A few takeaways from both the recent “ViturSummit” in Malaga, Spain and the “Vacation Rental World Summit” (VRWS) in Porto, Portugal, which itself was preceded by the Web3 Travel Summit. These are my own thoughts, of course, and may not be reflected by others, but come from observations and conversations with many, some whom I knew or just met, or from the stage presentations. The audience for all conferences was predominantly European, with a smattering of our US cousins and others further afield.
Organised by the founder Carlos Pérez-Lanzac de Lorca and his team, this was my first trip to Vitur and honoured to have been on a couple of panels and a moderator. My first impression was the high level of experienced speakers and panellists and the fact that the summit was attended by a higher number of managers than I expected. The content of all talks and panels was of good quality, and each was kept short and punchy.
Interestingly the subject matter and the offstage networking and discussions reinforced the message of industry interest and accelerated growth of the business in general, especially those companies wishing to grow by acquisition. UK and USA have been very active proportionally over recent years (thanks for the onstage feedback Steve Milo). Still, Europe, with its thousands of managers, is now being seen as a real opportunity. The nimble and accepting of challenges will no doubt make headway faster and set themselves up as new foundation stones for the larger investment bodies. This is also the first conference where acquisition and EBITDA multiples are being openly talked about and was reinforced by some panels and presentations such as:
“INVENTORY GROWTH STRATEGY: M&A vs ORGANIC”
Marco Celani | CEO at Italianway, Steve Milo | CEO at Vtrips, Henrik Kjellberg | CEO at Awaze, Roger Mueller | CPO at Interhome., MODERATOR: Piers Brown | Founder at International Hospitality Media.
“RAISING MONEY AND LEADING THE INDUSTRY TO THE NEXT LEVEL”
Eduardo Mandri | CEO at Angel Host, Yoav Roth | Chief Revenue Officer at Duve, Pierre Becerril | CEO at Transparent, Marco Celani | CEO at Italianway. MODERATOR: Paul Stevens | Editor at ShortTermRentalz.
“TOP ADVICE FOR PM’s WHO WANT TO SELL: PORTFOLIO VALUATION”
Richard Vaughton | Founder at Yes Consulting.Pablo Zubicaray | CEO at Ola Living & Yello Living, Steve Milo | CEO at Vtrips, Andreea Petrisor | Chief Growth Officer at GuestReady. MODERATOR: Mike Ortegon | Vacancy Rental Expert.
“STR & SERVICED APARTMENTS, THE NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR DESTINATIONS. AN EUROPEAN VIEW”
Sergio Guerreiro | Senior Director at Turismo de Portugal & Executive Director at Westmont Institute of Tourism and Hospitality at Nova SBE, Riddell Graham | Former Director of Industry and Destination Development at VisitScotland, Eduardo Miranda | President of ALEP and member of the EHHA Policy Committee. Fiona Campbell | CEO at Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers. MODERATOR: Marie Pistinier | President at SPLM
“REAL ESTATES INVESTMENT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS”
Pierre Becerril | CEO at Transparent.
Although this last panel below, moderated by myself, was not on acquisitions, the need for data and the acceleration of tool adoption reinforces the success of STR and the move to a mainstream industry. The attendance for this panel was excellent and reflects what we saw at the VRWS. People are hungry for data and trends, especially in tough economic conditions. I would also like to thank the panellists for fronting up on the questions and the enthusiasm to engage.
“MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION FOR REVENUE DATA & TRENDS”
Fausto Vieira da Silva | Global Director of Strategic Accounts at Pricelabs, Tyler Ashby | CCO at Key Data Dashboard, María Flores | Managing Director EMEA & LATAM at Beyond. MODERATOR: Richard Vaughton | Founder at Yes Consulting.
Note that this conference is Spain’s top STR event, but with such interest in one of Europe’s biggest STR markets for growth, there will be a lot of local expertise needed to enter the sector locally, as explained to me! It would seem that if any company is thinking of entering this market, rolling up businesses, or providing financial, real estate or technical services, they would be well advised to attend Vitur, connect to the organisers and dig deeper. As we can see, some top executives were attending but also, in the attendance mix, some serious entrepreneurs and growth companies were in a hunting mood.
Overall, very enlightening!
WEB3 Travel Summit (September)
I was honoured to be a moderator and panellist for this event, the first of its kind and organised by Luca de Giglio of Trips Community. My own opinion is that no one should avoid these cutting-edge conversations on Web3 and the associated terms/technologies and people. The event was well attended and had a raft of smart people who live and breathe this sector and are very fluent in the terminologies and underlying tech. To understand more then this link will help you.
