Short-term rental advocacy is vital for the future of the vacation rental industry. 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.
You, as a vacation rental owner or property manager, have the ability to shape regional legislation and safeguard the future of holiday rentals. Here are 7 ways you can contribute to your neighborhood and maintain a flourishing vacation rental industry.
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, Airbnbs and 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 local advocacy, now
The vacation rental industry has long been exempted from most local regulations and rules. But for better or for worse, this is changing. In the next 5-10 years, vacation rentals will become more and more controlled by public policies and regulation.
The end result will eventually be common sense legislation. But along the way, the pendulum will swing back and forth, from less regulation to excessive restrictive policies that are unfair to the vacation rental industry, and back again.
This growing industry is a net positive for local communities, but seems to have caught policymakers off guard. According to Research And Markets, the vacation rental industry was valued at $100 billion in 2016, but is predicted to reach $167 billion by this year alone. It’s not just a big city issue either, with Host Compliance reporting that there are over 1000 local U.S. governments that have 100+ vacation rental listings in their jurisdictions.
As business and regulatory interest increases, vacation rental managers must join the conversation, especially at local and state levels. And doing that now is even more critical, because influencing the creation of policies is much cheaper and more efficient than reacting with lawsuits or corrective policies.
Why should property managers become advocates?
Property managers must ensure that they are included in the discussion in order to save their companies. Unlike politicians, you have business and trade knowledge as a manager of a short-term rental property. The best way to battle false information is to speak out, get involved, and let the government know what you need and how your company can help your neighborhood.
Policymakers and other stakeholders frequently have a limited understanding of the short-term renting industry since it is, in many respects, a relatively young sector. They frequently fail to see that there are more to it than just a few large worldwide sites. It’s critical for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs to be heard. Otherwise, authorities might not consider the market’s complexity and come up with rules that exclude smaller competitors.
Plus, because the qualifying requirements are based on an antiquated conception of what a hospitality business is, many of our members have struggled to get government help during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, for example. Short-term rental businesses must have a venue and a process where they can voice issues like these.
“If you’re not at the table, you’ll be on the menu.”
The only way to combat misinformation is to stand up, engage and communicate your needs – as well as how your business can contribute to your local community – to the government.
What happens when policy makers devise unfair regulations?
Local governments deny their communities of these advantages when they enact stringent regulations on short-term rentals.
Personally liable participants in the vacation rental sector will always support essential and reasonable regulation since they stand to gain just as much from getting rid of unscrupulous operations as anybody else. Sadly, there have been a number of cases when discriminatory rules have deprived populations of opportunity.
For instance, consider Scotland’s new regulations. It is not reasonable to introduce a license system for those who simply wish to short-let for a few weeks each year. Sadly, because of this, many nonprofit entrepreneurs will decide it is not worthwhile to continue, robbing them of significant additional money and eliminating the real sharing economy component of activities in that sector.
Furthermore, arbitrary restrictions frequently worsen issues rather than resolving them since they promote criminal conduct and result in a total loss of responsibility.
What is the goal of short-term rental advocacy?
Advocacy for vacation rentals is all about banding together and speaking out. However, the ultimate objective goes beyond just achieving the best results for short-term rental businesses.
According to the VRMA Advocacy Fund, advocacy aims to:
- Defend the freedom of travelers to select the kind of lodging they desire.
- Defend homeowners’ rights to rent out their vacation properties.
- Safeguard rental property rights for property management companies.
- Additionally, advocacy works to safeguard the neighborhood and develop just laws that favor both parties.
The media has often painted short-term rentals as the sole culprit of various issues that cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Venice face – including housing shortages and gentrification.
Nevertheless, they have refused to admit that unlicensed bad actors are to blame for these issues and that short-term rentals may be very beneficial to local communities when they are governed properly.
Local communities can benefit from vacation rental businesses in the following ways:
- Giving local communities a way to profit as tourists frequently purchase goods and services from nearby establishments.
- Establishing positions for cleaners, maintenance personnel, check-in personnel, etc.
- Producing tax income that may be used to pay for government initiatives.
So now, let’s get to some ways that you can become a proper advocate for vacation rentals and the community that depends on this industry.
Step 1: Memorize the angles
There are four important angles to remember when it comes to the community impact of vacation rentals. These angles should be the backbone of your presentation:
- Vacation rentals are good for the local economy, because travelers spend significant amounts of money in local businesses
- Vacation rentals help local employment. Dozens of local service businesses’ primary revenue comes from vacation rentals – including cleaners, gardeners, maintenance workers, and more
- The tax revenues from vacation rentals funds important public projects (e.g. public works improvements, local rec center, public art projects)
- Restricting vacation rentals does not fix the affordable housing problem, because the inventory will not be freed up to open more affordable housing units
Internalizing these angles, you’re ready to draw on personal stories to make your presentation memorable and meaningful.
