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Vacation Rental World Summit 2019?Did you ever heard what is it?And the good news is,that I am going there in Como, Italy, which is a big industry event organized by Antonio Bortolotti.
Last month, after booking my tickets for the Vacation Rental World Summit 2019, I got the pleasure to interview Antonio Bortolotti so that you can know more about this summit for vacation rental owners, hosts and property managers.
If this interview makes you want to join this event, let me know, I would love to meet you in person in this beautiful country!
Let’s now hear Antonio Bortolotti talk about the Vacation Rental World Summit 2019(VRWS 2019)
Antonio : “Okay. Thanks Natacha for inviting me to this interview. I am first and foremost a property owner. I started 13 years ago, more or less, with properties Sardinia”.
How and why did Antonio Bortolotti get into the vacation rental industry?
“And I did that because I just wanted to create an alternative, to my previous life. So I started with basically a big idea together with my wife. No knowledge of vacation rentals or renting a place whatsoever, no knowledge of buying the property, nothing. So we just started from zero and things went pretty well because we had a pretty clear idea of where we wanted to be 10 years from then. And we had a strong passion, a strong drive. So I basically started doing everything myself. I started marketing, I started Internet, web development and I basically did everything while working at the previous job”.
” I was working for Italy’s airline Alitalia. So during the flights on the layovers, all over the world.I learned how to code. Not really how to code, but how to do websites first and then like I said, I studied marketing and I started putting first my property on one of those sites at the beginning, which was called holidayrentals.com.uk Aside, that was later on acquired by homeaway and things went really really well. I told my wife we could pay for the mortgage or buy rent, 70% of the yearly mortgage fee. I would be happy. She said, don’t worry, you’ll do better than that. So on year one, we did like 20% profit. So in year two we decided to extend to a second unit same process, same results”.
“On year three, we got a third property and meanwhile at the same time, what then became homeaway organize their first summit in Europe and they call me up on stage to share with the public,How was I so successful? Because in my area, the season was normally three to four months and my season was nine months. So they said, can you explain how you do that? which is what I did. And from then, they called me up to speak at their event for a number of years. I talked to a lot of people. I started doing consulting, I started helping people out, achieving their goals and their dreams, like my dreams were. And then I reached a point where I realized that there was really a big demand for the sort of information, education, how to get more bookings, how to streamline workflows, how to maximize rental income”.
The story how Vacation Rental World Summit began
“Later I decided to put my own– started building my own events, because the other events that I had been going to, were not really quite matching what I was expecting. And it was the same feedback that I got from all the attendees. Most of the time they were lacking in resourceful impressions, information, useful tips. Most of the time it was just a show off of the company that was speaking on stage. So it was not really helpful to the attendees, at least the majority of attendees. So that’s how the– I came up with this idea of the vacation rental world summit”.
Vacation Rental World Summit started as an online event with over 10,000 attendees!
“Over the years I started knowing, meeting a few of the industry pros. So I share the idea with them. I said, this is what I have in mind. They said, great. So we put, we build, we put together a team of like 12 or 15, industry pros and we went online, this was six years ago. Had the first edition for three days and we had a phenomenal response because in three days we gather 15,000 attendees, owners online from 49 countries. And so there was clearly a go, clearly a sign that we were doing something right, that we were responding to a need and that’s how then we repeated the next, the following year, the second year”.
“And on year three, the idea was to bring it to a physical place, a real place. So the summit then became live. We did it first in Barcelona. [okay] And then the year after in Florence, last year in Como and this year, exceptionally, we are going to repeat again as
vacation rental world summit 2019 in Como for the success that we had last year. Everything was just perfect. So we said, okay, let’s do it again there”.
Natacha: “Okay, perfect”.
Who are the people who are attending the events? What are the different kinds of people who are attending Vacation Rental World Summit?
Antonio: “Well, the people– there’s quite a big plethora of people in the industry. There’s everyone from the absolute beginners, those that are thinking about starting a vacation rentals or buying properties and then need to know how to do that, to those that already are property owners, property managers with the old ranges from like five properties to thousands of properties. And then over the years, because we’ve grown so well, we also have lots of industry pros, so companies offering their tools, their software, and their solutions.We have also the Big OTA, Airbnb, booking.com, homeaway now VRBO”.
