6 Vacation Rental Owners Look Back on 2015 and Forward to 2016

Written By: Conrad
Last Updated: September 8, 2023

The Class of 2015 vacation rental owners is an incredibly savvy bunch. No longer content with conventional vacation rental marketing methods, they are stepping it up, big-time.

But it’s not just marketing. They know hospitality. They know the ins and outs of property management. And they understand the shifts that will follow at the heels of Expedia’s acquisition of HomeAway.

These 6 vacation rental owners are not alone. Check out Matt Landau’s Inner Circle Community to learn from a great (and growing) group of VR pros!

We’d like to thank Kim, Brett, Bob, Linda Lou, Danny, and Rick for participating in this segment of the Round-up. It’s been a pleasure to get to know most of you this last year…and benefit from your boundless energy!

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?

Many interviewees mentioned the HomeAway acquisition. And for good reason! Independent vacation rental homeowners will feel these large-scale shifts more than many… in part because they’re paying attention.

As we mentioned in our second post in this series (in which we gathered the thoughts of VR industry vendors), the vacation rental industry is a sleeping giant…and the giant opened an eye in 2015. Of course that means big changes ahead in 2016.

Read on: these savvy owners share their tips for how to keep up in a rapidly changing space. (In alphabetical order.)

Kim Bergstrom |

Kim is the owner of three houses on Manzanita Beach, Oregon. One of those houses was built by her father whilst Kim, as a kid, jumped waves and built huge driftwood forts. Her passion for the area is infectious as you’ll see from the video she references below!

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

2015 was a pivotal year for the vacation rental industry. The acquisition of HomeAway by Expedia definitely serves as a strong wake up call to vacation rental owners that times are changing. For many of us, this has created a decrease in inquiries and a desire to create an independent presence as a vacation rental business. But if one is going to compete with the big guys, vacation rental owners may no longer rest on old fashioned complacency.

2015 became the year for vacation rental owners to step up our marketing game in professional, meaningful ways.

For our vacation rentals, we’re focusing on what sets us apart from the rest of our market. Why would potential guests trust us and book directly through our website? To that end, in 2015 we created and released this professional video. It’s been a huge success in bringing guests to our website and our vacation rentals.

In one fell swoop, our video communicates three important unique aspects of our business: 1) it serves as a personal introduction that builds trust; 2) viewers receive a wonderful visual tour of our houses; 3) by highlighting our location, not only are our guests able to glimpse all the unique sights and activities around us, we become a de facto expert regarding our particular vacation rental area.

What are you most excited about for in 2016?

One of our most exciting goals for 2016 is to add Vlogging (video blogging) to our bag of marketing solutions. Increasing our industry presence while taking advantage of growing technologies is always a winning situation, but the added bonus of Vlogging is the continuation of what we started in 2015 — building trust, introducing potential guests to our properties, and creating a presence as an expert in our vacation rental area.

Our Vlogging will focus mainly on our coastal location and the wonderful array of activities around our area. By focusing more on helping, with a very soft sell regarding our vacation rentals, we hope to increase our reputation as local expert and thereby gain a greater following. Which, as in the release of our video in 2015, should ultimately reflect an increase in bookings via our independent website.

Brett Carnell |

Once an airline pilot, Brett now owns Wanggulay, a holiday home in Cairns, Australia, that has won awards and been featured in lifestyle programs. But it wasn’t always this way. Drawing on his experience as a pilot he made it happen…

As a pilot, Brett was promoted into the role of Check and Training Captain, which involved teaching other pilots how to land at over 100 airports across the world in different weather situations and at different times of the day. Without any processes and procedures in place he had to develop his own so that those he taught always had something to refer to when they needed.

Brett has incorporated that same approach into his holiday rental business to help it grow from an average yearly income of $25,000 to over $100,000 and further holiday rental properties. After watching this video you’ll gain a little insight into why Brett has been so successful!


Bob Garner |

10 years ago Bob abandoned the London rat race to focus on restoring a farmhouse in Marche, Italy. Having worked with Bob I’ve experienced his passion and attention to detail. More than that, he’s all about the guest, epitomizing hospitality: see his 392 5-star TripAdvisor reviews!

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

2015 has been the year that the impetus for change in the VR industry was met by a nascent expertise becoming so much more established and visible for owners. This knowledge accessed though channels like the Inner Circle, Heather Bayer, Alan Egan etc (plus many others entrepreneurs who offer solutions to VR owners) is providing a robust and effective response to the changing environment in the VR space.

The consolidation of the big players and their increasing control over how owners and managers must operate has galvanised others to bring something new and innovatory to help owners make choices about how they run their business.

What are you most excited about for in 2016?

Following what I describe as happening in 2015, I believe we will see a substantially up-skilled and savvy cohort of VR owners and managers in 2016. As the systems of the big sites increasingly restrict owners’ room for manoeuvre, more of them will tap into the offerings of those who offer an different way to work – if not yet Listing Site independence then at least less Listing Site Dependence and with it a greater autonomy in how we do what we do.

