2014 was an amazing year the vacation rental industry: plenty of growth…lots of good drama…of course some wonderful and unexpected surprises!
But as we move into 2015, I’ve asked some of the industry’s sharpest specialists to use all this in predicting what is to come.
I will be using these experts’ predictions as thread titles in the Inner Circle.
Most of these amazing folks need no introduction:
2015: The Year Of “The Acquisition”
Booking.com or Expedia acquire HomeAway in 2015. Booking.com is strong in vacation rentals in Europe, and HomeAway, while global, is strongest in the U.S. The challenge is that HomeAway has to make a much greater percentage of its properties online bookable to please the OTAs, and HomeAway is scurrying to do this.
– Dennis Schaal, News Editor at Skift
2015: The Year Of The Vacation Rental Professional
Anyone can be a vacation rental manager, but not everyone can be a professional vacation rental manager. With increased regulation on the horizon, it is important for the future of the industry that vacation rentals are run professionally, including superb customer service, being good neighbors, involvement in local government, paying all applicable fees and taxes, contributing to the local economy, etc. VRMA can help managers do that, including with the new online education series starting in 2015.
– Ben Edwards, President of VRMA
2015: The Year of VR Partner Services
As the vacation rental industry continues to grow exponentially and cut into the traditional hotel market share, we’ve seen a rise in new companies that offer tailored services for VR businesses and travelers. For example: companies that provide online marketing assistance for owners, travel agencies solely dedicated to vacation rentals, or even general liability insurance specifically designed for VR owners. We expect to see more specialty brands pop up in 2015 to help the VR space continue to grow.
– Eric Horndahl, VP of Marketing for FlipKey
2015: The Year of Instant Bookings
Vacation rental sites will continue their evolution towards offering instant bookings. Spurred by Airbnb’s growth and HomeAway’s announcement that 100% of their listings will be instantly bookable by 2016, competing rental sites are upgrading their technology to support real time bookings. This is a good thing for travelers and hosts alike, as it brings additional transparency and convenience to the market.
– Jen O’Neal, Founder & CEO of Tripping.com
2015: The Year Of The Lifestyle Concierge
In 2015, Airbnb will be taking more active steps to give its growing customer base more alternatives in vacation rental markets around the world and to provide a collection of services that satisfy the traveler from the time they leave home to the time they arrive back at home. Along with many other companies, Airbnb believes that the company’s role isn’t just to introduce guests to the “facility” but it’s also to “facilitate” a memorable travel experience. So, whether it’s introducing a guest to the hidden treasures of an idiosyncratic beach town or helping the guest stock their refrigerator with the kind of goodies they personally crave, Airbnb and other sites will become more of a lifestyle concierge in 2015 as opposed to just a transactional booking site.
– Chip Conley, Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy at Airbnb
2015: The Year Of The Personalized and Seamless User Experience
Vacation rentals in 2015 will be a co-created hybrid mechanism of a personalized user experience and seamless, instant bookings. Roomorama endeavours to give every user a quality-controlled experience with our 24/7 call center and chat support during the booking process and the stay. In this category of travel, it is important that users communicate with an actual human being when they have questions or require support. On top of a personalized user booking experience, Roomorama offers the user a fluid and seamless booking process with instant confirmations available for a large majority of vacation rentals on our site. The dramatic rise in this trend of travel demands an efficient platform that guarantees the user instant availability and immediate booking confirmation.
– Jia En Teo, Chief Operating Officer and Co-
2015: The Year that Prices Stopped Mattering
As technology continues to improve the ability for travelers to connect with and, more importantly, evaluate an ever-expanding array of accommodation options, price considerations will continue to take more of a back seat to value considerations for lodging decisions. The top three reasons why guests pick homestays recently published in our Homestay Index puts staying in a home environment ahead of location and value for money. Even though we’re finding that homestay prices in many cities are coming out below not only hotels and Airbnb rentals, but also hostels.
– Yvonne Finlay, VP of Operations at Homestay.com
2015: The Year Of Airbnb…That’s It.
These guys have taken over the industry (in my humble opinion) thanks to what is clearly a superior product and an impressive user experience, and will continue to do so next year and in years to come. I’ve yet to see another product in the VR space that delivers on the hype like they do.
– Joshua Dorkin, Founder & CEO of Bigger Pockets
2015: The Year Of Legal Headwinds
In 2015, the main pressure points for vacation rentals will be (1) local government concerns about zoning law compliance (e.g., running a weekly vacation rental from a single family residential zoned area); (2) loss of and inability to enforce short term rental tax laws (e.g., if STR are permitted, are STR operators reporting and collecting short term rental taxes?); (3) the negative impact on hotel occupancy and/or average daily rates (ADR) resulting from the competition posed by the growing short term rentals market…how will hoteliers respond to compete for this consumer spend? In 2015, I see vacation rentals facing significant headwinds on all three fronts.
– Mike Sullivan, Co-Chair, Hospitality Practice Group at Greenberg Traurig, LLP
2015: The Year Of Analytics
Business intelligence software and data mining tools are becoming more affordable for small to medium size companies. Vacation rental managers are smart and savvy and have been waiting to harness their data to make more proactive and precise decisions.
– Amber Mayer, Chief Marketing Officer of The St. Joe Company
BONUS: Matt’s Prediction!!!
After those amazing 10 experts, now for the prediction you’ve all been waiting for…
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2015: The Year Of Differentiation
I believe that for the first time, 2015 will start to see individual owners and managers of vacation rental properties truly differentiating themselves from one another. Right now, the industry is a big glob. So to be more highly valued by travelers and to take advantage of untapped niches, 2015 will the year when true differentiation takes place in the industry and shards of specialty rentals splinter off and form their own unique selling propositions.
So do you agree or disagree with what these experts had to say?
Have they missed any big trends?
What’s your prediction for vacation rentals in 2015?