“There is really the whole industry gathering together over the weekend and so that’s what it is today. And every year we try to do something better and improve upon the things that we can improve or get someone else on stage just so– This year for example, I’m very happy that we’re going to have Google on stage, which is quite, quite, quite nice. I just disclosed these a few days ago and I think he’s going to be quite interesting as well”.
“And there’s also, I’m in talks with another one of these big one that just enter the industry recently, very recently. And if that goes well, I will announce it publicly soon in like couple of weeks or so. So we’re going to have someone else on stage that’s going to share something interesting”.
What are the benefits from attending this VRWS event for people in the short term rental industry?
Antonio: “Well, there’s many things that normally attendees get from it. Number one now in the live events, the networking, so network is unparalleled. The quality of the people at the summit is just fantastic. Everyone, incredibly positive, open, friendly, knowledgeable, resourceful and willing to share what they do together with the others. So it’s a very, very, very collaborative environment.It is in a very nice place too, which helps because normally conferences, industry conferences are set in sterile places, the like hotels or convention center. Whereas I really care about creating the right environment as well”.
“The networking and the fun is a good part of the event. And then of course there is the learning part, but the sessions as well on stage are always geared towards trying as much as we can to give actionable tips, tools, solutions, ideas, strategies, data details so that everyone can walk away with at least one super takeaway that they are going to implement when they go back home and it’s going to make things better. So far we’ve been quite successful at that”.
“It’s not always easy to have a super top performers on every session, but it’s also true that we have such a wide range of attendees that it’s also hard to make everyone happy all the time because for example, a property manager will have different needs than a property owner. Property owner who’s just starting out will have different needs than one that is already in business for like 10 years. And so I’m trying to consider everything and give everyone a right balance and so far so good. So all in all education, learning, networking and fun”.
Beyond the vacation rental world summit
Natacha: “Okay. And you talked about your idea, which goals you put for yourself 10 years ago. Now already 10 years passed since then. So what your next five years goals; with the summit and in general?”.
Antonio: “That’s a beautiful question. Thank you for asking me because I get rarely asked that question. Well let’s say that the initial goal where I wanted to be 10 years from when we began was already a pretty nice arrival stage in life. So, I have a grown up daughter who just graduated from university, so she’s now independent. So together with my wife, we are thinking about sort of like seeing me retiring at a young age because even though we have a 22 year old daughter, we look young inside, we feel young and so we’re just getting ready for a next phase in life where probably we’re just going to take it to a little easier and spend more time in our properties, maybe get the summit as our annual goal, to run because it’s being, you know, once a year. It’s probably manageable to do that”.
“Expecting to do another couple of new things, venturing to new fields that we are keeping for ourselves at the moment. They are kind of secret, like a close friend– our close friends know about it. but I always liked to diversify and so just keep, you know, not only one track but have multiple tracks because things go always well, but you never know if something doesn’t go that well and you can’t really do much about it; in my philosophy, you have to have a plan B, Plan C and plan D, which applies at vacation rentals as well”.
Natacha : “Yes, definitely. To have like different portfolio with short-term rentals or long-term rentals industry like we all know right now. Like also laws– So it’s-“
Natacha :”I was talking yesterday with someone who was staying in UK. He had 20 properties before, I have six. I was asking him, “okay, how you deal with those things?’, And he said, “yes, like short term rental or long-term rentals you have to have diversifying, otherwise is working”. And so you said you started with one propriety and another one and you were on the former homeaway or like what you said, I forgot”.
Antonio : “I was initially, Yes I started with holidayrental.com.uk. Then at the time there was another very good site, which was called holidaylettings.com.uk. The first ended up in the homeaway galaxy. The second one ended up in the what is now Trip Advisor. It didn’t make a really happy ending. And but at the same time, what I did was from the very beginning, because I said that you always had to be several alternatives. You never put all your eggs in one basket”.
Common Mistakes prevelant in vacation rental industry.
