In 2002, Steve Milo bought his first vacation home in Florida. Fast forward to today, where Steve is the owner of several vacation rental homes and property management companies throughout Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, New Mexico and Hawaii, and one of the strongest advocates for this industry. He is the CEO and owner of VTrips, a property management and rental reservation platform that manages thousands of properties.
VRMA caught up with Steve to discuss new generations of travelers and their demands and the ways in which new entrants, such as Google, could change the discussion in the vacation rental management space.
Arrival: Today we have multiple generations of travelers (Baby Boomers to Millennials to Generation X) all with different needs and preferences both for how they book and what they want in a home. How should vacation rental managers best approach serving the needs of a multi-generational travel market?
Milo: Property managers must actively diversify and drive their marketing in order to succeed in a constantly changing environment. In the past, the vacation rental industry became easy for property managers to integrate their inventory on a handful of sites like VRBO or Flipkey and to hire a web marketing firm to help them with email campaigns and Google AdWords. Clearly there has been major disruption to the industry as listing sites have moved towards a transactional model.
The challenge for property managers is that to adapt to this new environment, they must evolve with it. The Baby Boomer generation, born between 1945 to 1964, responds best to more direct communication via phone or even in person. The Baby Boomer generation is the easiest for most property managers to relate to – but not necessarily their reservation staff. The challenge for property managers is to get their reservation staff to outbound call these guests both at the time of arrival and during the stay and build the connection to get them to rebook. It also means that when the Baby Boomers visit the local office, the staff takes the time to rebook them rather than tell them to go to the company’s website.
The Generation X generation born from 1965 to 1984 is in the sweet spot for most property managers. This group responds well to email and may actually prefer to book directly on the company’s website rather than on the phone. Property managers need to use defined email campaigns and trigger campaigns with incentives to bring them back directly to their site. Remarketing on Google AdWords also works well for this group of travelers.
Millennials, born from 1985 to 1999, are going to be a challenge for property managers and this is now the future. This group responds best to mobile and text and may not actively use a computer. Property managers need to review the way they communicate with these travelers including by text, chat and applications. This group is more likely to use newer sites like Airbnb as well as social media sites like Facebook.
Generation Z. born from 2000 to current, is yet another piece of the puzzle for future property managers to start to prepare for over the next generation. Generation Z lives in an online world of social media and smartphones and is used to sharing their lives with ‘followers’. To reach Gen Z, property managers will need to invest in multiple forms of evolving social media including Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
Arrival: With Google now entering the vacation rental space, in what way will this transform the way in which travelers find their vacation rental properties?
Milo: The future industry disruption is coming from Google as it enters the vacation rental space. Google will eventually revolutionize how travelers search for vacation rentals as they are prompted to enter their arrival and departure dates and other travel preferences directly into the search results.
Consumers will then see multiple choices in the search result that will include price. It will also be possible for property management companies to pay their way into these search results so that consumers will be able to see prices for booking directly on a property manager’s website.
With some OTAs charging a guest traveler fee of up to 10% and/or charging property managers up to 15% for transactions, the money is already there for property managers to cut out the OTAs and work directly with Google. The guest conversion from going directly from Google search to a property manager’s web page that is customized to each guest is likely to be far higher than a poor e-commerce listing site.
Arrival: In which ways will this impact companies like VTrips.com and what does the future look like?
Milo: The future is bright for property managers who have exclusive inventory as there is far more demand than supply by consumers for vacation rentals. As the demand continues to increase for this category, property managers will be able to leverage OTAs, and pick and choose where and how they will distribute their inventory. Look for the more sophisticated OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia Corporate to aggressively partner with larger property manager’s exclusive inventory and bundle it into trips, excursions and experiences. VTrips also predicts that Expedia and Booking.com will attempt to offer white label branding to larger property management firms in attempt to keep them loyal and even exclusive to their channel and provide a better overall experience to consumers in an unbranded category.
The views expressed above are unfiltered and are not necessarily the opinions of VRMA
About Steve Milo
Steve Milo is the founder and CEO of VTrips, a growing and innovative property management and rental reservation platform which leverages a proprietary technology system to maximize occupancy, revenue growth and profitability. VTrips manages 2,000 exclusive vacation rental properties in traditional resort destinations ranging from Florida to Hawaii. Steve is a recognized Thought Leader regarding the evolution of the highly fragmented vacation rental industry and is a regular keynote speaker at leading conferences in North America and Europe. www.vtrips.com