I returned home late Tuesday night after 16 hours of flying from the beautiful Tel Aviv, where I spent 10 leisurely days. Jet lag is still in full swing for me and I am writing this in the 5am hour. Of course the GuestyVal conference was only 3 days, but for such a long trip, I felt the need to stretch it out and explore.
My first mistake was not arriving earlier to acclimate. My thought was that I would meet so many wonderful folks at the conference (which I did) and would want to stay afterwards to explore with them. I flew out the 6th, arrived the 7th just before sunset and the conference began bright and early on the morning of the 8th.
Although I was exhausted after the long trip and wore myself out exploring that night with some friends who joined me out there; it was still a rough sleep in a new home (my friend’s Airbnb) and bed. Let me tell you, 8am came quickly. The night before I had learned about these fun electric scooters called Bird and noticed the radically high cost of a taxi, so I downloaded the app and set off early, on a Bird finding excursion. This made for a zippy, fun commute.
Upon arrival, my friend Yianni and I checked in, getting a lovely swag bag (my new beach bag for the week) full of goodies: Guesty socks, Dead Sea salt & mud, a notebook, pen, program and some flyers. I did not know what to expect in way of what would be provided and didn’t have time to grab food that morning so I decided to wing it; let me tell you, they took care of us. The had an all day coffee bar with a private barista making the most delicious cappuccinos I had all trip, with little cookies and cakes. Inside there were an array of breakfast sandwiches and baked delights, with a collected of 6-10 vendors around from Booking.com & Rentals United (booking channel platforms) to Pricing Softwares to Analytics, a cleaning app and high tech guestbooks. Providing an array of educational opportunities.
The setting for the conference was near the Tel Aviv University Campus, using 2 floors of a building with a beautiful courtyard where they served our lunches and where people mingled and enjoyed complementary juices + coffees in between sessions. Feeling as jetlagged as I was, I was finding it a bit difficult to break out and cold approach others and yet, the Guesty folks gave me a warm welcome, relieving me of any awkwardness. Upon checking in, my Account Manager and the head of Receptionist communications came up to personally introduce themselves to me and set up a private session to go over any issues or questions on my account. From that moment on, I felt special and cared for by the organizers. Even the two Co-Founders came up to me individually and thanked me for being a long time customer, one of them pointing out that I was there 11th customer ever.
I chose to attend this first annual GuestVal conference because I suspected it would be intimate, we would get individualized attention and more of an opportunity to meet other attendees; and I was right. With about 120 people in total, I didn’t get to meet everyone, but I formed some tight friendships and was able to learn a lot from the different managers. There were two rooms with presentations going on at the same time, mostly in the form of powerpoints, and occasionally we were all brought together in one space. Before lunch the first day, they put us in group round tables and had us discuss new feature requests, what is needed / not working well and why. I found this to be the most valuable of all the sessions because we got an intimate look at the different attendees businesses. This spurred conversations and relationships that carried into the rest of the week.
Although the presentations were interesting, we got to hear from representatives from Airbnb and Facebook, learned about building international hospitality businesses and why listings should have a rating system aside from reviews -- the real value for me was talking to the individual business owners. More than ever, I realized there are a million ways to partake in this industry, not only as an property owner or manager but also as a renter who is (with the owners permission) subletting units. I found that this has the highest yield in profits and many were doing it on a large scale with over 100 units. (I will go into greater detail on how to do this in another post).
I learned about website SEO, analytics, product offers, a million different ways to offer hospitality items in homes, and more, from the different business owners. I think that even someone with a small business, like my friend with 2 units, could benefit greatly and leave inspired. I found it to be an unforgettable experience.
Not only was the lunch served (both days) out of this world, a buffet style event with tons of varied local dishes, allowing us to fill our plates with many colors and flavors -- but they also threw a happy hour for us the first night, renting out a historical bar in Tel Aviv, complete with a signature cocktail and little bites being served on platters that were to die for. I wanted for nothing. Many of us networked into the wee hours, us grubbing on pizza at 1am and others, like the crew from Airbnb, dancing into the morning til 4am. Suffice it to say, the next morning was rough.
We soldiered through, learned a lot from each other, mixed and mingled even more and got excited for the third day which was a leisurely tour -- loading us up into 2 buses to visit Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. This day started even earlier than the others but allowed us to get to know each other and share tips and tricks in a laid back environment. It was a lovely long day with tour guides, a killer lunch spread, renting out a restaurant with a gorgeous view over the old city and a luxuriously soak in the mud and brine at the Dead Sea. I loved it and wished it was spread out over two separate days.
The next days were a blur of beach time, brunch, dinner, drinks, clubbing, and walking every inch of Tel Aviv with different property managers from around the world in tow. On my final day, I visited the Guesty offices for a tour and to meet with my account manager one last time. The offices were colorful and impressively large taking up 2-3 floors of a high rise (they have over 180 employees) with a young, fun, open concept and start up feel. Again, I was met with such warmth, attention and care. I heard again and again from other attendees that despite our ups and downs with the Guesty service over the years (see: growing pains), we were all struck with how it felt like a caring family. I think they won a lot of loyalty with that.
So in closing, I highly highly recommend attending next years event and others maybe more locally available. On Oct 27th VRMA, which I have heard is a more commercial type of Vacation Rental Conference, will be in Las Vegas. I don’t have the energy or the draw to go back to back like that, and yet, I know I will likely begin attending 2-3 conferences a year and will keep you up to date. I also heard rumblings that Airbnb may return next year with their blowout event, in which case, I will most definitely be there.
I hope you enjoyed this more personal post and I hope to meet you all at a future conference!