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    VRMA’s Strategic Path Forward

    It’s a bold new day for travel. Guests have never been more empowered to book trips on their terms—with the power to customize their experience due to the ease of information at their fingertips. And for professional managers, it’s time to meet guest expectations or be at risk of falling behind in a burgeoning market.

    Added to the challenge for professional managers are such things as a flurry of M&A activity, the introduction of slicker and more useful technology tools and the growth and ongoing presence of OTA’s, among others. What it all equates to is an immediate need for the right resources to help you make decisions with confidence at a moment’s notice.

    To that end, VRMA’s mission remains steadfast: Through best-in-class education, in-person events and a unified voice, we unlock the possibilities and potential of our diverse, global membership of vacation rental professionals so they can strengthen their business, elevate the industry and ensure superior guest and homeowner experiences.

    To help deliver on this mission, the VRMA Board of Directors continues to execute on the 2017-19 strategic plan, under the direction of the following three initiatives:

    • Refine our brand, communicate our value proposition and empower our members to tell the VRMA story
    • Set professional standards to elevate and strengthen the vacation rental management industry
    • Expand our reach and relevancy to industry stakeholders around the world

    As Mike Harrington officially takes his position as VRMA President, he is excited for the host of new initiatives ready to be launched in 2018, from educational certificate programs, to increased government advocacy efforts and expanding VRMA’s reach and message globally.

    “I’m incredibly excited about the projects and strategic goals we are working on at VRMA,” says Harrington. “Our sole focus is on making each of our members the best they can be as professional managers. As a leader in our organization, they are all important to me, and we can’t wait to keep pushing forward.”

    Setting the Standard

    Professional managers must have opportunities to sharpen their skillset and continue to demonstrate competency in their field. With the development and launch of an assessment-based certificate program for VRMs and commitment to delivering ongoing education, VRMA has many exciting resources that can be applied immediately.

    Treasurer Toby Babich CMCA, AMS, RSPS, ARM, believes the most exciting development currently being undertaken by VRMA is the education and certificate program, which dovetails directly with a growing need in the overall travel industry- professionalism and elevation of standards. He says, “As the industry and professional managers enter the next evolution of travel and consumer expectations, we will find our value lies in demonstrable knowledge, elevated professional standards and a solid dedication to advancing our industry.”

    Director Melaney Robbins, part of the certification task force and board member since 2016, concurs with Babich that education is more important than ever. As the industry continues to evolve, the ability to have a robust educational program on how to become a professional vacation rental manager in place will be what takes many members to the next level.

    “VRM’s are competing with rent by owners, and other similar companies,” says Robbins. “This will help separate ourselves from those who think this industry is a breeze, because as most of us know, it is not. My three takeaways will always be Education, Professionalism, and Communication.”

    In fact, Immediate Past President Maureen Regan points to certification efforts as the priority she is most looking forward to in 2018. She says, “The finalization of our certification efforts will enable people outside our industry to know who the professional vacation rental managers are and enhance each person’s education within the field of vacation rentals.”

    Reach and Direction

    Engaging a wider audience of vacation rental management professionals is key to elevating the message. Through the refinement of events, both nationally and internationally, as well as the development of an affiliate program, VRMA continues to focus on moving engaging forward.

    Speaking to the latter, President-Elect Jodi Taylor Refosco, believes the affiliate program will help spotlight education and add to the value of membership.

    “I am proud to be a part of this esteemed board to help guide the association into the future. My father says being on a board is difficult, but when all members pitch in, the whole board benefits and is not reliant on one or a few people,” says Refosco. “We are very lucky to have such a strong team. I look forward to launching our affiliate programs that will also help increase membership and highlight educational offerings. I want to see VRMA as the number one choice when it comes to education in our industry.”

    Michelle Acquavella, Director, says one of the key values of VRMA is in its advocacy efforts in saving short-term rentals. It is a fight that hits close to home, having started her business 15 years ago out of the basement of her home and today fast approaching 100 properties in Washington State.

    “In 2009 I had just finished my first battle with my city to save short term rentals and my business,” says Acquavella. “It was at this point that I realized the importance of being actively involved in the organization I saw best suited to support VRMs in the ever changing regulatory world. That's where my focus in the industry lies today, in organizing locally through ‘chapter’ organizations and through regulatory action on behalf of the national organization to assist those locally with their battles to save our industry.”

    Miller Hawkins, one of the newest members of the board, can relate. “With this rapidly changing industry and the growth and presence of the OTA’s, I am very much looking forward to continuing the vacation rental manager’s growth in the market while adapting to the fact that the OTA’s are here to stay,” says Hawkins. “Acknowledging this fact and working with them will benefit us all.”

    The Voice of the Vacation Rental Industry

    Through advocacy, publications and thought-leadership initiatives, VRMA continues to refine the platform for which all professionals in this industry can use to elevate their own mission and that of the collective group.

    Supplier Director Matt Golis has been active working with VRMA since 2005, and sees the combination of the diversity and perspective (geographically and with suppliers/property managers) as a key advantage for tackling this initiative.

    Likewise, Director Carole Lynn Sharhoff sees advocacy continuing to move on an upward path through the launch of several initiatives, such as reaching out to the next industry leaders, internship scholarships and encouraging schools of higher education to offer vacation rental management in their curriculum.

    And of course, resources like Arrival help to amplify that message even further. “Looking towards 2018, I hope VRMA realizes the opportunity to both connect with more new members through our revamped website and Arrival publication, and to become the standard-bearer of what it means to be a professional property manager through our upcoming certification programs,” Golis says.

    Get Ready for What’s Next

    As we gear up for 2018, VRMA members should expect big things to help them take their respective businesses to the next level. Setting the industry standard for a constantly developing market is no easy feat—but one on which the VRMA Board of Directors is fit to deliver.

    Adds Harrington, “VRMA has been the single most important resource in the development of my vacation rental business career. The networking, education, and opportunities it has provided me have been instrumental. What makes me the proudest to be a member is seeing my friends and colleagues in the industry continue to grow their businesses and be successful. I feel we are an organization of mentors, each willing to do whatever it takes to help out a fellow manager.”

    All in all, it is a task in which none of the board members will ever takes for granted. “Though I am proud to serve on the VRMA board, I would more appropriately describe it as a humbling experience,” says Babich. “I am humbled to be recommended for service by so many giants of the industry, to be voted for by so many of my colleagues from across the globe, and to help lead the organization and industry into such an exciting time of opportunity in the travel industry.”

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