8 Trends That Will Shape Vacation Rentals in 2013 – Really?

Filed under: Florida Leisure Vacation Homes |

I’ve just come across an article on the HomeAway web site that I can’t decide whether I love or hate. Suppose I’m conflicted as some of it I agree with but much of it I don’t. Let’s go through the supposed 8 “powerful” trends one by one and see what we think shall we?

1. Prepare for growth: The vacation rental industry is in the second inning of a 9-inning baseball game and 2013 will see some fireworks in terms of growth. As more and more travelers will demand alternative lodging, the supply side (property owners and marketing companies) will make enormous strides in 2013. Those who get out in front first may be able to ride the wave and oppositely, vacation rental owners who were used to full occupancy with little effort will be increasingly under the gun.

The vacation industry is in the second inning is it? I don’t think so. We’re much further advanced than that in my opinion, particulalry in Central Florida. The vacation rental industry has been around for over two decades now and in both Osceola County and Polk County we contribute the most in terms of Tourist Development Tax. That would indicate that vacation homes are very much the choice of astute travelers visiting our area. So no, we’re not in the second inning, more like the sixth although I do agree there is plenty of growth to come, particularly for the right type of vacation homes. By that, I don’t mean the cheap and cheerful junk that the tour operators offer and that some management companies think is the way to sustain a business.

2. The “hotelization” of vacation rentals: The vacation rental industry is relatively new and one of its biggest flaws – inconsistency – will start to rear its ugly head in 2013 more than ever before. Owners will need to start focusing more on the “hotelization” of their rental: in other words, streamlining their operations process to be more professional, consistent, and hotel-like. 2013 will probably see a few fiascos (like the great AirBnB robbery of 2011) that will highlight a need for more regulation and formalization in an otherwise Wild Wild West industry.

Have to say, this is the one that annoys me the most.  The quickest way to kill our industry, in my opinion, is for vacation rental managers to try and operate as hotels do. Travelers have steered away from hotels in recent years because they are sick and tired of 400 square feet box rooms where every conceivable amenity is charged as an extra. Vacation rentals are not inconsistent either. Like everything, if you know what you’re looking for you can find it. Sometimes the search may take a little longer but when you do find the right vacation home, your search will be well worth it. It’s much like the search for a boutique hotel versus the big brand name. No different.

Further, while there are attempts to “hotelize” our industry by some who should know better, our competitive edge is in the very fact that each home can be different from the next according to the owners tastes. Why on earth would be want to throw away that competitive edge?

I note that the author of the article talks about streamlining the operations side of the business to make it more professional and consistent but I’m sort of wondering which cloud he’s living on to make a statement such as that. Does the author not know that some of us have actually been approved by companies like Walt Disney World in our methods of operation? A bigger testimony you won’t find.

I can make you a promise now, in no way will we at Florida Leisure Vacation Homes compromise on becoming like a hotel. Not a chance. We believe we are the best at what we do and that’s why we have the best part of 4,000 guests returning to stay in our homes every year. No way do we need to devalue our product and our service as the hotels do by lining up on the same web sites to compete on price. Our guests want more than a hotel. In fact, they deserve more than a hotel. We know that, we understand that and that’s what we deliver. Become like a hotel? You’re having a laugh to even suggest it.  (And, dare I add, that’s why companies like HomeAway will never really get our industry. All they see is volume.)

3. More mobile bookings: As 2013 surges onward, discounting mobile platforms will be more and more of a mistake for vacation rental owners with their own websites. Record numbers of Internet users are on mobile devices as a whole, and this trend is accentuated in the vacation rental industry, which is notorious for it’s stunted technology. In addition, owners will need to learn to write better descriptions to convert these mobile users into paying guests.

I’m conflicted on this. Sure mobile use is increasing but as a vacation home owner or vacation rental manager, is this really the best environment to be selling a luxury vacation in? Do people really go to their mobile device and book a vacation? I’m not sure they do. In fact my experience tends to suggest they’ll do some research online but when it actually comes to making a reservation, they much prefer to speak to a human being. It’s why we continue to man our phones instead of diverting them to some call center far away. Real people dealing with real people.

4. Live or die by reviews: As reviews have become the de facto influence in the hotel industry, traveler reviews of vacation rentals will follow suit in 2013. Because traveler reviews equate to more original content, the major listing sites will try to replicate the success of TripAdvisor in soliciting as many reviews as possible. Slowly but surely, this will result in good vacation rental owners (the ones who go above and beyond) superseding their less-invested counterparts once and for all.

And this is nonsense and utter garbage too! Sure, I get that reviews are somewhat important for the first time guest unsure of what they may be getting but not everyone is, in fact, a first time guest. Our customers repeat for one reason only; they enjoy themselves. They then tell friends and family and refer them. They rarely write a review about us…  don’t believe me? Try finding one. We have. Few exist. Which leads me to why I think this advice is garbage. Frankly, I think it’s just a big company simply trying to position themselves in the market by asking visitors to fill some online form in, in the guise of helping others, while at the same time data mining that reviewers information.

