Pillow Talk#1: VRMA versus OPTECH

Pillow Talk is where Abode Worldwide’s founder and CEO, Jessica Gillingham shares musings, learnings and insight about the pioneering lodging technology brands and operators transforming the way we work, rest and play. To receive Pillow Talk directly to your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Back before Covid, I wrote a regular newsletter sharing industry insight as well as thoughts on brand, reputation and trust. Over the last couple of years, Abode got busy and so I got distracted. Writing this always took second place.

Today, having built a solid team in place, I can go back to my first love – sharing musings, learnings and insights about the pioneering lodging technology brands and operators transforming the way we work, rest and play. Hope you find this interesting. If not there’s an unsubscribe button at the bottom.

When I wrote this, I was 29983ft above Portland, heading back to the UK after two weeks in Las Vegas.

‘Two weeks!’ you say. How can anyone stand Sin City for that long??

I did and even grew quite fond of the place. Maybe it was a case of Stockholm syndrome. Or perhaps it was my trip to the Grand Canyon in the middle of conferences. During the first week, Rosie and Laura from the Abode team joined me for VRMA International, followed by OPTECH, the multifamily tech conference in week two.

These conferences feel far away now, but what an eye-opener it was to attend them both. VRMA was fun, well-attended, and decently organized. However, the association perhaps might think of making more of a push to attract attendees and speakers outside of the US to fully justify the ‘International’ moniker. I can’t entirely agree with Andrew McConnel here; it appeared to me to still be about 95% American in both content and speakers. It would have been welcome to hear from a more global view of property management.

During the event, the Abode team had F2F time with several of our clients, including hosting a dinner. This relationship investment time is so valuable, plus just very enriching. In terms of the actual conference, many folks have reflected on how much bigger it felt than pre-2020. What was apparent to me is that many more property managers are further down the tech stack journey than ever before, with the level of business sophistication much higher.

There have been several excellent reviews of the event, including Rental Scale-UpAndrew McConnell, plus a review from Rosie and Laura on our team so that I won’t repeat here – but for me – nothing hugely new or significantly different stood out. Except for perhaps the arrival of Hopper and the explosion of podcast hosts now on the scene. And a reminder that Europe needs/is ready for something of the scale of VRMA International. I heard this from the few Europeans at the event, including Henrik from Awaze. I’m excited to see how the Short Stay Summit and Vitur develop and flex in 2023.


Just up the street from VRMA, the following week was OPTECH, finding its home at the much classier Winn Resort like a wiser, older, more sophisticated sister. Appearances shouldn’t matter, but here was a completely different vibe, clientele and offering at this multifamily conference. Everything, from the goody bags, china cups and glasses, impressive snack stations, and plentiful areas for meetings, to the booth quality – spoke of an industry with far deeper pockets and scale. Pretty obvious, I know.

There are major complexities in the multifamily sector, but at its core, it feels closer to short term rentals on some level  – the PMS is still the operator’s ‘hub’. It’s an industry going through a massive tech disruptor moment. ‘Sales and Service’ are the foundations; providing a great living experience for tenants equals selling more leases, which drives revenue. Raising rents is (usually) only possible with happy customers.

Core themes across OPTECH were centralization, staffing challenges, tech reducing the need for human capital, consolidation and the perennial discussions of ‘single tech stack’ versus ‘best in class’. The number of stakeholders in the buyer journey and user experience significantly differs from short term rentals, going a long way to explaining what makes multifamily much more complex from a service provider’s POV.

I’m deeply excited about the confluence of hotels, short term rentals and multifamily right now. Where and how do these sectors align from a service, customer and solution perspective and where are they unique? We’ve seen Marriott jump further into STR with the launch of its Apartment brand and that’s just a start.

Here are some further industry ideas to chew on:

We’ve been in a short term rental boom, so what does this mean for the property market? I recently shared some thoughts with Property Today, mulling on the impact of changing consumer behavior, regulations, professionalism, and growth. For Hospitality Technology, I was invited to write a byline on what hotels can learn from short term rental technology innovation. The bottom line is that flexibility is key.

Hope you enjoy these musings.



About me – Jessica Gillingham is the CEO and founder of Abode Worldwide, a public relations and content agency focused on raising the profile of technology solutions and operators, transforming the global short term rental, hotel, multifamily and ‘living’ lodging sectors.