Enjoy this preview article from Issue 2 2019 Arrival Magazine! Lisa Chen is a featured speaker at the 2019 VRMA Spring Forum, April 15-16 in Charlotte, NC. Register to attend the inaugural Spring Forum to take advantage of this and other educational offerings.
Meet Lisa Chen, vice president and general manager of the newly formed global business for property managers at HomeAway. We spoke with Lisa to learn a little more about her background, her thoughts on the future of the vacation rental industry and HomeAway’s continued commitment to property managers.
What led you to the vacation rental industry and HomeAway?
If there ever was an industry that was tailor-made for me, this is it! I spent a number of years helping large companies — including the Walt Disney Company — navigate complex transitions and ensure they were successful by putting their customers’ needs first.
Then, about 10 years ago, my husband and I did the unthinkable: We quit our jobs and traveled internationally for a year. On that amazing adventure, we stayed in more than 150 VRs and B&Bs.
I joined HomeAway in 2014 and managed the B&B business, which included BedandBreakfast.com and two B&B property management software products. In that role, I worked with B&B owners to help them market and grow their businesses. I love being able to support not only the business I work for but also the businesses of the customers I’m helping.
You’re the new vice president and general manager of the global business for property managers at HomeAway. What does that mean, and what are your priorities?
I’m leading a new part of HomeAway that is wholly dedicated to our property managers, which means that I am directly accountable for our customers’ success. We want to supercharge our relationship with property managers.
To do this, we’re focusing on three main priorities:
- Delivering great products and tools that meet the needs of property managers, who all run their businesses in different and nuanced ways. To do this, we need to intimately understand our customers’ businesses so that we can articulate their needs clearly and champion them.
- Bringing property managers better bookings that are more valuable. We recognize that this is about both quantity and quality, and helping our property managers get the best price and the best travelers for their properties.
- Advocating for the products, services and policies that property managers need to be successful not only on HomeAway but in their businesses overall. Internally, we campaign tirelessly for property managers within HomeAway and Expedia Group. Externally, our government relations team works alongside property managers in communities worldwide on fair and effective vacation rental rules and regulations.
Over the last few years, HomeAway made changes to how they work with property managers — not all of which were well received. How will 2019 be different?
HomeAway learned to really appreciate the operational complexities of property management in 2018. We spent thousands of hours on the road getting feedback from property managers, and I personally met with hundreds of property managers. From rates management to housekeeping, trust accounting to working with owners, each business is intricate. And it’s not easy to turn on a dime, which means that timing really matters.
In 2019, we’re taking what we’ve heard and doubling down to better support our property managers. We're investing heavily in our tools and services that will help them simplify how they work with HomeAway. And, most importantly, we’re focusing on driving more high-quality bookings.
One of the key things I heard from property managers is that we need to communicate with them in a way that shows HomeAway “gets” their business, speaks their language and helps them understand why they should care. We’re setting up a group of property managers that we’ll meet with regularly to get feedback on changes we’re considering, what language we can best use to explain what’s in it for them and what we’ll need to provide to help them successfully make changes.
We’ve also launched more frequent communications and expanded our Rise & Shine meeting series. Our Rise & Shine events are open forums held nationwide — and soon internationally. We share best practices and actionable ways to be more successful with HomeAway, and listen and respond to feedback from property managers.
What are you most excited about for the future, for either HomeAway or the industry?
Three things: visualization, communication and data. More specifically, the insights that come from data.
It’s human nature to want to understand more about the world and environment, even in front of a screen. HomeAway has invested in visualization technology by creating a virtual tours platform that’s compatible with different types of content, from DIY tours filmed on a smartphone to professionally captured footage. Property managers can use it to display their properties in a way that satisfies a traveler’s craving for information. And that can help drive more bookings!
I’m also excited to see HomeAway invest in the future of communication. By 2020, 85 percent of all business to consumer chat will be assisted by artificial intelligence (AI) technology.1 There's very real opportunity here. Travelers want to know quickly if a property is right for them. We’re testing an inquiry assistant that uses information provided by a property manager to help travelers understand if it's a good fit for their trip.
My personal favorite is data-led insights. HomeAway invests heavily in understanding a traveler’s needs, desires and preferences. Then, we share that information with property managers in an actionable way.
This includes information that:
- Helps identify why a traveler booked a property, or what caused a traveler to book with someone else. This information helps our property managers improve their listings and properties to better meet the needs of HomeAway travelers.
- Highlights properties that were recently booked or are receiving many views in the same market. This helps property managers understand what HomeAway travelers are looking for.
This data isn't available anywhere else, and it can help drive bookings, lower operational costs and grow a property manager’s business. Stay tuned for more as we continue to invest in this area!
What’s the “next big thing” that the vacation rental industry will need to tackle?
Travelers increasingly expect a personalized experience when they’re shopping. With technology like AI and machine learning, we’ll be able to create a more seamless end-to-end shopping experience. By learning more about how travelers use our site, we can offer them personalized vacation rental recommendations that makes planning their specific trip easier.
The travel industry also has the unique ability to create amazing immersive shopping experiences. Virtual reality and augmented reality could change every point in a traveler’s journey, from looking to booking, and staying to remembering. One of the first steps is to help travelers “look before they book” and showcase what really makes each property unique.
How do you think VRMA can help property managers and the industry grow?
Traveler expectations are rising all the time, and the entire industry has to rise to meet them. We need to help each other run our businesses with a level of care and professionalism that exceeds traveler expectations.
As an industry association, VRMA can set the bar of professionalism that we should all aspire to. VRMA can be the “rising tide that floats all boats,” as they say!
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to SCUBA dive. I would live underwater if I could! And of course, travel. I try to visit at least one new country every year. Now, my husband and I get so much joy from sharing our adventures with our young son. We love to give him experiences and introduce him to new cultures, communities and perspectives.
1 Hinds, R. (2018, April 02). By 2020, You're More Likely to Have a Conversation With This Than With Your Spouse. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/rebecca-hinds/by-2020-youre-more-likely-to-have-a-conversation-with-this-than-with-your-spouse.html