Antonio: “Many people do in our industry,have done it in the past because it was easy when airbnb came on the show, lots of people were just advertising on Airbnb and he was just going great. And when I talk to them, they’ll say, well, why do I need a website? I don’t need a website. You know, Airbnb is giving me all my business. It’s free, it’s easy. And I said, well, because maybe one day things will change and you may have to close business overnight if you don’t get ready for a future possibility, if you don’t diversify, if you don’t strive to taking control of– keeping control of your business. Which was the main, the main focus that moved everything, from my point of view.I did my own website and I started dis-intermediating. So basically I was using the OTAs as one of the marketing channels’.
Antonio’s Philosophy on vacation rental
“I think this is the right philosophy; bear with me though, to dis-intermediate, to get direct bookings you need to work a lot. So if you’re not willing to really work your butt off that much and you are not willing to put in the amount of time that is required to develop your own websites, to do the marketing, to follow your guests, to do all the activities that are necessary, which of course costs time and time equals money as well. So it’s a value that is fine. You can just keep staying on– keep just using the OTA as your main source, but with the awareness that you will be at the mercy of all the changes that will occur in the industry.You’ll have to think all the plan b, c, d, which could be even selling out in x years. And if you’ve done some money, do something else in another field or many other things”.
“Vacation Rental It’s a beautiful industry. It’s probably at the moment, one of the best industries to be in, in terms of the rewards, personal gratification, and even financial rewards as well. but I mean, you’ve got to be aware that it’s not– everything is not as easy as it seems”.
Natacha : “Yes they’re finishing. So you would say that having a website is good, if you are ready to put the work for it. or someone else put the work for you. Yes”.
Be Independant from OTAs as a vacation rental owner
Antonio : “Yes. Website is number one. For me, being independent– If you want to be independent, you have to have your own Airbnb, you have to have your own EBay, your own shop, Amazon and your own thing is your website. So first and foremost, you have to put this idea in your mind”.
“Secondly, there’s websites and website. So if you– not to say, so go around to match, but be quite clear.If your website sucks, you won’t go anywhere. So your web site must be as amazing as fantastic, even better than the airbnbs or booking of sorts. And it’s doable. I mean, maybe some of your listeners in there would say, Yes okay. I get it, but how do I do it? Well, it’s doable. It’s doable. I’ve done it”.
“I’m one of those people that normally you’d call it, I walk my talk. I don’t say things that I haven’t experienced myself otherwise I’d rather shut up and let others speak and listen. But if– the things that I say are based on my experience and that over the years as a consultant to other fellow peers, just the experience of others who trusted and did what I said, what I suggested to them that they do and they reap the same rewards”.
Should you have a website for your vacation rental?
Natacha : “Yes, we saw like from the people, as you say; from some people I see in the groups where I am in when people ask, okay, should I do a website? Should I not do a website? And people who did and of course as they say like it’s not a overnight success. It’s not you publish the website; you will get directly bookings of course, you should know something about optimization and everything. Like you cannot get it overnight. But after a while you get 70%, 80% from direct bookings if you know do it well. If you know how to use it; as you said use it as a marketing tool. That’s what you can get”.
Develop Your vacation rental brand
Antonio : “And also because you have– when you develop your website you have to keep in mind that you also have to develop your brand and your brand is normally like your name so you have to find the name of your property. It must be easy. It has to be something that is easy to remember. Possibly is short because we lack memory and it’s easy recognizable and you have to put it everywhere; inside for example, the descriptions of the listing sites and others because there is a percentage, an increasing percentage of travelers, ourselves who are aware of the fact that if they realize the name of the property, they are looking on airbnb or on booking.com what they do next is; they Google it and if they find the website normally they can get– they can contact you directly.
Natacha : “Yes, they can contact you direct and it’s a win win for them, for you because you have put something which is a bit lower than on the OTA but higher for you on the OTA? So it’s…”
Antonio : “Yes, It depends. It depends because depending on some OTAs, you can get penalize if your prices are lower than the one you show; But in that case, what you can offer is some extra. [Yes, some extra] but for the same price. You can offer, you know, breakfast; if you give breakfast, you can offer whatever. A welcome gift when they arrive. You can give them some perk more, to entice them to book directly with you”.