Step 2: Put local facts in your back pocket
The next step is to generate a localized economic impact study so that you have key facts to show the scale and severity of the problem.
Combining direct and indirect economic impact, most communities will see a net impact in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. What’s important is building the study based on reasonable assumptions that you can point to if questioned.
If you would like a free localized economic impact study, we can help you generate one.
Step 3: Build in human stories
Good stories travel well. They tap into deep emotional places in our brain and remain there, which is what makes them memorable. This is important because you want your stories remembered and retold by policymakers as they consider how to shape vacation rental policies.
The good news is that there is a recipe for a good story:
- At least one hero (must be a person)
- A juicy problem
- Believable facts and/or data (which you have already)
Start your story by introducing your hero, and make sure to name them. Describe their family members and the context of their situation. Then, quickly mention their big problem. Here are a few examples of stories that can be included with the angles mentioned above:
A local business that benefits from vacation rental traveler spend:
“I want to tell you about Travis, the owner of Whiskers, a local brewery that opened ten years ago at the corner of Main and Mountain Street. Whiskers is a community hub for everyone in Tahoe and Travis and his wife Jane are actively involved in the local chamber of commerce.
One of the things we do for our vacation rental travelers is provide local recommendations, and Whiskers is one of our top places where we encourage guests to go. Last week I spoke with Travis and he gets at least two dozen customers into Whiskers each week from our vacation rentals. He said that his business would take a big hit if these customers were not able to visit Whiskers.
And that’s just one business. Our travelers frequently visit the gas station, grocery store, and local coffee shops when they stay with us. We’re glad to bring this influx of revenue to the local community.”
Example of story about local employment
“When you think of vacation rentals, you might think of how much my company and our property owners benefit. But the people you’re not thinking about are our local service workers who do an excellent job, day in and day out, making sure our homes are cleaned, well cared for, and prepared for guest visits. To date, we hire services from more than 6 local companies, including cleaners, maintenance, gardeners, and hot tub / pool maintenance – totaling approximately 40 people.
One of these people is Blanca, who works at Spring Cleaning, a company based here in [city name]. Blanca manages a staff of five people and her entire revenue stream comes from cleaning our properties.
Blanca lives in [city name] with her husband and two children, who attend [name] elementary school. If we enact policies that restrict vacation rentals, Blanca’s company goes out of business. She will lose her primary revenue stream and be forced to find work elsewhere. How is that servicing our local community and fostering more employment?”
Step 4: Find friends to join you
Now that you’ve spent the mental energy discovering the stories of all the local people you’re helping, it’s time to bring them into the conversation so they can help. There are several ways to do this. You can:
- Ask locals to give you quotes and their photos and use this in your advocacy campaigns
- Invite locals to public hearings to present and validate the positive impact of vacation rentals
- Ask locals to share your campaign materials with their networks and get endorsements
- Give locals signs to put up in their place of business showing support
- Ask for monetary or in-kind donations
When you involve local organizations and businesses in your story, it will exponentially increase your credibility. It will also make elected officials pay attention, because they will see this as a bigger issue that may influence their ability to be re-elected.
Step 5: Prepare for the press
With your story and team of allies, it’s time to connect with the press so that they can broadcast your message. But keep in mind that the press needs a story with conflict and tension to make it real news. One way you can create tension in your story is to emphasize the potential negative impact of restrictive legislation. Another way is to talk about the local people who will lose their businesses and livelihood.
On a practical level, there are four key ways that you can tell your story through local media and press:
- Send a quote: Identify which report is covering vacation rental legislation. Email them to give them an on-the-record quote about the negative impacts of bad legislation
- Phone interview: Set up a phone call with a reporter to chat briefly on the record, off the record, or on background
- Hearing interview: Approach a reporter after a hearing and voice your support for short-term rentals
- Write an Op-Ed: Submit an article to your local newspaper’s opinion section on the benefits of short-term rentals
Step 6: Practice for the allotted time frame
Telling your story is one thing, and doing it in the right time frame is another. You’d be shocked at how fast 3 minutes can go by when you’re speaking about something you’re passionate about!
Lastly, meet policymakers on their turf
Vacation rental managers must join the conversation, especially at the local and state level. Joining in now is even more critical, because influencing laws and policies is much cheaper and more efficient than reacting to them with lawsuits or corrective policies.