Vacation Rental Beliefs [Version 2.0]

​As vacation rental professionals, we ​need to stay agile and adapt to change. ​O​ne healthy way to do this is to constantly challenge ​our own beliefs about the industry: to present the same arguments over and over again and listen carefully for feedback. ​Sometimes when a belief is ​water-tested, it becomes stronger. ​Other times, it doesn't hold up and fades away. 

While running the Budapest Marathon yesterday, I ​had plenty of time to think...

​[Thank to Motorcycling Stuart Hooper for the hilarious video motivation!]

​​I used that time to think about my ​industry beliefs and I have shared them together with their updated version 2.0's. ​To kick things off, the first idea ​has to do with the way we compare vacation rentals to conventional hotels...

  • ​hotels vs. vacation rentals
  • 2.0

​I’ve ​realized that this logic is flawed. In hindsight, think I chose the word “better” because vacation rentals were always the little guy — the new kid on the block — and to compensate for my lack of confidence, I felt the need to shout louder, to ​argue bigger. But in hindsight, the phrase “vacation rentals are better than hotels” assumes that I know what all travelers want and that there is only one best way. That is ​ignorant thinking. While there very well may be a great amount of travelers who find vacation rentals as the better decision for their next vacation, there’s an equal (and at the moment much greater) group of travelers who understandably prefer resorts and conventional hotels. They appreciate the predictability, they like the amenities, they get rewards points...etc. ​Put simply, for these people, vacation rentals are not better than hotels. And so I will begin to pivot my messaging: speaking about the wonderful virtues and unique allure of vacation rentals, as opposed to trying to outshine hotels...which will always have their place in this picture too.

​The next idea has to do with our messaging and how we present ourselves to stand out...

  • ​Better stories
  • 2.0

​While I stick to this philosophy wholeheartedly, ​lately I've​ met a number of folks who agree to the logic, but maybe don’t want to go full-frontal on this deep story for any number of reasons. Some were concerned about the privacy. Others were veterans with big businesses who felt that making things too emotional could be unprofessional. Their concerns were understandable. And so my improved perspective is that utilizing the deep story is not black and white: there is actually a spectrum of implementation, and that for the most reserved of us, the mere act of acknowledging the deep story is a huge leap over ignoring it all together. And so moving forward, I will ​think more broadly about​ how emotional connections are used. 

The next idea is double-edged...

  • ​Independent juju
  • 2.0

​I’ve learned recently that big money is not always synonymous with successful execution of the vacation rental business model (Oasis, Tripping, LeisureLink, Luxury Retreats). Perhaps more importantly, some of the biggest ​hospitality organizations have yet to prove themselves capable of bottling the vacation rental magic we know and love. ​The circumstances should still concern commodity VR businesses. But it should also give great relief to the Limited Edition vacation rental operators. Not only ​are​ we onto something special (​a version of the travel experience that is on par with the greatest ​hospitality brands in history) but that this formula ​could very well may be inimitable. Irreplicable. ​And so moving forward, I will try to remind "mom and pops" they can not only survive in this industry: ​it might just be the only way.

​Which leads me to the following idea...

  • ​Selling your business
  • 2.0

​This conference season I’ve been made keenly aware of the massive wave of money flowing into the vacation rental industry. I’ve seen how bigger, richer, more savvy competition is entering almost all marketplaces (including yours), and how swiftly big companies are ready and willing to acquire smaller ones. This means that the old adage — “if you’re not passionate, now’s the time to sell” — is hypersuitable. More so now than ever before. I will begin to suggest more people contact Ben Edwards ​for top level advice on the exit process.

​The next idea has to do with the kinds of companies you choose to work with...

  • ​Choosing ​ software
  • 2.0

​Over this past conference season, I have seen more money pouring into the industry than has ever before in history. It seems unanimously inevitable (according to my industry friends) that soon enough someone with plenty of funds will come in and attempt to buy up all the best solutions and roll them together into one big beast. In fact, there ​is likely not a top-grade solution that hasn’t been propositioned yet. And with icons like Google entering the world of vacation rentals, we must think beyond the status quo and really double down on aligning ourselves with service providers whose values ​we BELIEVE IN as opposed to ​solely the ones ​we think work best. ​Moving forward, along with a fellow Inner Circle member, Terry Whyte, I ​will be sharing a new tool that will help to finally shed some light on the mysterious software landscape. Stay tuned on this. 

​The last idea is about how us little businesses can make real, lasting change in our communities...

  • ​Giving back
  • 2.0

​Recently, I ​been helped to pinpoint two specific kinds of philanthropy that are applicable to every single owner and manager immediately. First, donating nights to a worthy cause. After meeting Megan Higgins from The Dream Foundation for terminally ill patients and learning that the single most difficult component of fulfilling their dreams is lodging (they literally have everything else figured out with the exception of places to sleep) I realized as small business owners we are in an incredible position to make a difference in someone’s life. The second has to do with donating your guest’s unused food stuffs to local causes. This is communicated best by Project Feed and it’s something every one of us could do (on our own) to make the world a slightly better place. Moving forward I will encourage folks who want to give back to try one of these routes or to explore a unique initiative on their own. 

​These are just a few of the recent observations I've had. Would you mind sharing your recent evolutions or updates on previously-observed ideas in the comments section below? 

The more we can challenge our theories and observations, the stronger they get!

Matt Landau

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