VRWS Leadership Interview of the Day
In approaching the 9th edition of the Vacation Rental World Summit, we’re releasing a series of interviews to leaders, key players and highly motivated people in our industry whose companies make a deep impact in our space and will be present at VRWS.
The aim is to get you some insight into these leaders and the company they founded, manage or work for, as well as getting some behind the scenes on their thinking, their motivation and their drive.
SARAH DU PRE
How would you describe your career path and what brought you to AirDNA?
“I’ve always loved to travel and hoped to find a project that I could be truly passionate about, as my previous position in pharmaceutical sales did not feel like a great fit. My husband is from Spain, and when we moved to Barcelona, I was fortunate enough to join AirDNA in October 2016. Since then, I’ve watched the company grow from the ground up, and my role evolved from Sales to Inside Sales, until I was given the opportunity to lead the Strategic team in 2021. At AirDNA, we’re on a mission to create economic opportunities by democratizing access to the world’s most comprehensive and accurate data, and I feel proud to play my part in empowering STR stakeholders to make smarter decisions. My colleagues are some of my closest friends, and the dedication that we have to our work and to making AirDNA a place that we are excited to come to each day is the highlight of my career here.”
Different markets are usually shaped by different trends. Comparing data from the US and Europe, what major trends are occurring in the short-term rental industry?
“Today, the uncertainty of the global economy is on everyone’s mind; and while pessimism surrounding growing inflation, hikes in gas prices, supply chain disruptions, and stock market instability, it’s important to look at other performance indicators to keep a cool head and anticipate the upcoming trends. The STR industry has shown incredible resilience over the past couple of years, and despite a global pandemic that brought never-seen-before travel restrictions threatening the travel industry as a whole, the STR space made the most of the situation, with now more travelers choosing STRs over traditional lodging options.
2021 was a unique year for short-term rentals worldwide: without enough supply to accommodate pent-up demand in pandemic-favorite destinations such as rural, mountain, and coastal markets, occupancy rates rocketed into the stratosphere. This wave of demand overwhelmed the market, pushing ADRs to the max, thus leading to considerable profits for the U.S. and European industries (+37.5% and 35.5% YOY growth, respectively).
2022 is quite a different story, though: growth in demand is still relentless (forecast of +22.3% demand in the U.S, H1 2022 up +7.2% vs. 2019; +67.5% YOY in Europe), and we can see that in the U.S., supply is being added en masse to those popular destination markets to meet demand. This is taking the U.S. occupancy rate down, adding a layer of competition for existing hosts and leading more people to experience short-term rentals, especially during peak periods in which many markets were constrained in 2021.
In Europe, the balance between supply and demand has not been reached yet. Occupancy rates are still at a record high (+12.6% in June 2022 vs June 2021), as supply has yet to recover at the rate of the demand, and we have to wait to see if Europe will follow the same pattern as the U.S. in terms of new supply bringing occupancy down.
We’ve seen how domestic travel boomed during the pandemic, and we think this trend will continue as travelers may have to reset their intentions according to their budget. The euro reaching parity with the U.S. dollar is another challenge that may disrupt the industry’s total recovery, as it may result in increasing ADRs within Europe to battle increasing costs and retain the value of stays. European travelers, with a weak euro and high inflation, might have to postpone their U.S. trips, while Americans should benefit from a strong dollar to enjoy their European holidays.
With the market getting increasingly competitive, hosts will have to up their game to study and outperform the competition, relying on dynamic pricing and finding those diamonds in the rough that can perform long-term or special amenities that will help guarantee future bookings.”
You seem to be on a mission to spread education around short-term rentals among high-level investors. What are the main challenges in dealing with hedge funds and financial institutions?
“Convincing traditionally conservative and long-standing institutions to get comfortable with new data sources, like those provided by AirDNA, was quite challenging at first. When the company launched in 2015, the Airbnb phenomenon was just beginning, turning us into the new kids on the block. While the short-term rental industry kept growing year after year, financial institutions and high-level investors understood the value of adding STR data to their existing hotel and housing analysis in order to grasp the full picture. Since then, our research team has been providing invaluable insights and findings to help these financial institutions navigate through trends with a never-seen-before accuracy in the short-term rental space. We pride ourselves on ensuring our projections exceed the smallest-possible margins of error, which is easier to substantiate now that Airbnb is publicly traded. When stacked against Wall Street’s, our forecastings are simply more accurate. All in all, breaking into a new industry where AirDNA’s reputation must be built up from scratch has been an exciting challenge that I am glad to have accepted.”
VRWS 22 is about to land in Porto. What do you expect from the overall experience?
“VRWS is always an amazing way to connect with forward-thinking members of the industry. The STR space is getting more and more professionalized, thus more competitive, so flagship events like VRWS are essential to share knowledge and best practices in the industry. This will be my 3rd time joining the event, and I believe this edition will be the biggest one yet, so I’m excited to meet new faces and reconnect with old ones. The conference is always a perfect balance of engaging content and lively networking. I’m looking forward to bringing our valuable research and findings to get all the attendees ready for what is coming, arm them with actionable data and help them shape new strategies to maximise revenues.”
You’ll have the opportunity to listen to Sarah live on stage on Sept. 15th at 10:15 AM for a session on Harnessing the Power of Data to Unleash your Profitability
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