Leaders & Laggards In The Vacation Rental Marketplace (2013)


The vacation rental industry is polarized by two distinct types of owners, Leaders and Laggards, a new Vacation Rental Marketing Blog survey finds.

Contrary to popular belief, generating a strong vacation rental marketing portfolio is less related to the characteristics of a property, the conditions of the marketplace, or even the skill-level of an owner. Contrarily, it is the proprietor’s very own attitude and mindset that act as the greatest variable.

The most gorgeous vacation rental in the world could be ridden with vacancies while a most humble rental, just next door, could be booked solid year-round. What can be deduced from this survey is that vacation rental Leaders are successful because they make themselves successful. Leaders tend to be optimists: constantly looking for ways to improve, taking responsibilities for their actions, and coercing their thinking into best-case scenarios.

But the million-dollar question is: How do they do that?

The answer is good habits. Results of the follow survey conclude that vacation rental Leaders (defined as those who feel their current marketing portfolio is stronger than the year’s past) exhibit very different personality traits when compared to Laggards (defined as those who feel their marketing portfolio is equal or less strong than the year’s past).

Leaders & Laggards In The Vacation Rental Marketplace, released in March, 2013, focuses on the relationship between an owner’s performance and his/her overall attitude about marketing. From it, specialists can glean that successful owners demonstrate the following nine personality traits:

The 9 Traits Of Successful Vacation Rental Owners


1. Leaders are optimists

5 out of every 6 Leaders (or 81%) approach every guest inquiry with the optimistic possibility that it could lead to an actual booking. Only 19% of vacation rental Leaders stated that they treat some inquiries differently depending on appearance.

It is important to note that optimism should not be confused with positive affirmation: positive thinking is the effect not the cause. It can be gleaned that the real success for owners is not merely the result of positive thinking.

Leaders are proactively responding to all inquiries with the same effort, which in turn, gives them better odds of sealing bookings. Laggards, on the other hand, tend to be discriminatory in their response efforts, assuming the worst when a less-than-optimal inquiry arrives.


2. Leaders constantly look for ways to improve

When asked about their proactivity, the vast majority of Leaders (95%) said they were always trying to learn as much as possible about ways to increase bookings, which suggests that the quest to get better is directly proportional with success in the vacation rental marketplace.

Leaders tend to seek out new techniques (from blogs, forums, other owners…etc.) and demonstrate analytical behavior in evaluating what activities work and which ones do not. This exploratory and investigative approach lead to a more well-rounded marketing portfolio.

Laggards, conversely, expressed that they had a sufficient system in place that worked “just fine,” seeking little inspiration or advice from others.


3. Leaders set high goals

Owners who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t.

In fact, when asked to choose between the target of (a) 100% occupancy with the ultimate goal of acquiring another property and (b) a plan to merely “generate enough income to cover existing costs,” a decisive 83% of Leaders chose option “A.”

This percentage suggests that when owners dare to dream big or at least aim above the status quo, their mind likely puts itself in a focused and positive state on the road to higher occupancy. Oppositely, Laggards tend to set occupancy goals that are inside their comfort zone and thus easily attainable. This mindset, it turns out, is correlated to under-performance.


4. Leaders speak well of their competitors

When in private, 71% of Leaders said they speak highly of their competitors compared to only 29% of whom said they honestly exposed their competitors’ flaws and shortcomings.

For Leaders, speaking positively about competitors appears to open a wide range of social, business, and pleasurable opportunities.

As seen in dense vacation rental communities where owners work together, positive expectations of one another lead owners to behave peacefully, openly, and actively which promotes an improved vacation rental standard and increased referrals. In fact, this “win win” mindset is not merely a characteristic of the Leaders: it is, at broader scope, a common feature of the leading vacation rental destinations as a whole.


5. Leaders see problems as challenges

When asked how they view vacancies on their vacation rental calendar, 94% of Leaders identified them as “challenges” whereas 68% of Laggards chose the word “problems.”

A vacancy problem is viewed as a drawback or a struggle whereas a vacancy challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity or a dare.

Leaders seem to use vacancies as lessons and they move on from slow periods optimistically, whereas the vast majority of Laggards tend to dwell on shortcomings.

From the survey results, it can be concluded that the word “problem” is seldom part of a Leader’s vocabulary and that seeing room for improvement as an opportunity tends to spark success.


6. Leaders rarely make excuses

It can be easy to blame slow bookings on bad weather, a slow economy, or too much competition. After all, serious growth in the vacation rental industry has brought with it new obstacles to making money.

But as found in the survey, successful owners are overwhelmingly characterized by taking responsibility for their own actions. Nearly 97% of Leaders said they rarely (or never) made excuses for vacancies.

