VRWS Leadership Interview of the Day
In approaching the 10th 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.
Describe your career in the vacation rental industry and how you reached your current position in the company.
In 2010, I made a career change, leaving accounting/finance and jumping into hospitality research. Before starting in my new role though, I took a couple months and couch-surfed my way through Europe. This experience not only broadened my perspective on the diverse ways people choose to travel, but also guided me deeper into the hospitality industry and its ever-evolving landscape, which has become my passion.
I took on a role at PKF Hospitality Research as an analyst, focusing on understanding the connection between economic patterns and hotel performance in the U.S. By 2012, I stepped into the world of short-term rentals, becoming an early Airbnb host. As the inventory of Airbnbs grew, they began to be seen as an emerging threat to hotels, and tracking this trend became part of my job. Back then, tracking Airbnb’s growth was pretty manual: we’d literally count listings city by city. In 2015, AirDNA came into the picture and launched as the first company to provide data and insights into the short-term rental industry. And they were doing a much better job of collecting this data than our Excel sheets.
Their launch was a game-changer for the hospitality industry: they offered a more systematic way of accessing daily data from short-term rental platforms, stitching all the scattered pieces of information together. I told AirDNA’s co-founder Scott Shatford, “Give me your entire database, all the raw data, I want it all,” and soon became one of their first customers and played a role in disseminating their data within the hotel industry. With access to AirDNA’s data set, I developed a deep understanding and expertise of the underlying dynamics within the short-term rental space, which was boosted by CBRE’s resources when PKF Hospitality Research was acquired by them in 2015.
In October 2020, my love of AirDNA led to another shift in my career trajectory as I joined them as VP of Research. Now in 2023, my responsibilities have grown as the SVP of Analytics and Chief Economist. Today, I head a team of six economists and analysts helping stakeholders pinpoint evolving trends, lucrative investment pockets, and the general direction in which the vacation rental domain is headed.
Outside of work, my personal ties to the STR sector have remained strong. I’ve co-hosted on Airbnb with my wife since 2012, and also play a part in managing my parents’ four vacation rentals in Maine.
In your opinion, what are the main current challenges in the vacation rental industry, and how do you think your company can help overcome them?
The vacation rental industry is facing many challenges in the current environment: growing supply, increased competition, changing consumer preferences, regulatory uncertainty, and economic volatility. These challenges require property owners, managers, and investors to be more strategic and data-driven in their decisions and actions.
- Monitoring supply growth and its impact on occupancy and ADR. This is important for identifying opportunities and threats, as well as for benchmarking performance against competitors.
- Preparing for a possible economic downturn or (less likely) a recession. This should be on top of mind for anyone in the industry, as tough economic times can affect travel demand and consumer spending. However, it is not necessarily bad news for short-term rentals, as they can offer more affordable and flexible options for travelers than hotels.
- Adapting to the increased competition and professionalization of the industry. This means investing in newer technologies and tools that can help improve efficiency, quality, and guest satisfaction. It also means staying updated on the industry’s latest trends and best practices.
- Expanding the demand base and extending the shoulder season. This means adapting to the changing mindset of travelers and hosts about when and where guests want to travel. Short-term rentals can offer unique experiences and destinations that can appeal to different types of travelers and occasions.
In response to these challenges, AirDNA has a vital role to play. We were the pioneers in tracking data in the STR industry, with a history going back eight years. Our comprehensive data allows STR stakeholders — from hosts to property managers — to make informed decisions by understanding market dynamics, current earning potential, and forward pacing. As competition increases, there’s a pressing need for more accurate data tools to optimize business operations throughout the year. AirDNA’s insights can guide businesses on where to invest for maximum returns.
What are your expectations for the 2023 edition of VRWS in Barcelona, and what makes you particularly interested in attending this specific edition?
It’s no small feat that the 2023 edition of VRWS marks its 10th anniversary, a testament to its importance in the industry. I’ve been to many STR conferences throughout my career, but there’s something particularly exciting about VRWS, as Europe’s flagship STR event. Especially given how rapidly the STR market is booming in Europe right now. This growth underscores the importance of coming together, sharing insights, and understanding market shifts. VRWS stands out as an event that brings together the best in the industry to raise the whole sector, and it helps that it’s always in such amazing locations!
It’s my first time attending, and I look forward to diving into the thick of things and meeting some new and old friends as European operators. And with our AirDNA office based in Barcelona, it’ll be an excellent opportunity for me to connect with my colleagues locally.
Could you provide a brief preview of what attendees can expect from your participation during the Vacation Rental World Summit?
I’m honored to be the opening keynote speaker, where I will share some exclusive insights and forecasts from AirDNA’s data and analytics. My keynote will cover three main topics:
- The secrets behind Europe’s blockbuster summer: I will reveal the driving factors behind 2023’s soaring demand, such as the guest mix, and the property types and destinations that performed best. I will also show how AirDNA’s data can help you understand and optimize your performance in different seasons and markets.
- The top property managers: I’ll be sharing some inspiring stories and best practices from some of the most successful property managers in Europe based on a comprehensive analysis of AirDNA’s data. I will also give you some actionable tips and tactics that you can apply to your own business to increase your revenue and guest satisfaction.
- The outlook for 2024: I will provide you with a data-driven forecast for the short-term rental market in Europe, highlighting the opportunities and challenges ahead. I will also discuss how to adapt your strategies to changing traveler preferences and behaviors and how to deal with regulatory uncertainty and economic volatility.
You’ll have the opportunity to meet Jamie directly at VRWS in Barcelona
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