Last week, Streamline Vacation Rental Software hosted 525 property management professionals and forty-one vendors at its fifth annual Streamline Summit at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. The event’s “rise up” theme and hot air balloon imagery symbolized the company’s view of the vacation rental industry’s upward trajectory.
Twelve blocks of breakout sessions occurred along eight topic tracks, five of which were dedicated to Streamline Software and its tools: revenue, efficiency, knowledge, brand, and accounting expertise. The other three tracks included panels and roundtables as well as two tracks on partners and industry trends. Sessions ranged from WordPress basics to work order management to an open discussion called “What’s on Your Mind?” led by Vacation Rental Marketing Blog founder Matt Landau.
Streamline COO Sagri Corzo-Obregon said some of the most in-demand sessions included StreamTrust Accounting, revenue management services, StreamShare, housekeeping, round tables, and panel discussions. One of those panels was led by VRM Intel’s Amy Hinote about vacation rental regulations. She was joined by Chuck Steeg, owner of Luxury Gulf Rentals in Orange Beach, Alabama; Theo Kracke, owner of Paradise Retreats in Santa Barbara, California; and Lee Zeller, owner of Accommodations in Telluride in Telluride, Colorado. Together they answered questions and discussed common reasons regulations are proposed, as well as what works or doesn’t work in fighting them, including petitions, the use of data, and other strategies.
Of the event as a whole, Zeller said “My biggest takeaway was that the community of vacation rental managers comes together to effect major changes for our industry.” She has attended every Streamline Summit. Her team doesn’t have a specific agenda when they go, she said, but they come away with “so many things to change, like documents, customer outreach, making sure we represent our true authentic selves as Telluride locals to stand out.”
Landau led his roundtable discussion in rapid-fire style, giving property managers twenty seconds to ask a question and the group a collective four total minutes to respond with concise answers. Questions raised included how to differentiate guest damage versus wear and tear to owners, how to stand out as a small company in a large and competitive market, and how to engage owners in improving their properties.
This session was a favorite for Brian Harris, president and CEO of Harris Properties Management in Gulf Shores, Alabama. This year’s summit was his third. “It’s always good to put faces with names,” he said. “We talk to Streamline people all year, so it was good to be able to sit around a table and talk with them about things over breakfast.”
Harris Properties has used Streamline software since 2012. Harris said his company uses around 30 to 40 percent of the tools available with the software to manage its one hundred properties. He and his team attended the summit to learn what additional tools they could use and how to better utilize the tools they have currently.
Keynotes and general sessions kicked off with Jeff Evans, a twenty-five-year expert mountain guide, adventurer, rescue medic, physician’s assistant, and author of Mountain Vision: Lessons Beyond the Summit. He shared stories of guiding the first blind man to climb Mount Everest, Erik Weihenmayer; serving with a medical team embedded behind forces in Mosul, Iraq as they drove out ISIS; and other impressive feats to inspire servant leadership, teamwork, communication, and handling adversity.
Later, Landau helped audience members develop their brands’ “deep story,” referring to the things that make each company unique beyond inventory and guest experiences. He used lessons learned from data on viewers of Sense of Place, a web video series in which he travels to different destinations and shares the stories of vacation rentals and their hosts. The data showed that users were most engaged during three recurring storylines: underdogs, hope, and the passage of time.
Streamline CMO Brett Parry shared the company’s belief in the “power of ‘I,’” outlining eleven trends taking shape in the industry, including: building an infrastructure to fight regulations, finding and maintaining independence from the OTAs, the collision of international markets along with their technology and practices, integration of tools to ensure real-time responses and instant guest gratification, the significant investment in industry players through funding and acquisitions, and the inflation of the vacation rental market balloon as it rises up. VRM Intel Magazine subscribers can read Parry’s advertorial on this topic in the fall 2018 issue.
Following Vacation Rental Management Association president-elect Jodi Refosco’s organization update, Hinote led a keynote presentation on the dual-mission model, a growing trend of VRMs to divide their businesses into distinct business-to-consumer and business-to-owner sides. She also covered the state of OTAs and interesting booking trends from this year’s summer season in vacation rental destinations. Her presentation led to a lively roundtable discussion around recruiting and retaining owners, increasing revenues and home sale values, and addressing ongoing OTA challenges.
The last main session was a Game of Thrones-themed Game of Homes, a game show in which contestants were asked Jeopardy-style trivia questions about Streamline and the vacation rental industry. “It was a fun event to break the rhythm,” Corzo-Obregon said.
Looking ahead, Corzo-Obregon said she doesn’t know yet what they will do differently at next year’s summit, “but we received great feedback so far on all the sessions and events.”