I recently returned from the first ever KigoWorld conference. It was an amazing event, not only because it provided an excuse to spend time in Barcelona, but because the speakers and attendees were phenomenal across the board. However, I know many were unable to attend, so I wanted to share my top takeaways in hopes that they may be helpful to others.

The growth of partner conferences: Part 1

It was only a few years ago that the total number of vacation and short-term rental events in a year could be counted on one hand. This meant the majority of our time was spent working in our business and serving our customers. Delivering for our guests, our owners, and our local communities is of course why we do all of this in the first place. That being said, spending too much of your time “in your business” prevents you from being able to pull back, take a longer term view, and work “on your business.”

Kigo joining the partner movement in creating and curating value-add, up-skilling events is a great thing for the industry as a whole. They pulled together an event that had such broad appeal that 25% of the attendees weren’t even Kigo customers, but simply people that took the time and spent the money to make it to Barcelona in order to learn more about the industry. This is a great sign: Kigo investing in the space, and managers investing in themselves.

I commend Kigo for all of the work and effort that went into pulling the event together, and even more so commend the attendees for proactively investing in their knowledge and skillset to make them better managers. This all signals an increase in professionalism that will only help the industry in the near and long term.

The growth of partner conferences: Part 2

The second takeaway from this manifestation of the growth in partner conferences is the simple fact that they are happening. The fact that Kigo, owned by a US publicly traded company, RealPage, thought it made sense to put on a conference of this scale and quality signifies where our industry is. It’s not just growing quickly, though that is true. It has also reached a size and scale that it makes business and financial sense for a public company to host its own conference.

That’s amazing, and was not true just a few years ago. I tell people all the time that it’s better to be lucky than good. The simple fact that we’re in this industry at this time is an incredibly lucky occurrence. Not everyone gets to work in a space that is doubling in size every few years. We do. It’s a privilege, and an amazing opportunity if we choose to take advantage of it.

It’s not all or the other

There were some amazing keynote presentations, but two particularly stood out to me for the way they juxtaposed against one another. On the first day we heard from Simon Lehmann, former CEO of Interhome (20,000 homes under management), former HomeAway Board Member, and former CEO of PhoCusWright. On the second day we heard from Matt Landau, the father of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, the “Limited Edition” movement, and a huge proponent of sub-scale as the future of vacation rentals. You could not imagine two more different views of the industry.

Simon is of the belief, and from his experience you would tend to agree with him, that large companies have a serious advantage. There are simply certain things you can do, certain deals you can make, and certain partnerships you can negotiate when you reach a significant scale that smaller companies will have a hard (or impossible) time replicating. He sees thing from a 30,000 foot view, and the C-suite at that. His success makes it difficult to disagree.

At the same time, Matt Landau has an avid following globally, and literally his own TV show around this “Limited Edition” concept. The managers he profiles in Sense of Place are clearly doing great business, but none have, or seem to want, tens of thousands of homes under management. Their appeal to owners and guests almost seems to be their sub-scale nature, and part of the value they deliver stems directly from this aspect of their business: it can’t be scaled or replicated.

My takeaway was not that one of these two brilliant men is right and the other wrong. In fact, quite the opposite. They are both right. The space we work in just happens to be so big that both can be right. There’s room for both models. There is so much growth that not only do both models work, but they both can and will be extremely successful – which is incredibly promising.

…but just showing up is not enough

Please do not read the above and think that because the space is doing well it guarantees anyone who happens to be in the space is guaranteed success. The industry is actually going in the other direction. Because of the growth, because of the attention, because of the incredibly smart and hard working people at both ends of the spectrum, the stakes are simply higher now. Those who thought they were getting into an easy lifestyle business when they entered into the world of vacation rentals and could just happily play in the middle ground will receive a rude awakening.

It’s not that you have to grow or perish. The limited edition concept resonates, and will succeed. But to make that limited edition concept work requires an insane amount of work and focus. Matt Hoffman kicked off the conference challenging us all to define our own “Why.” My takeaway is that your “Why” neither has to be Matt Landau’s limited edition, nor has to be Simon Lehmann’s category killer. What it does have to be is yours, and yours in a way that resonates with your target audience. Define it. Do it today, and then do the hard work to live your “Why.” Do this, and the rest will take care of itself.

Conclusion

I walked away learning a lot, making some great new friends, and with an excitement and hope for our industry that is at its highest level yet. If this inaugural edition of KigoWorld is any indication of what we can expect in the future, I only hope I am privileged enough to get the invite back next year. See you there?

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