5. Be gay friendly: 2013 will be a very competitive year for vacation rental owners trying to get a leg up on their competition and perhaps the #1 swing segment that owners will be vying for is gay travelers. Gay travel websites like Purple Roofs and Gay Journey will see vacation rental listings boom as owners realize the high quality of gay guests. Capturing even a tiny segment of gay travelers in any given region will be a game changer.

Are they serious? Why on earth would they even mention this? All that gay travelers want is to be treated and accepted like everyone else. They don’t want special attention bringing upon themselves. We understand that and we’re happy to welcome all guests regardless of their sexuality. We scoff at the idea that marketing to gay guests is a trend that will shape our industry. It won’t. Let’s get back to marketing to people and giving them the things they want on vacation.

6. Experiential travel: While travel in general will continue to edge towards experiential travel and away from generic, big-box, all-inclusive, air-conditioned-tour-bus-style hotels, vacation rentals will emerge as the perfectly-poised solution thanks to their affordability and growing supply. Rental owners able to articulate their authenticity (thus effectively overriding the same old hotel world everyone is bored with) will skyrocket in 2013. The use of a powerful vacation rental blog will emerge as perhaps the most popular trend.

We can agree with most of this… except the vacation rental blog bit. Yes, we know you’re on one right now so this may seem a little odd but the fact is, a blog is NOT going to shape a trend. Never has and never will. A blog can certainly provide more information with which to make decisions but not for one minute are people going to visit a blog in order to book their next vacation.

7. Hotels will get feisty: As the vacation rental industry continues to mature and steal hotel market share, hotel lobbyist groups will get more organized and aggressive in 2013 pushing hard for city and state legislature to outlaw short-term rentals. From here, it is inevitable that stricter regulations will be formulated. After all, the vacation rental industry DOES need more formalized regulations. The densest vacation rental regions will also lead the way as owners join to form a unified voice in opposition to the hotel oligarchy. If they don’t, more bans (and huge losses) like this in Manhattan will unfoil.

So hotels will get feisty will they? Good luck to them if they do. One thing’s for sure though, they still won’t be able to offer a private home with 2000 + square feet as well as the kind of amenities our industry can. How many hotels offer their guests a private pool each? How about a full size kitchen? A movie room? A games room? I could go on but you get the point. To pay for the very top suite at a hotel that might, just might, have all this would cost thousands.

All I can say is good luck to them in their quest. They’ve tried it for the last two decades in one guise or another but in our area tax dollars count more than anything else. And we have the market share. Put that in your pipe and go smoke it.

8. New services will turn the art of managing a vacation rental into a science: Up until very recently, the vacation rental industry has been a jerry-rigged one, comprised of part-time owners, band-aid solutions, and makeshift excel documents serving as occupancy calendars. 2013 will mark one of the most evolutionary years for the industry as more companies (than ever before) will enter the market to make things easier for the first-time owner. These services, competing for the loyalty of the almighty client, will start lowering their prices and offering their free tools to capture market share.

What a load of condescending nonsense. I mean, it really is. Has the author ever met a vacation rental owner or vacation rental manager? Seems HomeAway want to portray our industry as being close on illegal, unethical and unprofessional. In doing so, they cause great harm and damage to our industry with such junk. Sure, our industry hasn’t always been the most well organized and methodical but we’ve come along way in recent years. If someone had done some research they might have actually come across some real facts like the economic impact the industry has in certain areas… you know, numbers like $1.6 Billion in Osceola County alone…for instance.

Conclusion: 2013 will be a year of turmoil (both good and bad) for the vacation rental industry. At it’s most fundamental level, this coming year will set the stage for performance-based rewards for owners: no more will it be enough to simply buy a listing with VRBO. Owners will need to start getting proactive and persistent: that or watch their competitors emerge victorious.

And so we come to the conclusion. Seems the author is hedging his bets somewhat. I think I’ll end my little rant by simply saying we’re having our best year ever. There’s probably a reason behind that!

3 Responses to 8 Trends That Will Shape Vacation Rentals in 2013 – Really?

  1. Good day! I just would like to offer you a big thumbs up for your excellent
    info you’ve got right here on this post. I will be returning to your website for more soon.

  2. It’s Homeaway what do you expect! What Vacation Rentals became popular on was that they were down to earth, and brought the culture in. Homeaway in my opinion ruins face for Vacation Rentals.. they buy up all the small software companies to try to make every management company under their rule.. Is say Goaway Homeaway.. Sorry if you affiliate with them.. I just do not particular care for their half a billion dollar corporation.

    Ali Dee
    June 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm

  3. I agree Ali… HomeAway are just trying to bring a corporate feel to the vacation rental business and frankly, in doing so, they fail to see where the real value is and how the industry built itself. I don’t affiliate with them and never will. Much like the tour operators that I scorn and believe do an awful lot of damage to the vacation rental home business.

    June 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm

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