or standard operating procedures (standards)
5. You have a physical presence in the community (local)
6. You strive for industry improvement (activist)

Is any vacation rental entrepreneur, large or small, that possesses most or all of these factors a vacation rental professional?

What are we missing?
What can be improved?


If we as a community can all agree on the factors that make us professional, we can distance ourselves from unprofessionals AND ensure more guests get consistent experiences, which in turn bring the professionals many benefits for a long time.



Running List of "How to do this" for each factor above (in italics below)...

1. You do vacation rentals full-time OR have done vacation rentals part-time for 2+ years
2. Your reviews demonstrate you are guest focused (hospitality)
- Communication with the guest is paramount (proactive is best) but answering questions via text, email or answering the phone in a very timely manner is vital. If issues arise with clients they are attended to as soon as possible
- Be transparent: don't make false comparisons or unverified claims,
3. You generate a profit (business)
- Understand why people want to go to your location, Who your ideal guests are and what they want, Which amenities will satisfy their ideal guests' search filters, How to price their property, How to differentiate and market their property to appeal to their ideal guests (branding, photography, video, copy, reviews, publicity), How to manage guest expectations, Which expenses make money and which don't
4. You create and adhere to safety and cleanliness SOPs or standard operating procedures (standards)
5. You have a physical presence in the community (local)
- Add value to both the community (new jobs, philanthropy, etc) and help guests have a "time of their life."
- If you do not have a physical presence there, find someone to be your physical presence there
6. You strive for industry improvement (activist)
- Stay informed on trends, best practices, and local and state regulations, set process improvement goals
- You act like an activist or a evangelist on behalf of the professional industry any chance you get
I would add that they manage more than say 5 and not just one, even though they can run it professionally. But when I think that someone is a professional vacation rental company, that they have a portfolio of several rentals. Also, in North Carolina, you must be a licensed real estate agent to be a property manager, so ensuring you have the correct licenses. Also, ensuring you have a proper trust/escrow account and a professional accounting system to manage the funds as opposed to comingling funds for future reservations in the operating account and keeping up with items on a spreadsheet. I think a website and brand marketing are also important for a professional image.

Shari
 

BobG

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
I would add that a professional in our industry is also mindful of three elements - People, Place and Planet.

People - you are respectful, supportive and attentive to your guests, staff and suppliers.
Place - you care about your community and you do the right thing for your neighbourhood
Planet - you acknowledge the impact your business has on the environment and take steps to offer eco-friendly accommodation
 

RuthM

Envoy
Inner Circle
Fantastic discussion. I love the comments above! I would say that PROFESSIONAL by definition is anyone who is accepting money in exchange for hospitality. It is a monetary transaction. Our industry is filled with "amateur" or "not full time" folks but do their guests know that? If you search for a vacation rental on Airbnb, do you search "professional" or "something I'm doing in my spare time"? No, and I think this is a big problem for the reputation and standards of our industry.

What defines a competent professional is first, the ability to make PROFIT from the vacation rental. Not revenue but profit.

Next, I could not say it better than BobG BobG : People, Place, Planet.

I believe a professional puts guest satisfaction at the core of the mission AND meets the challenges and needs of all other constituents (neighbours, home owners, etc.)

Finally, a professional works on professional development: Joins Inner Circle! Follows news and developments in the space. Investigates and implements technology AND no- to low-tech to make maximum profit while maximising guest satisfaction.
 

Robin

Counselor
Inner Circle
- You are profitable, but you are not just here for the money
- Guest satisfaction is not something you compromise on
- You appreciate your homeowners. Without them you have nothing
- Integrity is non-negotiable
- technology is your friend, but relationships conquer all so you are still a people business
- You pay attention to what is going on in your industry
- You give back to your community
- You love your employees - all of them. You can't do this without them
- You lose sleep occasionally because you care
 

Craig

Envoy
Inner Circle


This harkens back to my earlier posts/threads talking about doing things for guests in vacation rentals that simply can't be done in a vacation rental.

Do you take vacations at home? Does anyone? A stay-cation is not the same thing as traveling someplace other than where you normally live.

I have noticed with a combination of frustration and amusement all of the repeated posts about involvement with the local community in this forum over the past few years, and resisted the urge to respond (again) pointing out that this doesn't make a lot of sense. A vacation rental is a vacation home that others may rent for their vacation. Just how many vacation homes are located where their owner lives? As opposed to where they vacation?

