Lessons from the VRMA European Conference

The Vacasa team recently had the opportunity to attend VRMA’s annual European Conference in Amsterdam, an event which gathers international vacation rental management professionals to discuss industry trends and share best practices. This year’s conference had over 300 attendees representing 18 different countries.  

Across the different sessions, we heard from industry 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.

By the end of the conference, we’d noticed some key differences in how the industry operates in Europe compared to how we do things on the other side of the Atlantic. Here are our most valuable takeaways from the conference and best European practices to consider integrating into a vacation rental management business.

Don’t underestimate the opportunity in Europe.

For U.S.-based vacation rental management owners (VRMOs), it’s easy to focus exclusively on the vacation rental market at home, but the European industry is in fact significantly larger 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 kind of opportunity, we’re missing out.

Tourists have been staying in European vacation homes for centuries, and there’s certainly 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 as such European vacation rental managers have mastered delivering consistently exceptional service to a diverse clientele. 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 Disney 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 some reluctance, European vacation rental managers have learned to cohabitate with corporate booking sites to the benefit of their guests and owners alike.

In fact, according to Avantio, the average European vacation rental management company lists on 8-12 booking channels, as opposed to U.S. companies, who list on 1-3. European managers know that their guests are coming 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 rush to 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 every 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 the most seamless, memorable, and personalized experiences.