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A Letter To All Concerned Vacation Rental Professionals,
Everyone wants the vacation rental industry to “succeed” — but our varying definitions of success tend to divide us. So today, I’d like to try and focus on what we all have in common, as a first step to uniting us all together in a synchronized movement forward. When lots of people move together, magic happens.
Now, before you throw up your feathers thinking that I’m about to criticize you — and before you start fist pumping (haaaaay!!) thinking that I’m about to criticize a company you despise — before you assume this is just another opinion piece and close the browser — please know that I am not speaking as Matt the vacation rental owner, or manager or blogger or traveler. I’m speaking as an unbiased, third-party onlooker to the vacation rental industry as a whole.
As an onlooker, the vacation rental industry is going through a crazy cyclone of development right now! The phrase “vacation rental” is developing into more and more of a household name. And like urban development in neighborhoods or cities, this change is happening whether any single business likes it or not. A lot of people have a stake in this industry succeeding: property owners, property managers, vendors, listing sites, OTAs, travelers...etc. But true to the nature of any community, the opposite is also true: if it fails, we all suffer.
In order to determine whether things will succeed, fail, or just float along somewhere in the middle, let's look at where the greatest influence (and responsibility) lies...
In MOST industries, influence resides almost exclusively at the very top: the biggest companies with the most money pretty much control the playing field. And in our industry, the biggest companies do indeed have a ton of control. But not all of it. And herein lies the twist: the physics of the vacation rental industry throw normal power dynamics for a loop because at the end of the day, there’s a second group of stakeholders who, if they so well chose, could comprehensively determine the outcome for everyone involved: property owners. At the end of the day, if all property owners and managers got together and decided they wanted to pull the plug on this whole thing, the vacation rental industry would disappear overnight. And while that never would likely happen, simply imagining it demonstrates the importance that owners have in this ecosystem. Like any relationship, the idea of losing everything helps re-calibrate respect and trust.
Because whether we like it or not, we’re all interconnected. Listing sites need owners and managers, owners and managers need listing sites, owners need managers, managers need owners, both need software, software needs investors...etc. If any of these major chains break, the health of the industry falters.
Since this interconnectedness is directly correlated with our survival, it frustrates me when I see big organizations NOT making an effort to teach core hosts how to be fundamentally better business owners. After all, if these property owners and managers fail, the essence of the industry — the individuality, personality, and authenticity that makes vacation rentals actually human — dies right along with them. As an unbiased onlooker, I wonder why the biggest organizations don’t try harder to build more meaningful relationships with hosts as opposed to inhibiting their growth. If they were to succeed, the whole industry would thrive. And here’s the kicker: so would their reputation as a catalyst for change!
On the other end of the spectrum is a different but equally frustrating sight: independent owners and managers who are NOT making an honest effort to become fundamentally better business owners — who are totally dependent on one of the bigger organizations — who are under-utilizing the wide gamut of tools and services designed to help them succeed. It pains me to see these folks feeling victimized, pointing the finger, and expending their precious energy on ANYTHING OTHER than well-documented small business practices. As an unbiased onlooker, I wonder why these owners and managers don’t put forth more effort to build more sustainable marketing portfolios. If they were to succeed, they’d thrive!
This is what I hope you can take away here: every single person who is either excited or furious with our industry’s position today has a right to be, because they’re an influential stakeholder in this greater movement. Realizing this is the first step. Realizing the responsibility that comes with that influence is the second. This responsibility is not about being sympathetic or generous — it’s about being empathetic of an industry that sustains us all, but will collapse if we don’t keep some balance.
Lifting our heads up, even though we might feel like we’re drowning or speeding too fast. Leading by example, even if it doesn’t seem like the natural thing to do. Building our businesses so they’ll be around 10 or 20 or 50 years from now. Don’t get me wrong: self-interest is great. I simply urge you to play the consequences of your endeavors out a bit further than the next fiscal quarter. Your future business, your future guests, and your future colleagues will thank you.