More than 1,300 vacation rental travel professionals representing more than 400 management and supplier/vendor companies from 19 countries gathered in New Orleans from October 25 – 28, 2015 for the VRMA 2015 Annual Conference. With a record-breaking number of attendees, a 30% increase from last year, the conference served as a forum for vacation rental professionals to connect and discuss the latest developments and news in the increasingly popular industry while also celebrating VRMA’s 30th Anniversary.
As 2015 marked VRMA’s 30th Anniversary, conference attendees were encouraged to look back on the past 30 years and look ahead to what the future holds for the rental industry. Over 30 years, VRMA members have witnessed the rise in the rental accommodation trend. Now a $25.8 billion dollar industry in the U.S. and $100 billion globally, 23% of U.S. travelers this year (up from 21% in 2014) stayed in a vacation rental as an alternative to the traditional hotel/resort during the past two years (2015 Portrait of American Travelers by MMGY Global).
One of the most popular sessions at this year’s conference was a panel discussion on the future of the rental industry: “The Next 30 Years: Future of the Vacation Rental Industry.” Moderated by Andrew McConnell of rented. with panelists David Burden of Airbnb, Angel Llull of Bookings.com, Bill Furlong of HomeAway and Tracey Zhen of TripAdvisor. The discussion allowed attendees to hear from top executives in the rental space on what they think the future holds in terms of new entrants, existing players and industry innovation. Panelists agreed that there is opportunity in category growth and the mainstreaming of vacation rentals as consumers become more aware of rentals as an accommodation option. The group agreed that inventory must match demand, especially as the demographics of vacation rental travelers are shifting, specifically millennials renting short-term in urban areas. Another popular topic was technology-driven operational efficiencies and making it easier for travelers to book rentals instantly.
Continuously striving to elevate the vacation rental profession, VRMA’s conference provided members more than 55 education sessions and seminars covering everything from marketing and property service to business strategy as well as a variety of networking opportunities. Following are new and noteworthy topics discussed at this year’s conference.
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS & THE VACATION RENTAL LANDSCAPE
A major initiative for the VRMA is to lead the development of a strong, collaborative advocacy system to fight anti-vacation rental legislation, and provide members with tools to address regulations in their local markets. More than 50 destinations and 25 states are reviewing or introducing regulations to address the vacation rental landscape. As new regulations are affecting the market, government affairs was a hot topic at this year’s VRMA conference. Sessions such as “The Fight of the Century: Short Term Rental Regulations and How You Can Win” reviewed best practices so members could create the highest form of regulatory compliance and examined the economic impact of rentals in a competitive environment. Matt Curtis, Director of Government Relations at HomeAway and Government Affairs Chair for VRMA, led the session and provided attendees with valuable suggestions to help navigate government regulations.
ONLINE MARKETING DISTRIBUTION
VRMA held numerous sessions at the conference that explored how members can leverage online marketing to find, attract and convert customers to steadily grow business. Sessions provided members with marketing and distribution tactics to promote their business and how to connect with target travelers through multiple channels. Additional topics included how members should utilize mobile, website updates to increase conversation rates and insight on how to retain target audiences (multigenerational travelers) as well as attracting new audiences (primarily millennials) and that marketing efforts need to be tailored to each audience segment based on behaviors.
RECORD MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS & VALUE OF MEMBERSHIP
VRMA’s membership is currently at an all time high in 2015 with 769 member companies. Membership retention has increased approximately 20 percent over the past five years. The growth was apparent at this year’s Annual Conference, which saw the largest number of attendees yet, more than 1,300, from North America, Central America and Europe. Each of VRMA’s four yearly events (Eastern Seminar, European Seminar, Western Seminar and Annual Conference) set new records of participation in 2015 and interest continues to rise, showcasing increased member involvement and commitment to continuing to move the industry forward.