Vacation rental owners and managers are preparing to fight back against the changes imposed on them over the past two years. The Association of Vacation Rental Owners and Affiliates (AVROA) is being reimagined and reinvigorated, and 2018 will be the year vacation rental owners begin to have a strong voice, active education, and participation in the vacation industry.
On September 8, in offices located on the thirty-first floor of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, a group of owners, managers, and vacation rental (VR) industry companies from the United States, Canada, and Europe met to take the first step toward creating AVROA 2.0. All had a shared purpose: to discuss how AVROA could do more to create value for its members and support the industry. Here are a summary of what happened in that meeting and a peek at what you can expect in 2018.
Effective January 1, 2018, AVROA will formally become a nonprofit agency. The association has created a fifteen-person board comprised of VR owners, managers, and affiliated companies. April Salter, founder of the Just Say No to VRBO Service Fees movement, will be AVROA’s chair; Rod Fitts, founder of AVROA, will be vice chair; and Ralph Moorhouse, a VR owner, will be treasurer. Five subcommittees, each chaired by AVROA board members, also were created.
These subcommittees will focus the association’s efforts in five key areas: education, member engagement, marketing, advocacy, and listing services relations. After laying some of the initial groundwork, these committees will expand to include others who have volunteered to help. To give you a glimpse of the future, the chairs of the education, marketing, and advocacy subcommittees have written summaries of their objectives for 2018.
AVROA’s Education Priorities
Our task in Chicago with the education subcommittee was to work out how we could create value for AVROA members by first researching what is already being offered and then committing to create a library of materials for members.
Over the past few years, many new providers have launched training products that advertise how owners and managers can increase income and occupancy while significantly reducing workload. Although this material is what owners and managers are looking for, sifting through courses, downloads, and webinars is time-consuming at best, and figuring out which courses are worth the investment can be frustrating and confusing.
Initially, we believed the best course of action was to find all available content and establish some form of evaluation process. As time went on, our thoughts turned to how we could help launch AVROA in January and provide some real value. We all knew of courses and training programs being delivered by prominent industry players with vast experience, so we decided to offer an evaluation of these programs at the outset and use this evaluation to create a set of standards as a benchmark. Thus, our work begins.
The goal for 2018 is to create a solid education hub through which AVROA members can search a database of books, training programs, and short courses while also having access to a library of downloadable resources. We also turned our attention to the different types of members who would benefit from these materials, from the new, independent owner needing basic but thorough information to the professional owner or manager seeking listing site independence. Collating all these resources is going to be a challenge, but we are an enthusiastic and motivated team committed to bringing the best to this new venture.
Heather Bayer (chair), Trevor Wiesnewski, Ryan Liebentritt, Ralph Moorehouse, and Maria Rekrut, AVROA Education Committee
AVROA’s Membership and Marketing Priorities
The year 2018 will be a leap forward in AVROA member involvement. We want our members to be engaged in AVROA, not just standing on the sidelines. We are assembling an all-star cast to train our members on best practices in areas such as guest relations, operations, marketing, and investments. AVROA will be the hub for members to gain elite training for the VR industry.
Our industry needs a place to meet, connect, and share wins and losses. We are excited to create this place with our AVROA Members Community. Not only will this group serve as the ultimate FAQ sounding board, but members will have a place to network with each other. The AVROA Members Community also will help unite owners and managers under a common mission and with a common voice. Industry news will be aggregated into this community, consolidating the many sources owners and managers use today.
AVROA’s new website will help members identify why they are joining AVROA, and it will deliver a best practice guide for our trainings. This guide can be customized to members’ needs. Thus, whether members are just getting started with their first rental, already own and manage a handful of rentals, or have a property management company, they can rest assured that the recommended training will be on point, meet them at their level, and help their business grow.
The best training programs in the world fail, however, if nobody knows they exist. Our marketing committee is here to make sure members are in the loop as each training tool or resource is announced. We also are tasked with spreading the AVROA mission and bringing in new members to help strengthen the community.
Jason Beaton (co-chair), Annie Switzer (co-chair), Barbara Wilde, Erin Sandoval, April Salter, AVROA Education and Marketing Committee
AVROA’s Advocacy Priorities
The best way to begin a discussion of our plans is to state who we are and what we stand for: We are property owners and managers. We are small business owners, kitchen-table businesses, and sometimes mom-and-pop businesses. We are the boots on the ground, the ones responsible for paying bank loans and property taxes, for keeping the paint fresh and creating amazing vacation environments. We are the ones who, in all likelihood, bought our properties because we love being there. We are passionate about them. Arguably, we are an odd bunch, and we get really excited about participating in the human interaction of helping the traveler plan that most precious event—a vacation.
We are small businesses, but there are tens of thousands of us. Over the past eighteen months, it has become clear that VR owners and managers need a stronger voice in the industry. Working together, we can have a greater impact. We seek to earn your trust as an organization. We seek to be your voice, your advocate for change, your mouthpiece, and your warrior.
AVROA’s advocacy roles will be as follows:
- We will be spokespersons for VR owners and managers when issues concerning our industry arise. We will issue press releases and statements and speak with a unified voice to online travel agents, media, and policy makers about issues that are common to our members.
- We will provide resources to help members battle unreasonable local ordinances and harmful zoning proposals. These tools will include sample letters, tips to organize opposition, and advice about how to talk to elected officials.
- We will monitor and report on issues that could affect large segments of our membership.
- We will develop partnerships with organizations and companies that support our policy positions.
We will focus on shaping our advocacy positions and launching tools for our members in the second quarter of 2018.
The time is here. We need a voice. We need education. We need advocacy. We need a way to network with each other and provide leadership for our industry. If you are interested in advocacy or know someone who is, contact Byron Ackerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Byron Ackerman (chair), Erin Sandoval, April Salter, AVROA Advocacy Committee
By the end of the Chicago meeting, there was a growing feeling among VR owners and managers, one that many had not felt in a while. It was a feeling of hope and a belief that real tools may have emerged from this meeting and that owners and managers will be able to have a voice in the market and re-establish those values that many see slipping away.