(From left to right) Bob Cusack, Suzi Cusack, Mary Beth Albertini (newcomer), and Brianne (Pope) Murphy – the TruPlace booth squad at the VRMA International Conference in New Orleans, LA.
Observations from the Exhibit Hall Floor and Beyond
This is my inaugural blog post with TruPlace. I joined the company’s marketing department a week prior to VRMA International Conference 2019. Jetting off to New Orleans on week two was not a bad way to start a new job in a new industry (for me). I came to VR from cable, where I’ve attended my share of conferences over the years. I’m guessing that I may have been the brand-newest member attending the VRMA conference, among a record-setting 2,000 attendees. More than one person I met remarked that I’d be “drinking from the firehose!”, which was ideal because I was thirsty for knowledge. And VRMA 2019 did not disappoint.
I thought I’d share a perspective through a set of fresh eyes and ears that were there to absorb information and learn as much as possible. My approach was that of a journalist – to observe and ask questions that would answer the “who, what, where, why and how” about the Vacation Rental Management industry.
Three days spent on the exhibit hall floor, attending keynotes, general and breakout sessions, and flitting about a multitude of parties was unquestionably the best initiation one could hope for.
Following are some of my decidedly industry-newbie takeaways:
- The industry is changing. Fast. New players have emerged in the past year while some have scaled up or down in market share, and still, others have appeared in a new iteration under a different brand umbrella. This seems especially so among the technology partners. And there is no indication that the tides of change will soon cease. So, we all ought to buckle up and enjoy (or endure) the ride.
- The industry is growing. Judging by the number of Uber drivers funneling into the Hyatt portico and the standing-room-only audiences in several breakout sessions, the conference is drawing big numbers from both the VRM and vendor sides of the industry. And when Marriott Homes and Villas enters the scene as the keynote, this suggests certain growth and expansion. Finally, VRMA’s announcement about the new Vacation Rental Management Certificate program signals great investment in the future of its mission and its members.
- Employing a game-show theme (Survey Says) to facilitate a panel discussion on hot-button issues impacting the industry is both effective and entertaining. Thought leaders sharing their expertise, prognostications and even some no-holds-barred commentary raised applause levels (and a few eyebrows). This one hour was perhaps the most beneficial to me for glimpsing a holistic view of the past, present, and future of the VRM space. I walked away feeling both excitement and anticipation for what’s to come in the next year and beyond.
- Technology continues to impact the industry in ever-increasing ways. And…well, I am just too new to articulate how, but you can probably cite several examples from your own experiences. This is one area I look forward to becoming much more fluent in by the time VRMA International 2020 comes around.
- The industry (members) like to party. A lot. This comes as no great surprise to me. We are in the hospitality industry which, by definition, means the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
If I had to write a headline to capture the essence of the conference, it would read something like:
The Best Guest Experience Still Drives the Vacation Rental Management Industry
Regardless of whether you are VRM, a technology partner, or a services provider, at the end of the day our mutual goal is to make people happy. There is an acknowledgment that vacation guests come with some great and varied expectations. Considerable time, expense and effort go into planning where to spend this special time. And they have no shortage of choices. So, we are all here to put our best foot forward to deliver the very best experience that will delight them, convince them to come back and tell all their friends!
I came to the VRMA International Conference 2019 a stranger. But because of the friendly and generous reception I received by everyone I encountered I now consider myself one of you. Thank you for your hospitality. I hope to pay it forward to next year’s newest newcomer at VRMA 2020!
Mary Beth Albertini joined TruPlace as director of marketing in October. She’s passionate about marketing and human behavior and finding ways to make them work together. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org