There are a lot of reasons why I love the vacation rental industry, but my favorite, easily, is the sense of community so many create. We’re an industry that is not just growing, but on the cusp of greatness- and that energy is palpable. No one captures that excitement and sense of community more than the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog’s Matt Landau. Between his impressive collection of blog posts, the Inner Circle forum, and most recently the phenomenal Sense of Place web series, Landau has become a central figure in the experience movement gripping the vacation rental world. I recently took part of my afternoon to watch the first three episodes of Sense of Place. I wanted to talk about each of them, as well as my overall thoughts on the series and why I think this may be Landau’s most important contribution to date.
Falling In Love With Local Life Before I knew much about this industry, when someone would say “vacation rental” I would picture a beach house in Hawaii. So I thought it was appropriate that Sense of Place’s first episode was in Kauai. In the episode, Landau:
Meets with a few of Great Vacation Retreat’s managers
Gets a surfing lesson
Hits up an arts festival with a professional surfer
Learns about Niihau culture
Tubes down a secret river
Goes jogging with a local high school teacher
One of the top comments on the video says: “I feel like I've been on a 19 minute vacation just watching this!”, and I agree! These episodes, generally less than 20 minutes, pack in a dizzying amount of content. The best part though, what shines through on each interaction, is Landau’s obsession with experiencing the community. Through this obsession, we are shown what really differentiates vacation rentals from other lodging options: their personality. Their connection to the area around them. The ability to make anyone fall in love with local life.
When In Rome When I saw that the next episode was taking us to Italy’s ancient capital, I was pumped. Rome is central to our brand at JANIIS. I was expecting to see landmarks like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and Trajan’s Column through Landau’s eyes. Instead we got a street art tour, a popular silversmith making a ring, and a vespa ride. Which in a weird way, was even better. He set up the episode well by acknowledging that some cities require you to be a tourist, but he again shined a light on local living. We got to see pieces of the Eternal City that most of us would skip.
What really drove things home for me though, was Henrietta. She is a property manager for Treasure Rome, and the love for what she does was amazing to see. She’s someone I would love to sit down over coffee with. It was beautifully illustrated that besides travelers connecting with the community, vacation rentals have an incredible way of connecting you with the people there. There’s a personal aspect you can’t find anywhere else, and travelers pick up on that.
We All Rise The last episode I watched was about Blue Ridge, GA, and featured something of their ad hoc community leader, C.J. Stam. This was probably my favorite episode of the three, or at least its message was my favorite. It talked about how property management companies in Blue Ridge regularly work together to help the area rise. One particular example was organizing a blues festival on their quietest weekend, which has netted tens of thousands of new bookings over the last eight years. When we’ve visited communities across the country, it’s often the ones that work together that seem to be the most successful, or at least the most prepared to overcome difficulties. I think this is the idea that ties this series together.
Growing Together This industry is exploding, which means there will be some changes, some growing pains. But what we can do is work together to keep it an amazing community. Growth doesn’t have to change the fact that we care deeply for this industry and the people who are a part of it.
The kicker for this show was at the end of every episode, Landau would do some sort of service for these people. It was always a touching moment to see what these small gestures meant to these folks. It’s actions like this, and facilitating actions like this, that will make our industry flourish. Sense of Place is a great insight into what choosing a vacation rental over a hotel should mean, and even, in its own way, shows hosts and managers how to make those experiences a little more special. Landau’s experience and care really shone through in the first three episodes. If you get nothing else from the series, you should get a sense of how important and needed your work as property managers is to the travel accommodation industry at large.