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4 Posts tagged with the vacation tag

As the newest member of the HomeAway Software™ marketing team, Carmela joins us with many, many years of vacation rental industry experience, making her ideally suited for her new role as our Marketing Product Manager.


IMG_20120614_082955.jpgCarmela started her VR industry career at First Resort™ Software as their second Support Representative.  She progressed through the ranks to become the Support Department Manager and then Vice President and Chief Operating Officer until 2004.  From there, she moved on to ResortQuest to become Director of Operations, and then VP of Information Technology.  Most recently, she served VR companies across the country as a business development consultant.  Through it all, Carmela has driven quality customer service, matched technology to client needs and discovered efficiencies while doing so.


Carmela grew up loving football in Arkansas (Go Razorbacks!), moved to Colorado in 1988 (Go Broncos and Buffaloes!) and recently relocated to Austin.  She has a daughter who is a college senior, two dogs, a cat, and everyone gets along great! Her hobbies include a love for tennis (because of the cute outfits), golf, hiking, all winter sports, entertaining, fresh local food, wine and flowers. Says Carmela, “Flowers just make me happy!”


“I am passionate about the vacation rental industry mainly because of the people who are in it—you have to be a ‘people person,’ you have to be creative, you have to be smart and you have to be passionate about delivering great customer service.  Also, I know my successes are because of the individuals with whom I have worked.  They are very talented (very lucky here too!) and I believe a team is much stronger than an individual.”


As Product Marketing Manager, Carmela will help identify and prioritize feature requirements on HomeAway’s® software platforms and help us communicate the great things we do on behalf of our clients.  She is amazingly bright, caring and fun, and we are thrilled to have her aboard with HomeAway Software. When you get a chance to meet her, perhaps at the RezFest® conference this year, you will find yourself putting her on your short list of super smart people who also happen to be very, very nice.


Welcome aboard Carmela!


Volsky's View: All About Me!

Posted by gvolsky Dec 7, 2010

Hi!  I’m George Volsky – the person responsible for posting blogs on the Community about vacation rentals in relation to property managers. This first blog is devoted to ME--who I am, what I’ve done, what I’m good at, and what I plan to do with this blog.


To start with, I’m a bit dysfunctional and really bad with names, but on the upside, I’m good with concepts and systems and I’ll remember your business issues even when I can’t remember your name.  I can say (modestly) that I have as comprehensive an understanding of this industry as anyone, because of the time spent talking to rental managers about the business.


I pour over industry statistics.   I’ve written white papers and delivered hundreds of educational seminars over the years on virtually all industry topics.  I love this industry.


What I enjoy most is figuring out how everything about this industry interacts with everything else. I like questions like:


  • “What is more important to rental managers--inventory or renters?” 
  • “How can you change your fee structures to insulate you from discounting?”
  • “When is it better to omit add-on fees from your advertised price?”
  • “Which markets are best and worst to compete in?”
  • “How should you compete with hotels and cruise lines?”
  • “How do you deal with competitors who cut commissions and rents?”
  • “How fast can a rental manager grow?”
  • “How do you compete with a competitor that has more money, homes, etc.?”
  • “What does the growth of rent-by--owner mean for the future of rental managers?


In my blog, I’ll be talking about issues like these--as well as about issues you raise in the forums.


Many vacation rental managers have already attended my seminars at national or state association meetings, software user conferences, regional seminars hosted by vendors and webinars.  For you, I hope to continue sharing my perspectives about our changing industry and your options for adapting.


But there are literally thousands of rental managers who are not active in industry events.  For you, I hope to share insights that have evolved from the collective wisdom of your colleagues.  It is my hope that these insights will help you grow, increase your revenue, and navigate the Internet and competitive challenges that are shaking up the vacation rental industry.


Anyway, back to the main topic for this blog--ME.


My first job out of college was as a transportation industry analyst, where I worked with government analysts and economists, learning about travel economics, and this led to too many years as an attorney, setting up and working with airlines (I still apologize for those years and am grateful that bankers have taken up their share of the burden as public targets). 


My first job after leaving the law was as a vacation rental manager on the Outer Banks, where I dove into the company’s reservation data in an effort to learn in a few years what took eight years for vacation rental managers.  Anyway, I started talking about my discoveries, and this led to a 12-year term as a consultant.  I have worked closely with many of the nation’s leading vacation rental companies, large and small, in all areas of the country.


I’ve studied the competitive and pricing strategies of competitors in entire markets, valued companies for purchase or sale, designed decision support software, projected the economic impact of vacation rentals on state and local economies, and served as industry consultant for the 2008 PhoCusWright study that sized and valued the vacation rental industry. 


I currently monitor industry statistics and do monthly trend reports.  I have served as Director of Research for the nation’s leading reservation software companies, Instant Software and Escapia, which, as of October 2010 were acquired by HomeAway.