“you also have to consider that you always need to have bookings coming from the OTA because the issue here is the percentage of bookings. I mean in my case I have 80-20 so I get 80% of direct bookings and 20% through the OTA for my existing properties in Sardinia. Now the new property that I just started six months ago because six months it’s quite new. Now I’m getting the reverse 80% from the listing site and 20% direct. But that’s because as I was saying in the beginning, this is the process that takes time. [Exactly]. So you start there and then from there you do a series of processes and think and in the long grand will take you to reverse and do that”.
Tips to newcomers for Vacation Rental World Summit 2019
Natacha : “Yes, Yes It’s– as you said, like it’s not directly you that I will get everything from the website because basically your website would be on page 10 or 20 maybe after some time it will appear definitely. Okay. One last question in general and then we will wrap it up. And you tell us the exact details of the events. So the last question was, you said some people are starters, they are totally new when they come to your events. They maybe haven’t invested. What would be your first tip as new to the vacation rental industry?”.
Antonio : “Well, first and foremost is education, but If they are new, they need to get somewhere where they can collect information as quickly as possible. So these could be in the form of the forums, support groups online, even Facebook groups. It’s like the easiest, the first and the free way to start. But then I would move on to not because I organize it but because I myself I started going there to learn and network with other people. Then go to event”.
“Schedule– Every year I schedule in my agenda at least five events I go to. [So hang on a second. Yes okay, I’m back. Sorry. I got a phone call coming in]. Every day I schedule at least the five events to go to which– and they’re not necessarily related to vacation rentals, they’re also, like marketing events or like personal growth, something to learn. And then to get to know people”.
“When you meet other people, the face to face interaction is priceless. The things you can exchange beyond the screen. [Sorry, that again] the things you can get beyond the screen are way better than– you know, are important. So this is what I would say first and foremost”.
Natacha : “Yes definitely like networking at events but also networking I think you would say (Inaudible 23:44) [around you] Yes, local area or so like, because you’re in vacation rental so that everyone grows together. I know like someone told me two days ago that her husband is organizing bike tools in– do vacation rentals. He did the first one on TripAdvisor. So I said, okay, I will contact him so that we can see what we can do. Is very important as well? I think networking so that also like they know you, you know them and help each other.[Yes]”.
When and where is the Vacation Rental World Summit 2019?
Natacha: “So thank you very much. And tell us exactly when is your events, how people can register, everything about the event please?”.
Antonio : “This year’s edition of the vacation rental world summit will be held in Lake Como, Como city at the beautiful Teatro Sociale, which is a fantastic theater like La Scala in Milan on the weekend of October. fifth and sixth. It’s a Saturday and Sunday. We’re going to have a pre meetup on Friday afternoon we normally we do an ice breaker cocktail where everybody meets and that’s where the family gets together. So that;s Lake Como, 5th and 6ths of October”.
“The website is: vacationrentalworldsummit.com. I don’t know if you want to put it– if you want to put the link or something on the show. And just by going there, you see all the information, you’ll see the agenda, who’s speaking, what the topics are and the registration as well.
Is there a limit of number of attendees to the VRWS 2019 event?
Antonio : “Yes, there is a limit, which is 400. We already crossed the 200 mark. And normally we’ve always sold out the weeks before the event. So I expect to sell out as well in September– by September. So is 400 there but, I’m going to announce– if we sell out– we’re going to have a surprise for those that cannot make it to the event, but I’m going to announce it in probably in August in a few weeks. I can’t really say it right now”.
Natacha : “Okay. But it’s okay. Like people can know that if they cannot attend then they have this other option”.
Antonio : “They can attend in another way. They will be able to attend in another way if we sell, if we’re full. So of course they will miss the live networking part, but they will still get the information and all the sessions and everything”.
Natacha: “Okay. So the educational part will still be available for them”
Antonio : Yes We’ll still be available. Yes.
Link to register to the event: https://www.vacationrentalworldsummit.com
Over to you, will you join us at the event in this great Italian city by the Lake Como? Tell me in the comments!
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I’m Natacha, a French vegan Airbnb host who has been working online for the past 4 years. I help hosts stand out and make more money online so they can have a good work-life balance!