November 11, 2020
Short-term rental advocacy is vital for the future of the vacation rental industry and even more so as many states and localities impose stricter regulations on STRs in an effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. The growth of our industry has been largely accelerated by a surge of OTA’s, online platforms, and home-sharing networks and short-term rental advocacy is crucial to create fair, legal, and effective advocacy in a time of crisis and build a sustainable future for the industry so many are so passionate about.
The COVID-19 travel recovery is trending upward and securing fair regulations, clear guidelines and trustworthy travel operators are crucial for the industry to rebuild. In a time where unfair regulation is a looming threat to the vacation rental industry, it’s our responsibility to get involved, collaborate, build a community of passionate people and shift the focus from the negatives of STRs to the benefits the industry has for our communities.
What is Short Term Rental Advocacy?
Short-term rental advocacy protects the right of travelers to choose the type of accommodation they prefer, property owners to rent out their vacation homes, and property management companies to rent out their properties. Short-term rental advocacy also protects local residents and the community and helps to create fair and balanced regulations that benefit both sides.
In many cities across the world, short-term rentals are blamed for the gentrification of vacation destinations with the conversion of long-term housing to short-term vacation rentals, and subsequent housing shortages for local residents. While this may be the case in unregulated cities and tourist destinations, fair legislation and short-term rental regulations can promote responsible renting adding value to the local community, creating local employment, generating local tax revenue and bringing a welcome economic boost for local businesses.
The Importance of Short Term Rental Advocacy
Rentals United CEO, James Burrows, recently spoke with two prominent advocacy groups, the UK based, STAA (Short Term Accommodation Association) and Fevitur in Spain to determine the effects of the COVID pandemic and the importance of short-term rental advocacy in this time of crisis.
Merilee Karr, Chairperson of the STAA states: “In the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, for example, many of our members have struggled to access government relief, because the eligibility criteria are based on an outdated understanding of what a hospitality business is. It is vital for the viability of short-term rental operators that they have a forum in which they are able to raise concerns such as these when they arise, and a means of communicating them to the government.”
Unfair and unreasonable regulations negatively impact both the property manager and the community as a whole and are often the greatest threat to legitimate property managers running a short-term rental business. The challenges of short-term rental advocacy, or lack of, vary from each community and destination and policymakers need to devise fair regulations to protect the property manager, the renter, and the community.
Merilee Karr, Chairperson of the STAA states: “As a comparatively new industry in many senses, the short-term rental sector is often poorly understood by policymakers and other stakeholders, who do not always see that there is more to it than a few big global platforms.”
Unreasonable regulations create unnecessary problems, encourage illegal short-term rental activity, and deprive the community of the benefits of local tourism.
Karr goes on to say “Responsible actors within the industry have as much to gain by removing rogue operators as anyone else and therefore will always back necessary and proportionate regulation. But those words are crucial. Policymakers need to ask themselves what is the problem that they are trying to solve, and will the solution that they have devised end up having harmful unintended impacts on legitimate operators,”
It’s Time to Get Involved!
“If you’re not at the table, you’ll be on the menu.”
Steve Milo, CEO of VTrips
It’s time to come together, be united, take your seat at the table, and take action! Property Managers have a responsibility to join a local advocacy group or, if you’re in a newer market, build your own! Joining or building a community of like-minded professionals to share local expertise and valuable insights to communicate and engage with policymakers is vital. In an industry with many restrictive policies that are harmful to the local community and tourism, involving your community and educating them on the benefits of tourism to local businesses is important.
In a recent RockSTRz webinar, Graham Donoghue, CEO of Sykes Holiday Cottages who manage 20,000 rentals in the UK and New Zealand states “We need to find a way to come together and have a voice, so we can take affirmative action when it comes to lobbying, but also to share knowledge and best practices across the UK, Europe, the US and beyond.”
There is strength in numbers and an advocacy group allows local property managers to work together, gain a deeper understanding of the market, learn about current and future regulations, and build a strong presence. A powerhouse with a single unified voice to engage and collaborate with policy makers from a place of local knowledge and expertise to impact change in the industry.
Dana Lubner, Director of Sales at Effortless Rental Group and host of the How to Save Your Vacation Rental Business podcast states “Inaction, complacency, and unwillingness to band together in the face of regulations are the greatest threats to our industry. Community-based advocacy has to be done. And if you don’t participate today you will have no right to complain when things go wrong tomorrow.”