As you’re finalizing your daily schedule for the VRMA International Conference in Las Vegas (starting October 27!), check out the session “Property Managers and OTAs: In Conversation With Industry Leaders” where you’ll hear unique perspectives from Olivier Gremillon, vice president for homes and apartments at Booking.com and Jeff Hurst, chief commercial officer at HomeAway. Arrival spoke with Olivier to get just a taste of what you’ll hear from him during the session and more info on the VRMA Battleground sessions that Booking.com is sponsoring.
VRMA: You’re going to be speaking at the VRMA International Conference in a few weeks discussing the relationship between property managers and OTAs. Could you give us a little preview by sharing how you think this relationship can best be leveraged?
Olivier: With the growth of the global travel ecosystem and traveler demand for unique stay experiences showing no signs of slowing, increased collaboration between digital travel platforms and properties is key. Everyone has a role to play. Digital travel companies like Booking.com invest in technology, marketing and infrastructure in order to build products that can fuel more business for property managers. And at the same time, property managers can focus their efforts on creating great experiences for guests, which we then market to our global audience.
Property managers have been using Booking.com for years and their ongoing feedback has been instrumental in shaping our site and service. At International Conference this year, we’re excited to thank them for their ongoing support by presenting a new set of products and services tailored specifically for property managers. These new tools will help with many aspects of property management, from simplifying listing multiple properties to improving the performance and workload of those who connect to us through a channel manager.
We’ve also reorganized the way we service medium to large property managers. There are now dedicated account managers in most of our 170+ local offices around the world and new tools for our accommodation service offices that help them identify property managers with multiple properties; ensuring they can provide the right kind of support.
This is the just the beginning. We’re excited to continue this journey of growing together.
VRMA: Booking.com has a significant international presence, as we’ve seen at our European Conference — particularly our conference in Amsterdam, where you hosted a reception at your headquarters. You are clearly ramping up efforts in the U.S. and are going to have a big presence at our conference. Can you share a preview of Booking.com’s specific strategies or tactics that you’ll be discussing with our members in Las Vegas?
Olivier: I see VRMA members as influencers in the United States and globally and am excited to see what this year’s conference holds. Our presence and the sessions that we're hosting and participating in reflect the areas we consider to be the most important to our commitment to supporting our valued partners.
VRMA attendees will have the chance to connect with account managers in our U.S. offices who work directly with property managers. They can also connect with team members from our headquarters in Amsterdam where tech teams are continuously working to develop tools to best serve the needs of vacation rental managers. This reflects Booking.com’s unique approach of having a hyper-local network backed by globally pioneering technology.
I personally will be involved in a session called Property Managers and OTAs: In Conversation with Industry Leaders discussing with Simon Lehmaan. Simon is a respected veteran of the industry and I’m looking forward to his challenging questions and surprising VRMA attendees with my answers.
Gianbattista Vespucci, our global commercial director of partner services, will be talking about the future of OTAs and property managers as a panelist in a session hosted by Steve Milo.
We’ve also organized two panel discussions covering everything from tips for being a successful property manager to how you can integrate new technology into your existing systems, as well as a lunch and learn session where we’ll preview the new tools we’ve created.
VRMA: So much has changed for the vacation rental industry in recent years, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Where do you see things moving in the future? What is the “next big thing” on the horizon that this industry will need to tackle?
Olivier: I think a big focus will be on the necessity for the industry to improve the overall quality of properties, experiences and how they are displayed on platforms like Booking.com. For us, it starts with partnering with professionals, such as VRMA members and conference attendees, and supporting smaller property owners and managers to get more bookings and better reviews.
For global players, the real challenge lies in looking at the quality of supply at scale. What an American guest is expecting from a villa may not be the same as what an Indonesian is expecting from, say, a bed and breakfast. We need to understand these differences across cultures, as well as traveler types across business and leisure, family and solo for example, and ensure that we make it easy for guests to sort through properties, pick the ones that fit their needs, and book the best one for them. To do this, we must continue to listen to our customers and share their insights with property owners and managers in ways that are actionable.
VRMA: Along those lines, are there any new features or technologies that Booking.com will be rolling out specifically for professional vacation rental managers in the future?
Olivier: What better time than VRMA’s International Conference to introduce our new tools designed to make listing and managing a portfolio of properties on Booking.com even easier? After the conference, we’ll be holding smaller events around the world and conducting an online campaign to spread the word of these changes, but VRMA members and attendees will hear it first.
VRMA: Speaking of which, Booking.com is also sponsoring VRMA Battleground at the conference, a partnership with Phocuswright that is essentially “Shark Tank for the Vacation Rental Industry.” Obviously, Booking.com is supporting innovation in this space. What advice do you have for start-up companies trying to navigate this industry, both suppliers and professional VRMs?
Olivier: This event feels like a natural extension of our commitment to the vacation rental industry. It’s also an opportunity to foster innovation in the travel industry as a whole, so we’re very excited to be among its judges.
When it comes to advice there are a few things I’d encourage both professional VRMs and vendors to keep in mind. For professional VRMs, it’s important to look at the bigger trends. In a world where travelers increasingly operate online and through mobile, competition for their eyeballs is growing and the distribution of vacation rentals is increasingly going through online marketing channels, how can you ensure visibility, and what is your unique selling point? Determine how you can leverage a marketing website like Booking.com to promote this selling point, get more bookings across properties and scale your business faster. For vendors, consider how you can provide the most value to property managers. Is it by connecting your service directly to a site like Booking.com, to a channel manager or to a PMS? What is your place in the travel ecosystem?
If you still have not finalized your registration for the International Conference, you still have time. Register here.