|This year’s Seminars featured a new educational format specifically based on manager feedback. And with attendance at or near record levels for both events, more professional managers than ever before walked away with tangible tips to improve their businesses, enhance homeowner satisfaction and keep guests coming back.
Despite an April snowstorm, the Western Seminar in Westminster, Co., brought together 198 attendees—just 2 shy of 2012’s Western Seminar attendance record. The Eastern Seminar in Savannah, Ga., shattered previous attendance records, with a jaw-dropping 468 vacation rental managers and suppliers in attendance (a significant leap from the 2011 record of 407 attendees!).
Attendees also benefited from Vendor Showcases at each event featuring many new, innovative suppliers to help their companies continue to raise the bar and offer new services and products to homeowners and guests.
Below is an overview of what attendees gained from the sessions presented at this year’s Seminars.
Opening Session: Ask An Expert
The Ask An Expert session gave attendees the opportunity to ask questions and interact with peer experts in small-group discussions. Attendees chose from dozens of table topics covering vacation rental management administration, guest services, property services, sales and marketing, strategy and more.
"This session is the reason to come to VRMA events,” said Sarah Bradford, owner of Winter Park Lodging Company. "It’s not possible to find just a PowerPoint or watch a presentation online and get the level of content available in this session. There were so many ideas shared, and time to ask questions with the people who know the content best.”
Executive Session 1: How The VRMA Can Work With VRM Members When Challenged With Restrictions, Regulations and Bans of Vacation Rentals
This hands-on, interactive session gave vacation rental executives tools they can use when faced with potential vacation rental restrictions, regulations and bans in their area. The panelists also discussed how VRMA can address government advocacy issues to prevent bans and regulations in the first place. Feedback from this session is being reviewed as VRMA looks to strengthen its advocacy resources.
Workshop Session 1: Conservation Maintenance
Going green can put green in your pocket. Managers learned simple swaps, such as selecting the right fluorescent light bulbs, which will save money and also allow the company to market environmentally friendly practices.
Concurrent Session 1: Tear Down This Wall! Eliminate Booking Barriers
Attendees discovered key ways to showcase properties online (including via mobile sites) to help potential guests easily and painlessly determine which property is right for their vacation. The session also covered how adding an online chat feature can increase bookings.
Concurrent Session 2: "How Are You Going To Compensate Me?!” – Guest Compensation And Consequences
How do you deal with a guest asking for compensation? The ideal solution is to avoid guest complaints in the first place. This session provided tips and takeaways to proactively prevent compensation requests, while also covering some easy, less costly ways to apologize for any inconvenience that might arise.
Concurrent Session 3: Bragging Rights and Traveler Behavior: The Re-Personalization of Travel and How to Make it Work for Your Vacation Rental
Often, a defensive response can hurt a management company far more than the negative review. Attendees received tips on how to best respond to negative reviews to minimize damage and maximize transparency. The session also discussed how to leverage online reviews with current and prospective homeowners.
Executive Session 2: What Keeps You Up At Night?
This executive-only session was wholly driven by what attendees wanted to talk about. Attendees brought up the issues most affecting them, and then brainstormed how to address these problems. Attendees walked away with new contacts, new ideas and new resources to improve their companies and squash the issues keeping them up at night.
Workshop Session 2: Safety On Site
This three-hour class focused on the highest priority of a maintenance associate: Safety. Discussion topics included OSHA regulations, M.S.D.S. sheets, chemical storage and use, moving heavy equipment properly, crime/security issues, protective equipment, OSHA-required Lockout/Tagout kits, and preventing infection from blood-borne pathogens.
Concurrent Session Block 4: The Skill and Art of Housekeeping Inspections
This highly-ranked session covered key elements of housekeeping inspections including: When to call a housekeeper back to re-clean; how to manage comments/ complaints to ensure housekeepers are aware of any issues; "follow the wall” inspections; and how "owner cleans” may differ from the standard cleaning.
Concurrent Session Block 5: Reservation Sales Training: 3 Keys To Becoming A Reservations Superstar
Becoming a prospective guest’s friend makes them more likely to buy from and trust you. This session provided tangible tips on how to actively engage callers instead of simply taking orders.
Concurrent Session Block 6: Guest Service: Going the Extra Mile
This session discussed special touches to elevate your company’s hospitality—and keep guests coming back— such as loyalty programs, partnership with other area businesses, concierge services, gift baskets, packages and more. The session also covered how to make things right for guests who experience issues during their stay, such as empowering each staff member to take ownership of a problem, offer a solution and follow up.
Concurrent Session Block 7: Breakthrough Coaching
Are you coaching, or just managing? This highly-ranked session covered ways to ensure top sales performers stay incentivized while bringing lower-performing agents up to speed.
Concurrent Session Block 7: Don’t Let A Courtroom be Your Classroom: How ADA and Fair Housing Affect the Vacation Rental Industry
This session reviewed Fair Housing Act requirements and what vacation rental managers must do to ensure compliance. One key topic centered on service animals and how vacation rental managers should respond to inquiries regarding service animals in properties not designated as pet friendly. Other topics included handicap accessibility, careful assessment of property descriptions used and pool requirements.
Concurrent Session Block 7: New Revenue, New Challenges Require Innovative Solutions
In this changing industry, commissions are difficult to increase, new inventory is hard to find, and new fees offer solutions in limited situations. This session provided insight from airlines and hotels to help managers find new revenue, such as a la carte fees, tapping into the wedding market and offering extended stay discounts to fill vacancies.
Closing Session: Everything You Do Is Marketing
Renowned keynote speaker Anne Sadovsky wrapped up the Seminars with an insightful and dynamic presentation to inspire attendees to perform their best each and every day. This session covered trends that help vacation rental professionals better anticipate guest needs, guest service tips to help de-escalate tense situations and ways to simplify what you do and how you do it. The session also helped attendees identify how their personality traits may affect various situations.
The Regional Seminars offer just a small glimpse of VRMA’s Annual Conference programming line-up. More than 60 educational sessions will be offered at the 2013 Annual Conference, Oct. 20-23 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Have an idea for a session or want to present at the Annual Conference? We’re looking for speakers who can share their expertise and experience with other vacation rental professionals. Presentation proposals are due May 10. Learn more.