Debi Hertert is the founder of Host2Host, a community that connects hosts in order to learn and gain value from each other, it also serves as a way to provide a unified voice to speak with policy makers, media, and others who impact the vacation rental industry. Host2Host collects and shares educational best practices specific to hosting and to support each other, working to enhance and strengthen the community. Here's more from Debi:
When and why did you decide to start the Host2Host association? How has it benefited the community of hosts in the area?
I wanted to connect with home-sharers in the Portland area and was unable to email them without blocking their Airbnb calendars. Frustrated, I started a monthly meetup (Dec 2014) outside of the Airbnb platform and within a few years we had grown to 300 hosts and had almost 50 meetings. We started a Facebook group to support the meetup and soon our member numbers surpassed the meetup and conversations were vibrant and engaging. I was so impressed with the level of expertise of hosts in Portland, it felt like a good thing for us to share our knowledge and experiences. A conference by hosts for hosts seemed like a great idea if I could get others on board with it. Some of my podcast interviewees liked the idea and soon we had a committee of 12 individuals ready and willing to add their skills and ideas to make our first conference come to life in April 2017. It was so well received by our host community that we realized we were addressing a need. Afterwards, the Planning Committee agreed to work together to create the nonprofit trade association of Host2Host.org. Our mission and vision is to be the Voice of the Host supporting the host community through Advocacy, Communication and Education. We launched February 2018 and our membership is growing rapidly with local hosts as well as hosts & vacation rental owners from other states.
What kinds of topics do you cover in your podcast?
I love to hear people's stories, and to offer a resource to tell them. I want to know why you started in this business, how you prepared your rental space, and what you love about what you are doing. Hosts are uniquely positive, sharing and caring people, who understand that they are ambassadors of their cities and express a genuine love for what they are doing and for their guests.
What does the vacation rental experience mean to you?
I feel a connection with our guests in a way that I had not anticipated. I love being in a position to help visitors create positive lasting memories, and I also love hearing how other hosts are doing the same thing. It pleases me to share my own beautiful places with people who would not otherwise have been able to experience them.
What is your take on the recent vacation rental industry changes that have taken place over the past couple of years?
It distresses me to see the owners becoming invisible in this industry. My level of appreciation and caring for what I do hinges on knowing how my guests are responding to a place I love. Being once removed from them, not having the personal interaction encourages a feeling of anonymity and disconnection that could instead be a happy bonding experience.
Has it made an impact on your vacation rental company, Oregon Shearwater?
Our bookings have gone down a bit this last year. My husband and I are selling one of our properties. I don't have the desire to get engaged in the battles of the OTA vs .manager vs. owner. As a result I intend to focus more on our podcast and Host2Host. There is so much good that can be expressed, and I don't believe it is possible to over-communicate the good that is done in our industry by ordinary yet extra-ordinary hosts.
Why partner with Fetch My Guest?
Fetch allows me to maintain owner/guest relationships even though I still use OTAs. I don't expect to not use the online travel agencies, but I want to augment with direct bookings. I'm not a marketing guru and as a small business, there is more than enough to learn without having to specialize in all the nuances of the travel industry. Fetch aids in my professional look and feel, assumes the marketing role and even holds my hand in my own learning process. I keep my guests and the ability to market my own brand.