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    What ‘Professional’ Means for Cleaning

     With the updated VRMA definition of “professional”— “taxpaying, local, and consistent in their high standards”— cleaning and other operational processes have a clear role in both the “local” and “consistent” pillars.

    VRMA does much to elevate and advance the professional vacation rental industry, and a large part of that effort in the last few years has been focused on advocacy. “Advocacy” is the word on everyone’s mind right now, underscored by the stunning recent success of the VRMA Advocacy Fund’s kickoff at Spring Forum in Chicago. In just one day, the organization raised over $400,000 for the fund’s mission of protecting the vacation rental industry.

    The need for an increased advocacy effort is because, more than ever, vacation rental managers are falling under community and government scrutiny. The relatively recent vacation rental industry boom has brought our industry a tidal wave of new technologies, new guests, new investors, and a whole new regulatory landscape. For this reason, the concept of professionalism is also more important than ever before, as a means of differentiating those managers with high levels of standards, performance, and ethics. Professional managers are trustworthy managers, and generating consumer and community trust is instrumental in changing the sometimes negative public perceptions about vacation rentals, which often come from the behaviors of a few unprofessional “bad apples.”

    As part of its advocacy efforts last year, VRMA launched a marketing campaign that sought to clarify what “professional” actually means as it relates to our industry. The campaign described professional managers as “taxpaying, local, and consistent in their high standards.” This campaign, aimed at elected officials and government staff, served to highlight industry best practices and local community involvement.

    The Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP) has always framed high-quality cleaning as part of a manager’s brand promise. With this updated definition of “professional,” cleaning and other operational processes (such as maintenance and inspections) have a clear role in both the “local” and “consistent” pillars.

    Local Operations

    By necessity, any operational activity at a vacation rental property is going to be local to that property. Hiring staff from within the local area is just one small way to demonstrate that your business is part of your community’s fabric. There are numerous ways that a business can participate in a community, but an extremely impactful one is to establish relationships with your local and/or state officials. The ability to personally share your professional processes with local decision-makers can make all the difference when regulatory discussions arise. It is worth including contacts from your local board of health or similar agencies in your outreach. Providing assurance and proof that you are in compliance with local health and safety regulations, in addition to federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, goes a long way toward positioning your organization as a trusted, professional business.

    Consistent Operations, with High Standards

    Vacation rental professionals understand that cleaning a property effectively requires specific training, appropriate supplies, and a systematic process. In the last issue of VRMA Arrival, VRHP addressed the importance of the Standard Property Appearance. In addition to your property standards, having a fully documented set of operational guidelines helps to align your teams and ensures consistent quality.

    While every business will have their own specific policies and procedures, there are industry-level best practices that every vacation rental manager should follow. In 2020, VRHP developed Cleaning guidelines for COVID-19, which helped property managers adjust their operations protocols for the pandemic environment. VRMA and VRHP then launched the SafeHome campaign, which provided a platform for vacation rental management professionals to “openly communicate with guests and employees about the precautions they are taking to help keep them safe and healthy.” In addition, details of the SafeHome program were shared with local and state officials in multiple regions, in order to convey that professionally managed vacation rentals were a consistently safe and reliable choice of accommodation.

    In April 2022, VHRP released an updated document, called Cleaning Guidelines for Professional Vacation Rental Managers, which is a broader set of recommendations that capture the best practices for successful vacation rental cleaning and operations. These guidelines provide a baseline for achieving operational professionalism, as well as a means of communicating that professionalism to the community at large.

    VRHP’s mission is “to be an industry champion, elevating guest experience through the operational excellence of our members.” As we move forward, VRHP remains dedicated to playing an integral role in professionalizing the vacation rental industry, in addition to assisting members advance their “back-of-the-house” operations.

    Michelle Williams, a VRMA director and chair of Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP), is general manager of Atlantic Vacation Homes in Gloucester, Massachusetts. VRHP is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of back-of-the-house vacation rental professionals. For more information on becoming a VRHP member, visit vrhp.vrma.org. 

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