Despite unexpected complications from Hurricane José, this year’s Vineyard Homeowner Forum was our most well attended one yet! The Forum was once again held at the unique and special “Fourway” – home of our hosts Jani Gardner and Scott Tuttle in Vineyard Haven last Saturday. The crowd was engaged and enthusiastic and included some long-time listers as well as some very new ones.
WeNeedaVacation.com owners, Joan and Jeff Talmadge, welcomed everyone, and the three of us discussed the theme of this year’s Forums: Surviving & Thriving in the Midst of Profound Changes in the Vacation Rental Industry.
Joan commenced the presentation by noting some of the recent enormous changes in the industry, spearheaded by HomeAway/VRBO’s decision to charge vacationers a fee and to control the booking process. This business model is a switch from their being an online marketing site like ours to a booking platform in which virtually all financial transactions now must be conducted through their site. She then explained that we feel that this business model is not at all beneficial to either homeowners or vacationers in this Cape and Islands region and that we are committed to allowing homeowners to retain complete control of the booking process and have easy access to the contact information for any inquiring vacationers. We are also committed to NOT charging our vacationers a fee for using our site.
But Joan stressed the need to change with the times and how this is important for our company as well as for our homeowners. The presentation included ways in which WeNeedaVacation.com continues to aggressively market our site to growing numbers of vacationers to drive record numbers of them to our listings. And then we offered suggestions to the homeowners attending about ways in which they can, and should, provide a thoroughly informative and attractive listing. Also discussed were ways to manage their rental properties to assure them booking success and appreciative guests, who will return every season or at least submit glowing guest reviews for other future vacationers to see. We noted the importance of homeowners partnering with us by sharing some of the rich content on our site on social media, just as we are constantly using social media to promote our site and drive traffic to their homes.
Also noted were a couple of future initiatives that we are taking to compete well in the industry. One of these is the need for us to respond to the growing demand from vacationers for us to provide the ability for them to book your homes online. They like, and are coming to expect, the quickness and ease of online booking. As expected, many homeowners in attendance were wary of our following our competition to require homeowners to allow online booking. But Jeff made it very clear that the option to allow online payments would be completely voluntary for homeowners, and that the use of personal checks will still be totally acceptable.
And finally, Joan provided the group with an update about the impending Lodging Tax. She received an enthusiastic round of applause for the 10+ years of time and effort she has devoted to staying abreast of the tax issue, communicating regularly to our homeowners about it, and doing everything we can to advocate on behalf of our homeowners against the tax with our state legislators.
As always at the end of the presentation portion of the Forum, homeowners were invited to ask questions and share ideas with one another. We are looking forward to our next 2017 Forums, starting with both a morning and afternoon session in Brewster on October 21st, and concluding with the Wellesley Forum on October 28th.