It is very clear that this is not a fad, but like all digital and internet-based trends, is complex, especially as big money is never a fan of open public opportunity. The drop in interest in cryptocurrency and the challenges presented by banks to allow transactions from fiat to crypto will have had a knock-on effect on the concept and activity on Web3 itself. For now, it is a small group (still many thousands) of smart individuals who, as the digital world develops, inhabit this alternative space and are building a new dimension of hospitality.
It was also clear that a bridge is needed to transition from the current status quo to one where we are more in control, less challenged and gamed by corporations determined to dip into our pockets. One presentation (Winding Tree) illustrated this in the hospitality sector, and the challenges faced getting the public to change habits or educate themselves. On this front, the industry needs to talk more simply, but as I keep saying, try to look over that horizon, a new world may well be emerging.
As usual, Antonio Bortolotti excelled on the location of the conference in Porto, Portugal and the event was well organised. With over 500 attendees, this is growing to be one of the biggest industry events and is a great networking opportunity. The roundtable intro’s, discussions and speed dating had a mixed reception, so interesting to see the outcomes of the 2023 event in Barcelona.
Top Presentation: Pierre Becerill ~ How reporting can revolutionise your short-term rental operations
Well presented, interesting data reporting focus that had a lot of takeaways, especially for owner recruitment. Good answers to questions. Also, a mention in despatches to Alex Limpert on growth to 4000 properties and the AirDNA presentation by Sarah Du Pre is always interesting, as the company always provides a market snapshot and trends. Also within this presentation, Sarah showed a slide with Ovo Network on it, the only company in the room to reach such high levels of service, quality and reviews (4.93 out of 5) on the full European stage, as presented as shown below! Congratulations, Ovo team, remarkable!
The undercurrent of several conversations
Quote “We are looking to grow by either acquisition or investment into our business model!”
This was from relatively small companies (no more than 200 properties). The space is hot, and everyone seems to have had a good year, so this is a natural development/direction. Let’s see what 2023 holds, but it looks like Europe is the next rollup and potential supermanager territory. Europeans are best placed to develop this, and southern Europe is the hot target. Vacasa had an attempt in 2019 but was left wanting and has now shut up shop. The problem, however, may be to find sufficiently large portfolios at the right price for the big investment funds.
If you are thinking of selling or developing a rental business for sale, please contact us for a chat.
Yet again another conversational question. Which PMS is best? Yet again, this old nutmeg!
Some good companies at the VRWS, but one system does not suit all and price structuring, and functionality are also quite different across the EU, let alone the US. One very interesting comment in conversation from Marco Celani, the CEO of ItalianWay, and well worth thinking about as a sales proposition!
We don’t sell a PMS we sell a (valuable) service!
What’s transpired as the most important future industry angle/niche?
No prizes for guessing its sustainability, Mentioned by Eric Bergaglia from Booking.com as key to their listing future and the industry stalwart Bob Garner, who is starting this FOC information service to assist and give momentum as we are seeing a whole new sector arise. The data shows it is also very important to the guests, although choice vs price, vs, location vs other amenities is not likely to see the consumer change their habits easily right now; it’s a positive and necessary change.
Secondary to sustainability, although not a mainstage item, legislation, governance, licensing and professionalism was a hot topic.
WHERE IS AIRBNB?
BOOKING.COM, VRBO are always at conferences and is appreciated as a sign of engagement and the occasional (or deliberate) information slip. Airbnb was an attendee at many of the early events in its history but is now obvious by its absence that its focus is elsewhere or everywhere, and these events are not worth supporting as a brand.
Is this due to ROI or arrogance or budget cuts, or simply because they are generally attended by professionals and not a global audience of individual owners? There is a spectrum of very professional, attentive and diligent owners who respect the guest’s needs and expectations. Still, Airbnb appears to be looking at the accommodation market through a different lens, as shown by this Skift article from March and a quote:
“It’s a little bit of a myth that it’s big property managers,” she said. “Eight out of 10 hosts have one listing. It’s still a business based on everyday people opening up their homes, to make ends meet or do something a little bit different in their lives. We do welcome property managers, but we have a high quality bar. We appreciate them, but it has to be Airbnb type accommodation.”
That probably explains it, 80% are one property owner, and then there is the rest. Managers are considered more challenging in quality overall. This would also illustrate these quoted managers are probably self-generated, maybe co-host-created and under-resourced, under-tech-enabled businesses, where Airbnb marketing dependency is their lifeblood.
For professional managers, it’s just another distribution channel, which for interest’s sake, could easily be replaced at conferences by Google! Managers are not going away as it’s quite clear not all individual owners want to touch the hospitality sector, and for good reason. With urban accommodation apparently less important and leisure increasingly important, especially with its higher margins, the challenge to grow and monetise will be harder for Airbnb. Engaging with this sector means aligning with managers and listening.
Airbnb: Never forget. He who controls the contract controls the distribution.