Steve Caron knows vacation rentals. He has more than 20 years of experience building and running vacation rental businesses. With a background in computer science, his packed resume includes serving on the executive team for ResortQuest and VacationRoost.com, founding PackLate.com, and launching a startup vacation rental company for Tourico Holidays before he joined Choice Hotels in April 2016 to head up their new venture—Vacation Rentals by Choice.
Caron came on board just two months after Choice debuted this new branch of their company in February. For its move into the vacation rentals market, Choice selected partners in the rental management industry to provide guests with local, residential experiences. Though the rentals offer a much different stay than staying in a traditional Choice hotel, the link to the hotel company allows guests to still reap the benefits of Choice Rewards. In his current position, Caron is spearheading this journey into the $23 billion vacation rental market—hoteliers’ answer to the Airbnbs of the world. “Choice is a technology leader and my background is in integrating vacation rental property management systems into a unified structure,” says Caron.
He believes that together, he and Choice can take the rental market by storm. “We feel like we’re going to bring a much higher quality product to the table. Actually, we don’t even feel it; we know it.”
The franchised endeavor broadens Choice’s horizons immensely: There are roughly 5,000 vacation rental managers in the United States, and these managers’ properties have an average occupancy of 30 percent, leaving a huge number of unsold nights up for grabs.
“We see a huge opportunity,” says Caron. “Choice already has traditional hotels for short stays, so the vacation rental market really fills a hole for longer trips.”
Vacation Rentals by Choice prides itself on being able to provide a higher quality product than independent rental services. But with the promise of taking the stress out of renting a vacation home comes a lot of hard work. Caron says it is much like running a hotel—there are still beds and guests, after all. The difference is that these properties are all owned by separate individuals, making it a greater challenge for property managers to provide value to the home, book it, rent it, and provide revenue.
“Our mantra is, ‘How do we bring Choice’s trust, honestly, integrity, and quality and extend that to our property managers?’ We’ve positioned ourselves to be the champion for those property managers. To help them gain and retain homeowners because, at the end of the day, that’s how they build their business—by having additional inventory and having homeowners stay with them,” he says.
Caron feels the beauty of Vacation Rentals by Choice is that the model is so perfectly aligned with the property managers’ needs that the managers are able to boost business without completely taking the reins. —Casey Gale