8 Trends That Will Shape Vacation Rentals in 2013

The vacation rental industry has been humming along now for nearly a decade, but 2013 is poised to bring with it more changes than any year prior. From legal issues to increased competition to newly emerging traveler segments, owners will have their hands full as the new year epitomizes how this little industry is most certainly growing up. Here are 8 of the most powerful trends that will define vacation rentals as we know them:

1. Prepare for growth: The vacation rental industry is in the second inning of a 9-inning baseball game and 2013 will see some fireworks in terms of growth. As more and more travelers will demand alternative lodging, the supply side (property owners and marketing companies) will make enormous strides in 2013. Those who get out in front first may be able to ride the wave and oppositely, vacation rental owners who were used to full occupancy with little effort will be increasingly under the gun.

2. The “hotelization” of vacation rentals: The vacation rental industry is relatively new and one of its biggest flaws – inconsistency – will start to rear its ugly head in 2013 more than ever before. Owners will need to start focusing more on the “hotelization” of their rental: in other words, streamlining their operations process to be more professional, consistent, and hotel-like. 2013 will probably see a few fiascos (like the great AirBnB robbery of 2011) that will highlight a need for more regulation and formalization in an otherwise Wild Wild West industry.

3. More mobile bookings: As 2013 surges onward, discounting mobile platforms will be more and more of a mistake for vacation rental owners with their own websites. Record numbers of Internet users are on mobile devices as a whole, and this trend is accentuated in the vacation rental industry, which is notorious for it’s stunted technology. In addition, owners will need to learn to write better descriptions to convert these mobile users into paying guests.

4. Live or die by reviews: As reviews have become the de facto influence in the hotel industry, traveler reviews of vacation rentals will follow suit in 2013. Because traveler reviews equate to more original content, the major listing sites will try to replicate the success of TripAdvisor in soliciting as many reviews as possible. Slowly but surely, this will result in good vacation rental owners (the ones who go above and beyond) superseding their less-invested counterparts once and for all.

5. Be gay friendly: 2013 will be a very competitive year for vacation rental owners trying to get a leg up on their competition and perhaps the #1 swing segment that owners will be vying for is gay travelers. Gay travel websites like Purple Roofs and Gay Journey will see vacation rental listings boom as owners realize the high quality of gay guests. Capturing even a tiny segment of gay travelers in any given region will be a game changer.

6. Experiential travel: While travel in general will continue to edge towards experiential travel and away from generic, big-box, all-inclusive, air-conditioned-tour-bus-style hotels, vacation rentals will emerge as the perfectly-poised solution thanks to their affordability and growing supply. Rental owners able to articulate their authenticity (thus effectively overriding the same old hotel world everyone is bored with) will skyrocket in 2013. The use of a powerful vacation rental blog will emerge as perhaps the most popular trend.

7. Hotels will get feisty: As the vacation rental industry continues to mature and steal hotel market share, hotel lobbyist groups will get more organized and aggressive in 2013 pushing hard for city and state legislature to outlaw short-term rentals. From here, it is inevitable that stricter regulations will be formulated. After all, the vacation rental industry DOES need more formalized regulations. The densest vacation rental regions will also lead the way as owners join to form a unified voice in opposition to the hotel oligarchy. If they don't, more bans (and huge losses) like this in Manhattan will unfoil.

8. New services will turn the art of managing a vacation rental into a science: Up until very recently, the vacation rental industry has been a jerry-rigged one, comprised of part-time owners, band-aid solutions, and makeshift excel documents serving as occupancy calendars. 2013 will mark one of the most evolutionary years for the industry as more companies (than ever before) will enter the market to make things easier for the first-time owner. These services, competing for the loyalty of the almighty client, will start lowering their prices and offering their free tools to capture market share.

Conclusion: 2013 will be a year of turmoil (both good and bad) for the vacation rental industry. At it’s most fundamental level, this coming year will set the stage for performance-based rewards for owners: no more will it be enough to simply buy a listing with VRBO. Owners will need to start getting proactive and persistent: that or watch their competitors emerge victorious.

Matt is the founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and VRLeap, tools and services for vacation rental owners at 50-90% OFF. In his spare time, he enjoys Spanish-language crossword puzzles and birding.