On February 23, The Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP) held their fourteenth annual regional seminar on the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina in Kill Devil Hills. Hosted by Durk Johnson of Meredith Lodging and Joe Refosco, owner at Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacation Rentals and president of VRHP, the day followed a particular theme: Housekeeping—owning the brand.
During the first half of the seminar, Johnson taught attendees about bed bugs and the multiple viruses and bacteria that can be easily spread through vacation rentals, all while passing around stuffed toys that represented each subject. He then went on to discuss the ways in which cleaning processes should take place. This included techniques like “Follow the Wall” in which someone who is inspecting a rental would begin on one side of the unit and guide along each wall of the house, creating invisible walls as well, in order to properly inspect an entire unit for cleanliness. Johnson also talked about the importance of using black lights and personal protective equipment, as well as having a bloodborne pathogen policy set in place.
“You never want to lose a house because of housekeeping.” This was the main focus for Refosco. He stressed that housekeeping is critical in order to run a successful vacation rental business. Often, the cleanliness of a vacation rental is the first opportunity a guest can have to be displeased. If a guest or owner is unhappy with the cleanliness of the unit when he first arrives, then a tone of unhappiness is set for the remainder of his stay. Rofosco reminisced on losing a contract with a vacation rental owner in the past because the owner’s rental was not properly cleaned. That is one mistake that Refosco stressed he would never make again.
As Refosco spoke of the importance of properly cleaned units, he also said that in order to be confident in knowing that properties are being cleaned appropriately as a vacation rental management company owner, you have to take care of your staff. Refosco has found that by paying his housekeeping staff higher wages than some other companies, and by rewarding them periodically, he has been able to retain a better quality of staff members.
Throughout the seminar, Johnson incorporated several group activities including an interactive activity where people answered a few questions about themselves and shared their answers with someone that they didn’t know previously. He also chose seven volunteers to stand in front of the group, each playing a different role in the vacation rental industry, in order to simulate “The Big Picture” of how housekeeping affects every part of a company from the reservationist to the owner relations specialist, etc. Johnson also had all of the attendees perform a team building activity where teams were formed and each was given spaghetti, string, masking tape, and a marshmallow. Then the teams were allotted eighteen minutes to build the tallest, free-standing, marshmallow-supporting tower that they could build.
The vendors of the seminar also introduced their companies to the group. They included Jeremiah Gall and Koryn Okey of Breezeway, Michael Leary and LeTroy Holley of CleanConnect, and Olivia Becilla of LSI.
Timothy Sweeney, dean of College of the Albemarle, Dare County Campus, spoke about the career pathway to Hospitality & Tourism that the college now offers. This includes several certification courses, ambassador and computer skills classes, and Sweeney even discussed the ability to receive a four-year degree on the Dare County Campus without ever leaving the Outer Banks. College of the Albemarle has teamed up with North Carolina Wesleyan College to provide courses to complete a bachelor’s degree following the completion of an associate’s degree on the College of the Albemarle campus. For more information on the College of the Albemarle, visit www.albemarle.edu.
Afterwards, Johnson gave several product demonstrations including one item that turned a quart of water into gel in less than a minute! Then he read a heart-warming story to the group symbolizing how every step taken, no matter how small, makes a difference to somebody or something. He continued with an uplifting speech reminding everyone in the room of how integral housekeeping is to the vacation rental industry and how they should take pride in their jobs because without housekeepers, the vacation rental industry couldn’t exist in the capacity that it does now. Finally, he ended the seminar by drawing names for prizes including gift cards, a vacation from Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacation Rentals, and two TVs—which was definitely a crowd-pleaser.
For more information regarding the VRHP or to register for future VRHP events, please visit www.vrhp.org.