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    One-On-One with Airbnb’s Jonathan Lesser

    Kicking off VRMA National Conference this October, don’t miss our Hands-On Distribution User Groups. These sessions, to be held Sunday, October 15, will feature leading OTA companies who will provide the latest on new offerings, new features and functionality.

    Each company will design their own session, which will be held three times for 45 minutes, allowing you to hear from three different companies during one time.

    One of the presenters will be Jonathan Lesser, Head of Host and Community Operations for Airbnb, who will unveil a set of listing management tools, API updates, and new policies designed specifically for the vacation rental manager.

    We caught up with Lesser for a one-on-one discussion on the biggest trends impacting the vacation rental market.

    Arrival: Tell us a bit about Airbnb’s strategy regarding vacation rentals and professional property managers. Unlike home-sharing, this is an industry that has been around for decades in the U.S. and over a century in Europe. How does a disruptive company like Airbnb approach a market like this?

    Lesser: Homes in vacation destinations have been on Airbnb since our very earliest days. We’ve seen incredible organic growth in vacation rental markets—both by hosts who started on Airbnb and vacation rental managers who have realized that our platform can help them grow.

    We try to design products with the user in mind; products that make it easier to host so they can focus on making each guest feel like they belong. That’s the case whether it’s a traditional vacation rental market, or a more urban destination.

    Arrival: In your opinion, what is the next level that we need to get to in the vacation rental space as an industry, and how can vacation rental management companies best steer in that direction?

    Lesser: I think the most important thing that managers in the vacation rental industry can do is provide great hospitality—to provide a sense of belonging to every single guest, no matter who they are and what kind of experience they are looking for. Whether the guests are more interested in relaxing, or adventuring, they should all feel cared for and a warm welcome.

    Arrival: What are the true keys to success and/or growth for a vacation rental management company in the market today?

    Lesser: I do think that providing great hospitality is and will be the crucial key to success and growth for vacation rental management companies. But in addition, I think it’s important that managers understand how to attract, engage, and retain a younger digital-native audience. Be ready for a global audience whose most important travel accessory is their smartphone.

    Arrival: How is Airbnb approaching the regulation of short term rentals? Is it a city/state dependent approach or is there an overarching strategy? How can the traditional vacation rental management industry better collaborate with Airbnb to battle restrictive legislation and over-regulation?

    Lesser: Our policy is to work with individual cities to develop policies that meet their needs. In some cities like San Francisco and New York, we do not believe that property managers help enrich the city or neighborhoods. But other destinations depend on these types of rentals and they are the backbone of the economy. Working together to better utilize properties that often sit vacant would be good for everyone.

    Cities have unique home sharing needs—a dense, urban city may have different concerns than a historic vacation town or a non-traditional travel destination—and our core principles will always push us to do right by the cities our hosts call home and our guests seek to visit.

    But unlike larger cities, many vacation destinations have a large number of homes that are only used for short periods of time throughout the year. These destinations depend on vacation rentals and they are the backbone of the economy. Airbnb is providing a platform for hosts around the world to utilize these empty spaces and bring more revenue to local businesses.

    Airbnb provides these hosts a platform to seamlessly rent their property while offering trust and safety tools that make it appealing to list their property, such as the $1 million host guarantee. Payments are automated and secure, hosts can chat to prospective guests and check out their reviews online before accepting a booking.

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