All this leads to a great disparity between those who are aware and acting on the changes in our industry and those floundering without direction and help and ultimately loosing out on enquiries and bookings. Innovate or die!

Linda Lou Huiskes |

Linda Lou is the owner of a 4-bedroom villa on the island of Curacao. Having traveled the Caribbean for work and to escape the cold Dutch winters, she and her family fell in love with Curacao. Cue the purchase of Villa Seashell, which was also their home for a while!

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

The vacation rental industry is on the move since Expedia has acquired HomeAway.
HomeAway has announced that they will soon start charging guests a booking fee of 6% of the rental charges. Airbnb charges guests booking fees of 6 to 12% and charges hosts a 3% commission. TripAdvisor’s Flipkey charges hosts a 3% fee and guests a booking fee ranging from 5 to 15%.

In addition to this, lots of vacation rental owners that list on HomeAway are upset about the change in HomeAway’s ranking system algorithm. Owners that used to be on the first page, nose-dived to page 20+ or disappeared completely off the radar.

I believe we can generate our own bookings with our own website and do not necessarily need the big listing sites for that. By renting directly from us, the owners, we can keep our rates as low as possible for our guests.

I am very exited about the changes we have made to our website during 2015. Our website looks much more attractive and is more user-friendly. We have also added an online booking system to our website, which forwards guests to a secure page where they can directly book and pay via credit card or PayPal.
We are also much more visible on the World Wide Web: we are ranking high on Google search for vacation rentals in Curacao; our Facebook page provides lots of information on a daily basis; blogs with excellent insider information about Curacao are posted every fortnight on our website; and newsletters are sent out every quarter.

What are you most excited about for in 2016?

The trend in our bookings for 2016 is what really excites me.

Last year 85% of our bookings came from the big listing sites and 15% directly via our website. We are already quite well booked for the first 5 months of 2016, and the trend totally shifted. For 2016, only 33% of the bookings came in through the listing sites and 67% via our own website. This means that we are moving in the right direction!

To keep our advantage as a true home away vacation rental by owner, we will have to invest more time in our network on Curacao. Our goal for 2016 is not only to offer our guests the best insider information and best rates by booking through our own website but also to be able to offer discounts at vendors, attractions and restaurants on the island.

Daniel Kalenov |

Daniel is a serial entrepreneur, whose background includes 3 tech startups, 2 medical device companies, and 15 years investing in real estate. He basically lives out of a suitcase these days, joined by his beautiful wife and 2 kids. He’s always interested in “talking shop” so feel free to drop him a line anytime!

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

Business professor Aaron Levenstein once said “Statistics are like a bikini: what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.”

Nothing embodies this concept better than Airbnb in 2015. On the surface, their market strategy suggested a focus endemic to their scrappy roots…. one that targeted the “lower end” of the VR market, appealing to couch surfers, apartment sharers, and any mom-and-pop with an economical 1-bedroom to spare. HomeAway played on this by featuring marketing geared toward “the entire home”, implying that their competitors should be relegated to the “not the entire home” category.

The vital reality that was concealed however, and which ultimately began rearing its head in the second half of the year, is that Airbnb truly gets what it takes to become the undisputed 800 pound guerilla of the VR space.

Now that they’ve laid a foundation by capturing nearly the entire “lower end” of the market, they’ve made concerted efforts to expand their reach to more seasoned property owners (i.e. making inroads to HA’s bread n butter) and also have rolled out targeted initiatives to us professional property managers, who for a while felt a little neglected by the “big A.”

In just the last quarter of 2015 alone, Airbnb has come to market with some potent initiatives, including partnering with a host of VR software providers to integrate with their API, hosting local meetings in certain markets specifically for PMs, and even hiring local business development managers to serve as direct points of contact for property managers and high end owners.

Lookout ya’ll! Professional VR operators can finally compete on Airbnb… now that’s what I call exciting!

What are you most excited about for in 2016?

The most exciting prospect of 2016 is the emergence of legit providers who offer Yield Management (aka “dynamic pricing”) solutions to the average vacation rental owner and property manager. No longer must we settle for “set it and forget it!” Now, we can now set prices like the big boys at the airlines and hotels do, incorporating real-time data based on a myriad of market factors.

Static pricing based on seasonality or length of stay is soooooo 2015…… so if you want to see real results get your pricing engine in gear with a solution that meets your needs.

Rick Oster |

Rick is an avid golfer and became increasingly frustrated by the lodging choices at golf resorts. Determined to create something new and different for golfing groups, he now owns 3 vacation rentals in Alabama, built around the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

Rick asked himself one question before starting to design his homes: “If I were to design a home specifically for groups on a golf trip, what would I include in that home?”

By focusing solely on that question Rick has built 3 vacation rentals that surpass anything a traditional golf resort could offer. I’ve met Rick personally. His willingness to push boundaries is infectious. From drone tours of the golf course, to putting greens in the backyard, it’s always with the golfer in mind. One day I’m coming to stay Rick!


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