If you’ve been in this game for any time at all, you’ve likely been asked the question, “So how did you end up in the vacation rental industry?”
Because I can’t help but use a little sarcasm in my humor, my standing start to the answer is always, “Well, right after I graduated with my degree in vacation rental management . . .”
The reality is that there is no obtainable degree. It’s an industry and a career path that most have fallen into by chance. While there are many ways to get here, there’s a common thread among those who stay. This vacation rental thing gets in your blood.
That’s why this year has been one of the biggest challenges for so many in our space. The ups and downs of 2020, and the apparent extension of said challenges into 2021, have made keeping one’s passion for this industry challenging for many.
On a macro level, the global shutdown and economic problems that the COVID-19 pandemic caused have led to vast unemployment across the US. By early April, more than 310 million Americans were on lockdown at home, over 30 million had filed initial unemployment claims, and the unemployment rate had risen to a record high of 14.7 percent. Businesses worldwide faced a sudden onset of significant challenges and changes that required a strategic plan for survival during and after the pandemic.
Nearly nine months into the pandemic, we see many glimpses of hope on the horizon. Air travel in the US reached its post-March peak the day before Christmas, with over 1.1 million Americans passing through checkpoints. Millions of people took long-anticipated road trips to nearby destinations to celebrate the festive season with friends and family. Americans are traveling, and the shift in their market and travel behavior is placing them in your vacation rental homes rather than public hotels. While this shift is ideal for our industry, there is more pressure to perform than ever before.
A Talent Paradigm Shift
COVID-19 changed the way we work overnight, and we need to change our thinking and keep up with the ever-evolving market. The vacation rental industry has not only shifted because of the pandemic but also matured and reached a new level. Property managers have used this time to adapt, reassess their work models, create a strategic survival plan, and find innovative ways to keep their heads above water.
Work trends changed considerably and have been reset for the foreseeable future. In many cases, companies are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers and freelancers for flexibility.
Remote workers, telecommuting, digital nomads, online roles, and automation are on the rise, and Zoom meetings are the preferred form of office communication. The pandemic has also brought a shift in employee expectations with a focus on flexibility and a healthy work–life balance.
As a general rule, vacation rental managers have been historically hesitant to allow for remote workers. Now that many are forced to work in this manner, managers are starting to see the benefits. Offering remote roles significantly increases the level of talent available for a specific function.
While many hands-on positions such as housekeeping and maintenance are impossible to do remotely, positions in reservations, marketing, accounting, and even business development can all be done via the internet and the now ubiquitous Zoom meetings.
As with remote workers, many managers had been hesitant to hire individuals who worked at other vacation rental firms because they were concerned the workers had “bad” experiences or were not trained professionally.
There has been a significant shift in this thinking as the industry evolves and ages. There are tens of thousands of experienced professionals who bring years of experience along with their passion for the industry.
No, there is no obtainable degree for our industry, and finding the right talent is challenging. Still, there is a silver lining to the COVID-19 layoffs and cutbacks: a labor pool of talented, experienced, and resilient professionals with a new set of skills and a fresh approach.
The Best Teams Win
Finding and building the right team can be time-consuming, challenging, and often overwhelming. The competition for talent is fierce, and connecting the right candidates with specific roles within your company is no easy task.
Whether you tap into the existing vacation rental talent pool or reach out to the extended hospitality industry, there has never been a greater time to build a team. It is essential to have a well-designed talent strategy that aligns with the business’s objectives and goals.
Throughout all the challenges and changes of recent times, one truth still holds—the very best vacation rental companies have the very best teams. Whether your company is already the market leader or is striving to be one, the best investment of time and resources you can make in 2021 is to identify, hire, and inspire the very best.