Having worked in luxury fashion for over a decade, I did wonder whether the vacation rental industry might be a little dull. How wrong I was!

VRMA Annual Conference 2015 New Orleans

Photos from VRMA 2015 in New Orleans courtesy of Rentals United

The people Jess and I have had the good fortune to meet are passionate, energetic, and seriously smart individuals. Not to mention incredibly generous with their time.

This “5 Friends” post is part 2 of our 2015 round-up. If you missed it, here’s our Vacation Rental Round-up Part 1, with fresh thoughts from industry leaders like Tom Hale, Kirby Winfield, Matt Landau and more.

We’d like to thank Sarah, Vanessa, Tyann, Andrew, and Josh for participating in this segment of the Round-up. And a special shout-out to Vanessa and Tyann for their incredible support during our first year in business. Thank you!

We asked them all the same two questions:

1. What has been the most exciting change to have happened in the VR industry in 2015?

2. What are you most excited for in 2016?

What we love about these answers is that they all touch on learning. 

Property managers are learning about channel management and task-simplifying software. Independent owners are learning how to step up their hospitality game. And, perhaps most excitingly, previously hotel-focused travelers are learning what vacation rentals are in the first place…and what they have to offer.

In short, vacation rentals are the sleeping giant of hospitality…and in 2015, the giant stirred! Those who continue to learn, grow, and get on the giant’s good side? They’ll benefit greatly in 2016.

We’ll let the experts take it away from here! (In alphabetical order.)

Sarah Brubaker Profile PhotoSarah Brubaker | OneRooftop

Sarah is Co-founder and CMO of OneRooftop, an all-in-one marketing platform for vacation rentals. From booking software to inquiry management, OneRooftop empowers small businesses. Sarah has a degree from the University of California Berkeley and has worked for leading brands like Time Inc., CBS and Fox Networks.

2015’s most exciting change in the vacation rental industry?

It’s fascinating to watch the way guests find and book vacation rentals grow increasingly similar to the way they book traditional accommodations like hotels. How so? There are now meta-search companies like Tripping and HomeToGo who aggregate vacation rental listings. Expedia has entered the market with their purchase of HomeAway, and Booking.com continues to gain traction in the vacation rental market. More and more travelers will consider booking a vacation rental over a hotel room.

What are you most excited about for in 2016?

The changing ecosystem offers new challenges, but also new opportunities for owners and smaller property managers. Travelers will expect a seamless booking experience, especially those travelers new to vacation rentals. Screening guests, managing payments, and the additional communication that travelers expect are getting more and more difficult to manage for individual home owners. Services like ours at OneRooftop, and others, can help with this.

On top of that, owners and PMs who differentiate their properties with personalized experiences will set their properties apart from the competition, including hotels. And, in doing so, there’s an opportunity to build their own brand and attract repeat guests.

Vanessa de Souza Lage Profile PhotoVanessa de Souza Lage | Rentals United

Vanessa is the CMO at Rentals United, enabling PMs to work with many agents from a single control panel. She’s responsible for brand & product development, website traffic growth, website UI and UX (she says she doesn’t sleep much!)

Let me tell you, Vanessa is a rare breed! She keeps RU’s marketing simple, effective and user-friendly (maybe you’ve seen their excellent “Vacation Rental Guest Manifesto“?), with enviable energy levels. We first connected online earlier this year, and then met in person in New Orleans for the VRMA Annual Conference, when they exhibited opposite Guest Hook.

Congratulations to Rentals United on becoming, as of 15th December, one of two companies in the global Vacation Rental Industry to receive the “Preferred Channel Partner” status from Booking.com.

 

 

Tyann Marcink Profile PhotoTyann Marcink | Tyann’s Website

Tyann is a professional vacation rental photographer and owner of two vacation homes in Branson, Missouri. She lives on 5 acres near St. Louis with her three boys. As if that wasn’t enough, Tyann also teaches workshops, writes eBooks, and speaks at summits/conferences about photography.

Just as photography and copywriting go together, Tyann has been a friend of Guest Hook from the start. Whenever we’ve had any questions about photography or video, she’s been there with sound advice.

Check out Tyann’s photography e-books, which are bursting with DIY tips for photographing your vacation rental.

 

 

Andrew McConnell Profile PhotoAndrew McConnell | rented.

Andrew is the CEO of rented., a platform that allows owners to maximise their rental income by placing it with a professional property manager for a guaranteed amount. Andrew has degrees from Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and Cambridge University, and has experience working at McKinsey & Co. and Axiom.

2015’s most exciting change in the vacation rental industry?

I would perhaps counterintuitively argue that the most exciting change that happened in VR in 2015 were the two big hotel acquisitions: Starwood for $12.2 Billion, and Fairmont/Raffles/Sofitel for $2.9 Billion.

They are hotel acquisitions, so why are they so important to VR? Because of their relative size compared to Airbnb’s valuation – a whopping $25.5 Billion! Everyone knew Airbnb was growing quickly, had over 1 million room equivalents (and projected for 1 million bookings on one night this NYE), and investors loved them. What many failed to realize was just how well Airbnb, and the entire alternative accommodation space (including VR) was doing overall.

Those deals were a wakeup call within the VR industry, to hotels, and across travel more broadly. Travel is changing, what people want is changing, and those best positioned to tap into those changes will benefit tremendously.

What are you most excited about for in 2016?

How to pick one thing to be excited about? Despite all of the growth, the attention, and the dollars floating around, the entire space is incredibly exciting because of how nascent it still remains. Sure, there are big companies involved, but each one individually is a mere drop in the global $150 Billion bucket.

2016 will see a continuation, and an acceleration, of the professionalism we have been seeing for years now. HomeAway started off very much geared towards RBO with VRBO, but increasingly its software and rankings favor the more professional players in the space. Even Airbnb, long the darling of the peer-to-peer space, is seeing an ever growing proportion of its revenue come from professional “super hosts”.

This will only become more pronounced going forward, not because these companies are forcing it upon their customers, but because the real customers are the guests, and guests increasingly demand professional and consistent service. Those best situated to provide that, and those with platforms to facilitate those interactions, are going to define the future of the industry.

Josh Viner Profile PhotoJosh Viner | Stays.io

Josh is the Co-founder at Stays.io, a meta engine for Vacation Rentals (see * below!) He’s worked in hospitality for 10 years, including for several boutique hotels and The Four Seasons. In his spare time, Josh is often found kiteboarding, mountain biking, playing hockey or table-tennis!

We connected with Josh during the VRMA in New Orleans and were immediately curious about Stays.io (which was Leftt.io, which you’ll hear Josh reference on the video.)

*Stays.io aims to combine all vacation rentals onto their platform, so that a guest only needs to search one place to see all vacation rentals globally. Their goal is to recognize guests’ needs and serve them the best results. Fascinating stuff!