Skift launched its two-day Short-term Rental and Outdoor Summit today. After an introduction by Skift editor-in-chief Tom Lowry, 11 discussion panels followed.
Here are just some of the things we learned and heard from some of the industry’s established and emerging experts.
Vacation Rentals Outperform in 2020
During the first panel moderated by VRM Intel founder Amy Hinote, Jeff Hurst (Vrbo president) and Matt Roberts (Vacasa CEO) discussed How Family Travel Saved the Industry in 2020. With such a broad umbrella encompassing so many product types in the Short-Term Rental (STR) industry, Hurst pointed out that “the whole home was the winner this year.”
Though STRs performed better than hotels overall, understandably, people kept their 2020 adventures close to home. “Whether 20 miles or 200 miles, travelers want to be safe, experience diversity, have a yard, be outdoors. It’s important for our mental health,” Hurst said.
Hinote said the numbers recently released by Key Data bear out that 2020 was a story of “have and have nots.” Markets that were locked down early during the pandemic, or for long durations had a harder time bouncing back. For example, Hawaii’s adjusted paid occupancy is down 49% year to date compared to the same period last year.
That said, Roberts contends a silver lining of the pandemic is family travel. A Vacasa survey of 1,000 guests revealed 43% opted for “drive to” stays, family flexcation stays increased 15%, and guests traveling with pets rose 50%.
Looking ahead to 2022, Roberts sees more blue sky for STRs.
“(Vacation rentals) offer unique value and attractiveness as an alternative option. There was much already in place, but the pandemic accelerated things . . . I expect to see overall adoption that will support us not just in 2022, but into the future,” he said.
Cities more open to working with Short-Term Rentals
Former Seattle mayor Tim Burgess, Clarence Anthony (CEO, National League of Cities) and Amanda Pedigo, VP of government and corporate affairs for Expedia Group, gathered to tackle Regulating the Short-Term Rental Economy: What’s Working and What’s Not.
For a relatively young industry in urban markets, the panel agrees there is much work to be done. With Seattle as a case study example of a city with regulations now in place, it serves to look at how they navigated their path and juggled the agenda of both the municipality and the industry. Burgess has one word for how it worked: compromise.
But don’t look to Seattle for a roadmap without some bumps along the way.
As Pedigo has experienced over the last decade in various markets on behalf of Expedia, “developing the rules of the road” is imperative, but cities are not “one size fits all.”
“Every community is different and each has different needs,” she said.
Clarence Anthony (NLC) agreed and underscored the need for perspective. “The industry needs to have a strategy in place as you try to develop a welcome mat,” he said. “Industry came in and we weren’t ready, but now we’re ready . . . and excited. It’s about public-private partnerships.”
The wheels in the STR industry may turn slowly, but they do turn. Seattle adopted regulations. Pedigo assures San Diego has a Memorandum of Understanding in the works, and statewide pre-emptive laws are being introduced in upcoming legislative sessions in multiple states.
Other topics discussed
In addition to the previously mentioned Vrbo, Vacasa and Expedia, leaders from Sonder, Beyond Pricing, Evolve, Futurestay, Casai, Marriott International, OYO, Oasis and Rented, Inc. and other key industry players tackled topics such as Building Trust and Brand Loyalty Around the Rental Experience, A View on Europe’s Complex Vacation Rental Market, Bringing the Short-Term Rental Ecosystem into the Mainstream, Democratizing Tech to Reach the Single Owner, Why Cities and Business Travel Are Still Viable Markets.
The conference continues tomorrow at 10am EST with a focus on Outdoor Travel, as RV travel and camping have also seen increased popularity in 2020. We are seeing a number of parallels between the short-term rental and outdoor travel industries.
Quotable Predictions and Lessons Learned
It was a fast-moving day, and VRM Intel will be taking a deeper dive into all we learned at Skift’s summit once we get the videos. But here are some stand-out quotes we were able to capture from today’s jam-packed discussions.
Chip Conley, Airbnb Strategic Advisor/Modern Elder Academy Founder
“What I appreciated about Brian [Chesky, CEO and cofounder of Airbnb] is that he didn’t act like he knew it all.”
“To call Airbnb just an OTA is like calling Apple a computer company in 2007. They were just . . . Apple.”
Wouter Geerts, Senior Research Analyst, Skift
“A paradox of Airbnb is how they will scale their uniqueness. To use an analogy, are they a Mac or a PC?”
Jeff Hurst, President Vrbo/Expedia Group
“One, vacation rentals are about connection, they allow moments when people can reconnect; two, it’s about dynamics, about vacation rental owners acting quickly as entrepreneurs.”
Jennifer Hsieh, VP Homes & Villas, Marriott International
“Airbnb is a tech company . . . Marriott is a hospitality company.”
“Post-pandemic home rentals will continue to have demand. Travelers will continue to look for homes nearby. I’m very bullish about this business for the foreseeable future.”
Philip Kennard, Co-founder/CEO Futurestay
“We don’t like to be called traditional anything . . . we really celebrate entrepreneurs at Futurestay.”
“I challenge the concept that individuals cannot be professionalized. With smaller numbers, come higher reviews.”
Brian Egan, Founder/CEO Evolve
“It never feels that tech is developing as fast as it should, but if you pull back and look at the last 10 years, Airbnb was not relevant, Booking.com was within 10 feet of a vacation rental, Expedia was not in the game and HomeAway owned Vrbo . . . today, we [Evolve] redistribute pricing for 14,000 [owners in 500 markets] every day. We’ve come a long way, but we have a way to go.”
Clarence Anthony, CEO, National League of Cities
“The industry came in, and we weren’t ready as municipalities. Now we’re ready for those conversations, and I’m excited about them,”
“I want to see more people get jobs out of the industry. Covid has unveiled that people of color are struggling, and I want the industry to reach out and be good neighbors in that way as well. We need to wake up and say we have a role in the industry to play as well.”
“When we talk about affordable housing and building wealth, for people of color, specifically, this could be a major opportunity to create business opportunities from all kinds of services […]. I don’t think that was the conversation initially.”
Amanda Pedigo, VP, Government Affairs, Expedia Group
The industry now has a unique opportunity to “set the rules of the road for the sector, and I think those rules of the road can only be accomplished via collaborative partnership between the industry, elected officials, and people from throughout the sector.”
You can still sign up for access to the videos from today, which Skift says will be posted by EOD Friday, December 11, 2020. Use Promo code VRM Intel to save.