Officially announced in May, our partnership with the Vermont Short-Term Rental Alliance (VTSTRA) underscores both organizations’ ongoing efforts to encourage responsible renting in communities through expanded access to digital solutions and resources.
In this partner profile, Julie Marks, Founder, Director and Board President of VTSTRA shares some insight into her organization’s current and future initiatives, trends and predictions she has for the STR industry, and how partnering with GovOS plays a role in the overarching company mission.
What is VTSTRA’s mission?
VTSTRA’s mission is to represent and advance the interests of STR owners and operators in Vermont, and to provide members with networking opportunities and educational resources to run successful and responsible STR businesses.
Year Established: 2021
Founder: Julie Marks, Director & Board President
Board of Directors: Composed of 5 members of VTSTRA
Number of VTSTRA Members: 161 (and counting!)
In what ways is VTSTRA unique?
We are the only business association in Vermont that focuses exclusively on the STR industry and, in contrast to some advocacy groups run by professional property management companies, our membership model is owner-centric.
VTSTRA is also unique in that it’s a statewide organization structured to establish and support up to 251 “Local Chapters” (one for each town in Vermont) with a dedicated Local Chapter Leader. Local Chapters support community-level advocacy and communication while VTSTRA leadership manages statewide policies and coordinates events, strategic partnerships, PR, and educational initiatives.
What has been your primary focus this year?
We have been focusing on two things: growth and development. Now that we have our feet under us as an established member-based organization, our attention is shifting to how we can provide even more services to our members. Our biggest needs right now are better technology to support Local Chapter development, greater data to inform our educational campaigns and bolder member engagement to power our advocacy.
What has been your greatest success thus far?
The rapid and largely organic formation of our membership and supportive business partners in just under two years. Within the first few weeks of launching, nearly 600 people sent signed testimonials demonstrating their support for VTSTRA. This earned us credibility with our state legislature, which has since called upon us twice to give testimony on proposed STR regulations.
In June, we hosted our first annual conference and trade show in Montpelier, which brought together more than 130 Vermont vacation rental operators and industry service providers!
What feedback have you received from VTSTRA members?
Most members have reached out to express their gratitude. They are relieved to discover we exist and to know someone is looking out for their interests. Many have also voiced their concerns related to the current regulatory uncertainty around STRs.
The majority of STR owners in Vermont rely on this income to save for retirement, reduce college loans, pay property taxes or supplement a fixed income. While STRs are a business—whether it’s a side hustle or full-time self-employment— for most members, STRs are personal and essential.
Have you noticed any trends in STRs this year?
At a state level, we’re seeing the number of available STRs in Vermont return to pre-pandemic levels. There has also been an increase in average nightly rates, which could either indicate the demand for STRs in Vermont is outpacing supply, or it is reflective of the rising cost of property ownership and maintenance in our state.
Are there any common misconceptions you hear about STRs?
I think people often underestimate the economic benefits and overestimate the impact on housing. Every new vacation rental listing does not equate to a newly lost long-term rental. Our state housing experts repeatedly point to many other factors, such as zoning regulation, permitting processes, cost of construction, public opposition to development, and labor and supply shortages, as having a much more significant influence on our housing market than the STR industry.
What are your predictions for STRs in 2023?
Vermont experienced a rapid influx of new residents during the pandemic and as our population continues to grow, housing development will remain a focus and critical need in 2023.
I predict the issue of housing availability and affordability will fuel most, if not all, localized opposition to vacation rentals. Vermont’s regulators will likely look at how our housing and hospitality marketplaces can co-exist given the simultaneous pressures for short-, medium- and long-term accommodation.
I also foresee the demand for STRs in all parts of Vermont will continue to rise. With the state pouring historic levels of spending into tourism marketing, incentive programs, recreation, and infrastructure coupled with regional travel trends showing more interest in spaces that can accommodate family- and pet-friendly vacations, private reunions and gatherings, and temporary or seasonal remote work getaways, we may see more property owners move into the space.
How does partnering with GovOS help advance VTSTRA’s mission?
VTSTRA has always been impressed by GovOS because of its practical, transparent and mutually-beneficial approach to STRs. Having a partner that can help our communities make data-driven decisions is invaluable to our ability to advocate for the types of policies that will produce the most positive outcomes for the entire community
For more information about the GovOS Partner Program, visit govos.com/partners/