Instead of making excuses or blaming listing sites for their own poor performance, Leaders in the vacation rental marketplace own up to their faults and, by doing so, proactively grow for the better.

Laggards, on the other hand, tend to blame outside factors for their under-performance in order to avoid taking responsibility themselves. This regressive mindset seems to hold Laggards back from reaching their full potential.


7. Leaders are methodical

When polled, 68% of Leaders said they dedicated a fixed time every month to their vacation rental marketing, instead of working haphazardly whenever time happens to permit.

Consistence is scientifically tied to successful behavior and has a way of directly increasing productivity.

Oppositely, when done on the fly, vacation rental marketing tends to be unfocused and less effective. It is recommended that owners take dedicated approaches to their marketing, to set aside specific time periods each month, and to not rush through their activities.


8. Leaders are competitive and aware of their surroundings

Competition is becoming an increasingly relevant topic in local vacation rental markets, and so it’s no surprise that an owner’s attitude about his or her competitors tends to directly influence their real-time performance.

When asked, an amazing 91% of Leader owners said they frequently weigh their performance against their nearest competitors while a surprising 41% of Laggards choose to outright ignore the competition. Leaders are constantly feeling out what’s around them and they tend to benefit from this exposure. Awareness and sense of relativity appears to be directly proportional to an owner’s success.


9. Leaders exhibit control

Nearly twice as many Leaders (65%) than not said that they felt “in total control of their bookings,” admitting that “if their rental was not fully booked, it was because they let themselves down.” This is an amazing statistic, because it suggests that the mere feeling of being in control has far-reaching consequences.

On the other half of the spectrum, more than half of Laggards (52%) said they were “at the mercy of listing sites.” It can be concluded that “feeling” in control of one’s own marketing is directly correlated with vacation rental success. The opposite is also true: owners who leave their success up to the performance of third party players are prone to under-performance.


About The Survey: Data for the survey was collected over the weeks of March 1 – March 20, 2013. It canvassed 992 independent vacation rental owners and managers across the globe that volunteered, without compensation, to partake in the anonymous survey. The results were filtered according to the self-perceived strength or weakness of an owner’s marketing portfolio when compared to the year’s past.


About the author 

Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of VRMB. He spends most of his time inside of VRMB's Paid Community, the leading collaboration platform helping vacation rental owners and managers build more profitable & sustainable businesses.

  1. As a new startup bringing analytics and business intelligence capabilities to the VR marketplace, we at Rentallect agree with your findings that an owner’s success can be improved when metrics are established, made measurable, and then used to scientifically guide decision making. Be methodical. Be aware of the information flow surrounding your business. Get control. Enjoy Success.

  2. Thanks for gathering all of this great info Matt! At Human Gravity, we allow vacation rentals to easily accept group payments from their guest. Offering a way for groups to split the cost of a vacation rental can be dismissed by owners and property managers, “We’re good, they just sort out the money themselves.” The leaders we talk to, who are constantly looking for ways to improve (95% in graph 2), are excited by the opportunity to ensure the best possible experience for their guests, starting with an easy way to pay together. These are all great traits and a good reminder to always be pushing forward with new ways to make our businesses and experiences better. Thanks again!

    Mike Moser – http://humangravity.com/merchants

    1. Thanks for contributing Mike! Anyone who hasn’t checked out Human Gravity should do so pronto. For owners with large homes that cater to groups, this could be your big break…

  3. Great article Matt,
    I have always said that “there are two types of vacation rental owner – those that take bookings and those that make bookings” and this article hammers that home.
    This article nails the fact to the wall.

    Those of you out there that are leaders should take five and pat yourselves on the back.
    Those of you out there that are laggards should reread the above, make some notes, make some changes and make some bookings.
    Alan Egan

  4. Nice article Matt! Vacation rental owners will surely connect with the data you are presenting. Laggard or leader…a revealing article that will motivate owners to new heights of success!

    We’re learning that keeping an ‘always optimistic’ attitude while navigating the vacation rental industry landscape can sometimes be an overwhelming task for VR owners.

    At Futurestay, we’re working on simplifying their lives and connecting their property to the entire industry…leaving them even more energy to continue developing the successful traits and habits every VR owner needs to succeed. Thanks for this contribution Matt!

    Jonathan Fabio, Co-Founder

  5. Matt that’s a great article. I particularly like the notion that leaders are always looking for ways to improve. A time pressured renter, particularly in this industry, doesn’t spend too long making their decision – it’s usually a quick intuitive decision about whether a particular owner is right for them (not always the vacation rental itself, as you say). If the owner is continually refining/improving their art it comes across (through email interaction, their website, their social feedsm etc) and a renter will respond – I know, I’ve been a renter all my life and always go for the owner that I can tell is trying!

