As international operations manager at Vacasa, I recently had the opportunity to attend VRMA’s annual European Conference in Amsterdam. There, I heard from experts on a range of topics including building a successful sales team, dynamic pricing strategies and the impact of the sharing economy on the vacation rental industry.
Throughout the different sessions, I couldn’t help but notice differences in how the vacation rental management industry operates in Europe. Many of these differences inspired me and led me to think about how we can apply processes from our European counterparts here in the U.S. Here are my top takeaways.
- Don’t underestimate the opportunity in Europe.
For U.S.-based VRMOs, it’s easy to focus exclusively on the vacation rental market at home, but the European industry is actually significantly larger and with greater opportunity. For context, the two biggest vacation rental management companies in Europe — Novatel and Interhome — manage more than 70,000 homes combined. If we’re not paying attention to that opportunity, we’re missing out.
Tourists have been staying in European vacation homes for centuries, and there’s no shortage of homes or travelers looking for a place to stay. As Simon Lehmann, president of Phocuswright, stated in his keynote presentation at the conference, “Supply and demand is not the problem.
- Know your guests, and aim to provide a custom experience.
Travelers visit Europe from all across the world, and vacation rental managers have learned how to deliver consistently exceptional service to these diverse guests. When checking into a European vacation home, it’s common for a host to greet guests in person and provide local recommendations. International travelers, who may be nervous or have questions, tend to appreciate the gesture, including American travelers who may not expect or want the same service when traveling domestically.
In the U.S., we’re much more likely to use an automated check-in system, which is hyper-efficient and preferred by many of today’s travelers. But if you’re frequently hosting international guests — in large cities or near notable theme parks, for example — it may be helpful to implement a more personalized check-in option so guests feel more comfortable in unfamiliar territory.
- Be open to change and make friends, not enemies, in an evolving marketplace.
Working with OTAs isn’t perfectly aligned with the very relationship-driven business strategies of many European VRMOs, but in today’s world it’s hard to succeed without utilizing these powerful channels. With reluctance, European vacation rental managers have learned to cohabitate with corporate booking sites to the benefit of guests and owners.
In fact, according to Avantio, the average European vacation rental management company lists on eight to 12 booking channels, compared to just one to three in the U.S. European managers know that their guests visit from all over the world, and different travelers use different booking channels, meaning each site has its own unique value. The lesson is not necessarily to run out and list on a dozen different channels, but rather to embrace partnerships you may not have thought you needed.
The vacation rental industry is constantly changing, and though each market operates differently, there’s plenty to be learned from each. Combining the traditional European focus on hospitality with the efficiency and tech-based solutions emerging in the U.S., vacation rental managers can provide guests with seamless, memorable and personalized experiences.