3 Big Questions with Michelle Williams

As the vacation rental market continues to grow exponentially, questions arise related to the idea of ‘best practices’ and how to define it for each individual company. Marketing and technology continue to play a big role, and Arrival caught up with Michelle Williams, the director of marketing for Atlantic Vacation Homes, to talk about the current sea change taking place, and how to ride out the wave.

What is the biggest opportunity facing the vacation rental management space right now?

Williams: Over the last several decades, the vacation rental industry has grown very organically, and each company does things a little differently. The industry is now expanding exponentially, thanks to companies like Airbnb, TripAdvisor and HomeAway/Expedia putting many marketing dollars into raising consumer awareness of ‘alternative accommodations’. These larger companies are going to want to create and dictate new norms and “best practices” for the industry. It also makes sense that for new companies just starting up, following what the large companies are doing might seem like the obvious thing to do. That said, some of these newer, bigger players in the space have many eggs in the e-commerce basket and less tangible experience in the day-to-day of what property management entails.

To that end, the opportunity is still there for smaller companies to make their voices heard and bring their best big ideas to the table. Whether those ideas are related to software or innovative business practices, now is the time to bring them forward! It’s exciting to be going through this sea-change in the industry and I am definitely interested to see where it is going.

In what ways can professionals in this space best position themselves to capitalize on these trends?

Williams: Due to all of the aforementioned changes, it is critical for us to be aware of the contributing factors and to be able to adjust accordingly. Working with VRMA and its members has been a wonderful opportunity for Atlantic Vacation Homes in that regard. It’s a great network and we’ve learned a lot over the years, both from other companies and from suppliers. It's so easy to get caught up in the rental season and live in that bubble for weeks on end. Attending VRMA conferences gets us out of the bubble and out into the larger VR world.

What is the most valuable role that technology can play in this space going forward?

Williams There still isn’t an all-in-one solution that lets property managers manage all of the data in one place. We’re getting closer, but gaps still exist, particularly around the acquisition process and homeowner relations. As I mentioned earlier, right now, the technology focus is strongly centered on e-commerce, but broader technology support for the 'boots on the ground' teams is going to continue to be critical. Small businesses can't afford to buy every shiny new tool, so the folks who can truly create an all-in-one solution will definitely be creating value.

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