Lessons learned from a season of short-term rental industry events | Smartbnb

Lessons learned from a season of events in the short-term rental industry October 22, 2019

By the Smartbnb team

October's been a busy month for us at Smartbnb, as we attended our first ever batch of events as sponsors! The first was the Vacation Rental World Summit in Lake Como, and the second was the VRMA International Conference.

Two very different events, and yet we learnt a few things in common. Here's our recap.

It's a tight-knit community

Our collective experience with events prior to Smartbnb was in industries different to travel; and the first thing that jumped at us was the feeling of warmth and intimacy.

So many people know each other and are all to keen to introduce you to others, share ideas, techniques and tips.

And even with us being newcomers we were welcome in many conversations. People were fast to make introductions, so by the end of each event, we felt like we were part of the gang.

The lesson: This warmth is more important than it looks at first glance. Many stagnating industries don't share that kind of attitude, and they've let competition tear into the community feeling. We must do everything possible to keep the friendliness and community spirit within the community, and make sure collaboration prevails.

Technology. Technology everywhere.

Maybe we're biased because we're in tech, but everywhere we turned the conversations often focused around things like 'what's the next big technology' or 'the next big disruptor'.

It was great to take part in those conversations, and we certainly could appreciate how welcoming the industry is to improvements. But at times we missed being able to take part in conversations that were more rooted in the basics: hospitality, humanity, and service.

The lesson: The STR industry loves technology, but we'd like to see more said about the status and progress of what makes great hospitality, how to delight guests and the secrets behind outstanding service. Yes, these topics have been touched upon many times, but we'd like to make sure they remain a constant.

The widening gap between direct bookings and channel bookings

A few weeks ago, Transparent launched the 2019 edition of their reputed North American STR Survey. Among the findings, the Survey showed that property managers are seeing a considerable increase in the proportion of booking dollars coming from the direct channel, as opposed to via Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway and others, to the tune of 40% of booking dollars.

We were curious to ask PMs about this split, and were able to hear, first hand, that the 'direct vs. other channels' gap is wider for PMs in urban locations, whereas smaller PMs or those in more rural/coastal locations, still rely heavily on other channel bookings. This points to a continuation of the consolidation of the market, and is a very interesting phenomenon.

The lesson: Our opinion is that this split is a manifestation of market maturity, but also it poses a challenge for the channels, who will need to prove and enhance their value more than ever to maintain their levels of growth.

BONUS: Very cool swag on offer

Our head of Marketing, Angie, was eager to see how the STR market compared with other industries in terms of free goodies! And what she found is that this industry doesn't rely on swag as much as others do, but still we were glad to see how loved our swag was! Our branded socks, smartie-bnb's candy and custom stickers (printed gorgeously by the great people at Stickermule), flew off the table!

More events, please!

We're definitely looking forward to our next events, and we've already booked to be at:

If you'd like to schedule a 1:1 at any of these conferences please feel free to get in touch, our email is growth@smartbnb.io.