I’ve now said “I” enough times that I can only bear to say it thrice more in this blog:


  • I’m looking forward to sharing my views and
  • I hope, over time, to get the benefit of yours;
  • I’ll share my next blog in time to wish you a happy holiday.




In a recent blog, I suggested that you look for ways to become more efficient in five categories. In this blog, I include my thoughts on“Changing your business model.”


For years, I’ve joined the rest of you in following the role of rent-by-owner. RBOs are simply one facet of changes arising from the Internet that are responsible for many new expense categories and more pervasive discounting.  Among my conclusions is this:


The legacy of the Internet (and Rent-By-Owner) evolution will not cause the eradication of mainstream rental managers but will result in the fundamental changes in what managers do and how they do it.


Taking a Lesson from the Real Estate Industry

We have seen a trend similar to rent-by-owner in real estate sales, when FSBO’s (“For Sale By Owner”) came into prominence on the back of new consumer-friendly Internet technology.


In the early years, real estate agents worried that FSBO would put them out of business.  They saw FSBO as the enemy, and worked actively to oppose it.  In extreme examples, the government took action to prevent the industry from relegating FSBOs in the context of multiple listing services. 


Before long, the National Association of Realtors was advising sales agents to find ways to work with FSBOs.  Their polls concluded that the vast majority of homeowners were reluctant to price their home on their own, market it properly, and do the related paperwork.  The FSBO trend peaked, and trailed off to occupy a fraction of the industry’s annual sales.


The FSBO trend changed the industry.  Many real estate agents began to offer services a la carte. They let FSBOs pay them to do almost any aspect of the sale:  provision of signs, marketing, MLS listings, and the like.  The industry also departed from its commission structures to become much more competitive.


Changes in Our Industry


Today, there are many new rental managers who began by renting their own homes.  They started out as rent-by-owners and evolved into a new breed of rental managers.  Such companies have leveraged the Internet to redefine the way they do business.  Many do not have central offices and don’t require renters to check in and check out.  Many are able to service far larger geographical areas.  Some rely primarily on the Internet for bookings and/or allow their reservations staff to work from home.


The net effect is a category of vacation rental companies that have lower costs than mainstream competitors (and provide less service).  They are able to charge lower commissions, or spend more money on Internet marketing.  This new breed is growing, proving that mainstream rental managers have many homeowners and renters who would accept less service in order to get lower prices.  This new breed is steadily stealing inventory and market share from mainstream managers.


There will be many markets in which there is no discernable change from the Internet.  But you cannot afford to take this for granted.  Change can occur if one of your mainstream competitors is sold to a new-breed rental manager. Rental managers must always have a contingency plan.


  1. Think about ways your company can profit by providing services to RBOs;
  2. While you are at it, consider services to vacation home owners who do not rent;


Also consider whether it can be in your company’s interest:


  • To specialize in a type of vacation rentals that is efficient (high-end luxury homes; or more basic “Motel-6” type properties, etc.);
  • If you are large and secure in your market, split your operations into two or more distinct businesses;
  • To offer a la carte services so the renter and homeowner need only pay for services they really want.


As farfetched as some of these ideas sound, we are seeing similar trends in industries where the business models were so perfected that such changes would have been considered unthinkable ten years ago.


In my first blog, I suggested that you look for ways to become more efficient in five categories. Today’s blog expands on the last of these:  trimming fat to become more lean and fit.


During prosperity, companies, like people, tend to buy things they don’t absolutely need. 


Sometimes, the purchase looked like it could produce great benefits, and the buyer gave it a chance because he could afford to experiment.  Sometimes, the purchase generates tools the manager loves but fails--when the numbers are examined—to generate enough new bookings, homeowners or savings to justify the program’s cost.


When prosperity disappears, it can be difficult to re-evaluate the cost-effectiveness of expensive systems we formerly celebrated as a generator of competitive advantage.  All programs benefit someone, and any effort to eliminate them generates pushback, especially if they have been integrated into the company culture.


No one can help you find the fat.  But I can offer this encouragement to do so:


As much as you might hate to reduce services, amenities, or staff, you have a duty to your company’s employees, renters, and homeowners to generate enough profit during slow times to meet your company’s cash flow needs and pay for new initiatives that may be needed to retain and attract homeowners and renters.  By becoming lean, you free up money that can be redirected to buy more service than your competitors (allowing you to offer customers a better value).  Conversely, you will lose renters and homeowners if you allow a competitor to become leaner (more efficient) than you are.


Failure to trim fat jeopardizes the major stakeholders in your business, all of whom depend on you.


  • Unneeded “fat” translates to lower productivity for each dollar of expense;
  • When customers think they can get better value elsewhere and start to leave, others start thinking about doing so;
  • Once homeowners and renters feel that another company offers a better value, it takes years to turn that perception around.


Being a manager means making the hard decisions.  This is a time of change in our industry, which makes it the time to revisit all the assumptions behind major expenses.