Sense of Place [Episode 9, Guardea, Umbria, Italy] | VRMB

Sense of Place [Episode 9, Guardea, Umbria, Italy]

​One of the most incredible things about the vacation rental movement is that someone with access to a vacation property can get started pretty much over night. Put your property up on a listing site like Airbnb or HomeAway, be responsive to your inquiries and you can literally be hosting guests this coming weekend. This is major diversion from the traditional world of hotels, where investors, staffing, permitting, and operations can take months if not years to put together.

​But vacation rentals' ease of entry can be both a blessing and a curse: on one hand, it presents awesome new opportunity to aspiring hospitality professionals all around the world…on the flip side, it can leave those very same people relatively unprepared for the demands of running a hospitality business.

Debra is a California-born architect who occasionally, when she is excited, ditches English for Italian, showing how much she’s become one with her adopted home of over 30 years. She’s the owner of Casale Pratto del Cocinelle, a restored 5-bedroom historic farmhouse with a sprawling, tapestry-like view of rural Umbria. There is not a spot on the property that doesn’t provide a view of rich fruit trees, dormant volcanoes, or the Tevere river. And when you’re sleeping there, the house is like a throwback to the Italy of old, but through the eyes of a visionary Californian.

Debra puts forth a valiant effort to connect and empower every single one of her guests even though actually getting guests is a constant struggle…and that therein lies some heroics. Doing your absolute best with what you have, treating every single client, even if it’s only one or two, as if they were the queen. And while this may sound like an unrealistic way of doing business to some, unrealistic is a relative term.

Hope you enjoy!

Not long ago I knew next to nothing about Marbella as a vacation destination. I knew it was in Southern Spain and I knew it was on the coast. That’s about it. So when I arrived at the nearby Malaga train station from an amazing night in Madrid, I’d be meeting Borja Rodriguez a native of the area and one of the most forward-thinking vacation rental professionals in Spain.  I was pretty intent on letting Borja tell me precisely what to do. In the end, he’d teach me much more than that.

We met at the gate of the rental where I’d be staying, one of about 30 properties Borja’s company Vacation Marbella manages with white gloves. The rental complex was located about 100 meters from the lapping waves of the Mediterranean and was mostly what one would expect from a European beach complex: neatly manicured grounds, elevators with requests that you dry off before entering, a gate with a guard who is sometimes there and sometimes not. What was totally unexpected, however, about my vacation rental for the next few days was the level of standards and the business savvy Borja injects in pretty much everything he does.  

In a lot of ways, Borja represents a much greater trend of professionals in one industry leaving their well-paid jobs to get involved in the vacation rental movement full time. These people are finding the landscape of the profession that they thought they would do forever — in Borja’s case it was finance — changing in front of their very eyes and are therefore are encouraged to venture out and explore new, often-entrepreneurial lines of work. The vacation rental industry is such a good fit because it’s so new…nobody has been formally trained, and pretty much everyone got started accidentally…which opens up the door wide for opportunity and cross-pollination. In meeting the various friends, family, and colleagues who revolve around him — you sense that Borja’s adventuresome instincts seem to be rubbing off.

About the Author Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of the VRMB and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings. Google+ | More Posts (230)

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