DAVENPORT — The past year left An Flamand feeling like she was back at the height of the economic boom, when her phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
“2012 was an extremely good year,” she said. “We were sold out and people were begging for homes at the peak seasons.
“It was like,” she added with a smile, “the good old years.”
Flamand works in a field that has clearly shaken off the worst lingering impacts of the national recession, and demonstrated an ability to bounce back and draw in patrons in strong numbers. That field is tourism, one of the mainstays of the Central Florida economy.
But Flamand also works in a specialized part of the tourism economy: hospitality. More specifically, she runs USA Vacation Homes in Davenport, a company that provides fully furnished luxury homes that are rented on a short term basis to tourists coming here on vacation. As Flamand noted, as Central Florida’s tourism industry picked up steam in the past two years, so too did the hospitality industry.
As it turns out, 2012 was an interesting and challenging year for Flamand in another way. She served as the president of the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, a trade group representing property managers who oversee vacation homes, and small business owners who provide a wide variety of services to the vacation homes, such as landscaping, security and housekeeping.
Although Flamand’s term as president ended on Dec. 31, she has been nominated to serve as the president again in 2013 – a rare example of a president serving two consecutive terms.
“It’s nice they have that confidence in me,” Flamand said of her first year as the association’s president. “It was a very hectic year, very busy, and very fast. But it opened a lot of doors for me. And the CFVRMA, I think, has gone to a different level.”
The vacation home industry is one that’s been growing by leaps and bounds in the past decade, particularly in Osceola and Polk counties. Property managers at these firms oversee homes in some of the region’s best known resort communities. The houses are ideally suited for families – and extended families, in some cases, such as friends, neighbors and grandparents – who come here for vacations together and do not want to juggle multiple hotel rooms among the group.
Vacation homes typically offer multiple bedrooms, a kitchen fully equipped for cooking and dining, a private pool and a game room – all the comforts of home, minutes from the local attractions.
When she became president in January 2012, Flamand said she was determined to help the industry grow even more, and introduced new measures to do that.
“We’ve actually gone to a different phase,” she said. “I wanted to bring something different to the meetings. Yes, it should be educational – but it also has to be a good networking opportunity.”
Flamand revamped the association’s web site to make it more user friendly and informative, and presented monthly workshops on ways for small businesses to succeed and thrive. Small business owners would talk about issues ranging from marketing to social media to dealing with customers.
Flamand said she wants to offer similar workshops in 2013, this time more specifically geared toward property managers and their special needs and concerns.
“What I would like to do for 2013 is I would like to see that every meeting, we have Property Management for Dummies,” she said. “There will be a particular subject addressed every month, like how to place a lien on property if an owner doesn’t want to pay. Those are not issues we want to talk about much, but these are things the big companies take for granted, but smaller companies can learn a lot from.”
She also started an Ambassador’s Program, employing veteran members to provide advice to newer ones. That, too, was successful, she said.
“We had a lot of people who wouldn’t have known where to go otherwise if they had a problem,” she said.
CFVRMA also established an Advisory Council to make recommendations on how the association could grow and prosper in the future.
“We had nine people that participated in that, and they made recommendations, often,” she said. “I try to take what they’re saying and try to implement it as much as I can.”
The association also attracted a larger crowd than in past years for its annual Trade Show, held this past November at SeaWorld.
“The Trade Show was a big success,” Flamand said. “We had a big return and we had more visitors than we’ve had in three years.”
The association also continues to grow, Flamand said, as more small businesses develop services to provide to this industry – including new apps designed to provide a wealth of handy information to the guests, everything they need to know at their fingertips.
“There’s some very interesting new businesses that have come into the CFVRMA this year,” she said. “But I also think it’s important to maintain our existing membership.”
The fact that CFVRMA not only maintained its current membership but brought on newcomers in 2012, Flamand said, demonstrates the faith people have in both the association and its mission – and the long-term health of the vacation home industry.
“People have started to see this,” she said, “and the potential the association has.”
To learn more about the association and the vacation home industry, log on to CFVRMA.
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