    1. Thanks Andy! I think a lot of vacation rental owners are older than 50 which means they sometimes have trouble grasping onto new technology trends. Here’s to new companies helping them make this transition as painless as possible…

  6. I think the common denominator here is time. For most VR owners/companies, it’s the number one variable that effects their ability to perpetually entertain most of the above (especially in season). Most VR professionals wear many hats and are responsible for seeking and doing all of the above themselves w/o the option to delegate. The questions in the survey were well written to minimize leading, but lets not forget a large portion of VR professionals globally operate with a good degree of their data and business rules offline. This makes it difficult to collect true data based on continuous actions/usage vs feelings/opinion. That said, industry trends for standardizing/streamlining these processes and bringing data online are increasing exponentially year over year. I am very happy to see such a large segment from the 2nd and 5th sample as being open to new ideas and addressing problems as challenges. That is the exact mindset required to take our industry from 85B in 2012 and increasing it ten fold. I commend those who participated in the survey. As I’ve said before, technology is the catalyst for growth and making this happen. It’s the great equalizer for enforcing industry best practices and standards. It’s the most efficient way to consolidate a fragmented industry and scale towards claiming dominant market share in the lodging space vs hotels. As we can see on this very thread, there are several great companies and people out there to help accomplish this objective. Great minds working towards a common goal; vacation rental industry advancement. Thanks for the share Matt.

  7. Great article Matt. One of you opening comments regarding the humble rental out performing the gorgeous property next door is spot on! One of the most successful vacation rentals that I have encountered was that “humble place next door”. The big factor was that they didn’t see themselves as that humble place next door! They differentiated themselves in the market and told everybody about it and had an occupancy rate that others on the street could only dream of.

    “Leaders speak well of their competitors” – great to see the results of this. One of the local tourism associations that I am involved with has recently started emailing a list of properties with vacancies each night to all other property owners/managers. This enables the fully booked properties to refer inquiries on to the vacant properties. So far this seems to be working really well in creating that “win-win” attitude.


    1. Great point Greg! The VR industry is so new that cooperation in the marketplace hasn’t quite emerged yet. So pioneers like you all are needed to get it started…

  8. Thanks, Matt. The only trait I am guilty of is #3. We live 4 miles from our rental and we love to go over and enjoy the Gulf view and have dinner. I could be totally booked but that would be no fun.

    1. Leona, I encourage all vendors to plug their own product if they have something interesting to say.

  9. Hi Matt, the 9 characteristics are a good summary of the right attitude and the right actions.

    I disagree slightly on your definition of ‘Leader’ as where the marketing portfolio is stronger than last year. In my case, I’m in a seasonal market and I am full all year round for the 3 properties I run. My marketing portfolio is the same as last year, ie still full all year round. Doing well, better than the competition and still doing well.

    I’d have to disagree that I would be classified as a ‘Laggard’!

    But I do agree with your 9 characteristics as the right behaviour.

    1. Hey Rex, thanks for the feedback! I actually spent a whole weekend trying to come up with the right terminology for these groups of individuals. I decided against winners/losers and successful/unsuccessful for those precise reasons above and I think I was bound to be a bit all-encompassing at times. Do you have any ideas that would better characterize the groups? Any thoughts appreciated?

  10. Rock Solid Data, Matt! I especially love # 4 but I must be honest, I expected the % of those that speak highly of their competitors to be higher. My tenure in the VR space taught me inventory condensed in a specific area is much more attractive to the potential renter. A dear friend, colleague and long time mentor, Brian Sharples, CEO/Co-Founder of HomeAway Inc once mentioned something I’ll never forget. He asked me this, “Why when your shopping for a car do you see multiple dealerships with inventory of all different brands right next to each other? It’s based on choice and if there are more choices traffic increases for everyone, more potential buyers are test driving and more cars are sold”. Just an analogy, but car dealerships are extremely competitive however they do work together in a round-about behind the scenes way….Food for thought.

    Michael Gualano
    GM, Zipinion

  11. Matt, a point about competition and Michael’s reference to Brian Sharples’ quote are right to the point! Over time I learned that the power of referrals could be enormous. Speaking highly of properties next door and referring clients to your competition actually opens up a new world of possibilities. Often times I manage to get those guests back. I think people in general remember pretty well those who give good advices and referrals.

  12. In order to create a good shopping website there is a great need to find all of the essential information on that topic. So, I believe, that the best first step may be the examination of those platforms, which have already become the most successful business projects of their creators

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}