As I described earlier, a 'vacation rental' local to the owner is only a rental used by others on vacation. Or a BnB without the B. It is simply not the same thing as a true vacation rental. Does this matter? Well, I would propose that an owner's not being local to the area where their vacation rental is, is going to give them an understanding and empathy for their guests that no one else is going to have. You have to be away from home and out of your normal element to truly appreciate what it's like for others experiencing that. It has lead us to do things with our vacation homes, and providing things for our guests, that the locals don't want or care to do. And boy do our guests appreciate and notice those differences.

So what would 'being local' mean to a definition of a vacation rental professional? Are we saying that only local property managers can be professional, but owners can't be? Unless they're local too?

A physical local presence in the community? How can that possibly be a prerequisite for one being 'professional'?

It seems to me that the fundamental issue in being professional is how one takes care of their guests, above all else. Other things do matter too of course.

I'm absolutely not local to the community where my properties are located, and I know it to be a fact that personally I take better care of my guests, and my properties, than many (dare I say it... most?) local property managers do with their portfolios.

Nobody is going to suggest that for this reason I'm 'not professional' without a huge pushback.
My first holiday rentals I ran remotely for 7 years. I don't think that made me any less of a professional, so I agree with Rob here.
 

Craig

Envoy
Inner Circle
I'd say what differentiates a professional is standards and quality. i.e. higher standards of performance and customer care / experience than the average operator. I called my company professional holiday homes as we do everything to a higher standard than our competitors and keep striving continuously for improvements.
 

RuthM

Envoy
Inner Circle
- You are profitable, but you are not just here for the money
- Guest satisfaction is not something you compromise on
- You appreciate your homeowners. Without them you have nothing
- Integrity is non-negotiable
- technology is your friend, but relationships conquer all so you are still a people business
- You pay attention to what is going on in your industry
- You give back to your community
- You love your employees - all of them. You can't do this without them
- You lose sleep occasionally because you care
THIS. Thank you Robin Robin!
 

Debi

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
I think being a professional is also a mindset. If you consider yourself 'just an Airbnb host' you cannot be a professional. Unfortunately, there are many like this. I would add that the mindset is important, the desire to continually educate oneself by networking, joining associations like the Inner Circle and Host2Host, attending conferences, knowing your geographical requirements re taxes and regulations, and being willing to gently educate new travelers in 'good guest behavior' are also important factors.
 

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle
Thank you Debi Debi! Great point!

How about the desire to differentiate oneself and create a brand independent of listing sites? So it’s not just a VRBO or AirBnB that we offer. Instead, we run a vacation rental business called XXXXXXXX (fill in the blank here).

We have a name, a brand, an identity and a reputation, built up over years of work. After a decade in this business I’m beginning to feel it… we have hundreds of guests we’ve served. If just 10% of them all rebook in a year one of my properties would be full.

I’ve quoted over 6,000 times. How valuable is an email list of 5000 names, of people interested enough to remain on your list? What is the value of a website with 150+ 5-Star reviews gathered over ten years?

When we started, I immediately began creating a brand for ourselves. As a designer and consultant I had done it for others and my own companies for decades. So it was just second nature. But I also knew it would differentiate us, make us more professional. With one property, we still called our company X villaS, because we knew there would be more to come. Do professionals aspire to greater things? I think so!

The desire to be something else, and to define what that is for yourself, also makes you professional.
 

EBadia

Envoy
Inner Circle
Ahh to be a "professional" in any industry..

I remember when I started renting a bedroom in my own private apartment back in 2010. Frown upon by many, because how do you live with guests... and how I was NOT considered professional. And maybe I'm still not.

But like Sallie Sallie said those hosts that have an "easier" life are they professional?

Is this a way of saying 'us" vs "them"? We are better because I do all the right things? I wonder.
 

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
Ahh to be a "professional" in any industry..

I remember when I started renting a bedroom in my own private apartment back in 2010. Frown upon by many, because how do you live with guests... and how I was NOT considered professional. And maybe I'm still not.

But like Sallie Sallie said those hosts that have an "easier" life are they professional?

Is this a way of saying 'us" vs "them"? We are better because I do all the right things? I wonder.
Based on the original specs, you are super professional.
 
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