KISSIMMEE – The phone rings in the middle of the night, awakening a clearly exhausted couple.
The wife stirs first, noticeably unhappy to have been roused from her sleep.
“I’ve made mince pies all day,” she grumbles as she nudges her still fast-asleep husband. “I’m tired. You get it.”
He does, then rolls his eyes as he listens to the litany of complaints being rolled out by the caller. He signs loudly as he hangs up, then tells his wife he needs to visit their rental property now, at 2 in the morning, because the guests are complaining about this going wrong, and that going wrong, and so on.
“They want three weeks compensation,” he fumes as he tosses on his clothes, “and they’ve only stayed for two!”
While watching the couple stir out of their warm bed, Marilyn Pull looks on, acting as the narrator.
“Let me set the scene for you,” she said. “It’s Christmas Eve, and mom and pop management are sleeping soundly.”
But not, she added, for very long.
On Thursday, the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association – the trade group representing the fast-growing number of small business owners who manage vacation homes in Central Florida – held its final meeting of the year at Falcon’s Fire Golf Resort in Kissimmee. Pullen, a member of CFVRMA who chairs its new members committee, was narrating a very unique event that the association decided to put on for the benefit of its members.
Every month, the association members get invited to special business after hour events at the attractions, night clubs, dinner shows, theme parks and restaurants in this region. The reason these tourism businesses host the CFVRMA is obvious: they want the property managers to recommend to their guests that they make a point of visiting them during their vacation in Central Florida. The association members have also made trips to improv comedy shows like Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Theatre on International Drive and the Orlando Improv Comedy Club & Dinner Theatre, an opportunity for them to meet and network in a relaxed, fun, enjoyable social setting.
On Thursday, though, it was the association’s turn to do the performing, as Pullen introduced the very first CFVRMA Improv Theater with a special performance of a show called “The Reality of Property Management.”
And that, Pullen said, was the message behind the comedic show: not just to entertain members right before the holidays, but also a reminder to anyone thinking of getting into the property management business that it can be very challenging work, 24 hours a day, and deals with a lot more than just booking the guests and expecting them to be delighted at the house they’re renting.
“We’d like to introduce to you,” she said, “the true reality of property management.”
The performance had some fun showing guests who take over the vacation house, in odd ways: playing a round of golf in the living room, drinking far too much and then causing trouble, and even expecting the property manager to sit and listen to their personal problems — the property manager as armchair therapist.
This can be the reality of managing a vacation property, Pullen said: sometimes the guests simply have very high expectations of what a property manager can and should do to make their stay a special one.
The property managers work in one of the fastest-growing fields in Central Florida’s booming hospitality industry. They manage vacation homes, which are fully furnished houses rented to vacationers and business travelers on a short term basis.
These homes offer multiple bedrooms, a kitchen with everything guests need to cook their own meals, a private pool and a game room – perfect for longer stays in the region, or for large families who don’t want to spend their entire trip in a hotel room.
The industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade, particularly in Osceola and Polk counties, where more and more short term vacation homes are popping up on U.S. 192 and U.S. 27 every year.
In fact, the industry is growing so quickly that there are an estimated 30,000 vacation homes in this region.
During the meeting on Thursday, the CFVRMA tackled some serious issues, including electing a new slate of officers that include An Flamand as its president in 2012, outgoing president Colin Young as vice president, Michael Eckersley as treasurer and Jeff Chase as secretary. They also unveiled a new certification program that will begin on Jan. 7, which includes an online exam for members to take to get their industry certification.
But they also took the time to have some fun, which is why they decided to stage this, the first of what will likely become a new tradition for the association: the Improv show.
“As you can see,” joked Young, “the association is filled with professionals. What we’re professional about, I don’t know.”
But Pullen said it was a serious message handled in a comical way.
“We do try to give you a little bit of entertainment,” she said. “We decided to do it for our last meeting of the year.”
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