by Mandy Clarke - Resort News Editor
12th November, 2020
ARAMA – what have you done for us lately?
It is very rare to come across an industry so small in size, yet big of heart.
Management rights (MR) sure is resilient! However, the continued success of MR businesses will always depend on the strength of its operators, members, ethical professionals, and the legislation the industry is built on.
It has been a tough year, perhaps the toughest our industry has yet to experience but despite this, the managers who talk to Resort News and AccomNews rarely report doom and gloom. Instead, they are some of the most positive people you will find. Pockets of MR managers have tentatively reported good post-COVID recovery and some even say they are busier than ever!
Others have reported they are experiencing a steady recovery, better than they had expected in such unusual circumstances. Of course, sadly, there are some resorts in trouble but far fewer resorts seem to be struggling than expected.
Resort News caught up with the industry’s peak body... The Australian Resident Accommodation Manager’s Association (ARAMA) to ask how and why (for the most part) our industry appears to be “bullet proof”. I asked, what have they done for us lately?
ARAMA has a long history with the MR industry (over 30 years) and represents over 2500 resident managers of holiday letting, permanent rental and mixed-use buildings. Its main job is to protect the MR legislation that ensures the success and viability of your business. It does a lot more, too…
Exactly how much more ARAMA does, and how important it is to its members, especially during a crisis, has become much more apparent during COVID.
Trevor Rawnsley is ARAMA’s CEO, and he has been an MR operator himself. He is a passionate industry professional who is very protective of management rights culture. In his role, over many years, he has battled behind the scenes, lobbying government and others to ensure the best outcomes for members, managers, stakeholders, and professionals.
You could call Trevor our “industry gatekeeper”.
Trevor explains: “My biggest battles have been to do nothing and, by this, I mean to keep the very well written original MR legislation exactly the same!
“I work hard to make sure that the MR laws are not changed for the worst. The Government reviews all laws every seven years and the MR industry always seems to be under attack from attempts to water down the legislation in the interest of consumers but to the detriment of MR operators.
“My role is to advocate for a business model that’s not always popular, and so it is my priority to protect MR laws, with a deliberate strategy to keep the laws same, for the benefit of this business.
“ARAMA members may not always recognise the extent of our work, because we cannot always reveal our strategies. However, I am very privileged to work with very clever lawyers to serve this industry and to protect a business model that has been consistently under attack from proposed legal changes.”
However, 2020 has been ARAMA’s biggest year of all. This has been the year that ARAMA has been able to show off its true colours and showcase true value to its members.
When Trevor describes the moment he realised the extent of the pandemic and its consequences, March 13, it is clear how affected he was by the news. At the time, he described it as “a pivotal date that changed everything”, but it was also the day that many of us in the industry turned to ARAMA for advice, help and support.
Using hindsight, Trevor says that March 13, 2020 was the day ARAMA had been working towards for many years, without even knowing it! He suggests that many events leading up to this crisis were “synchronicity”, and explains the work ARAMA put into building relationships with other organisations and the decisions made in 2019 created “a perfect storm” for ARAMA members to access the best help, and this enabled them to ride the wave of COVID in better shape than most.
Trevor says: “Of course, no one could have predicted this pandemic but the groundwork for a crisis had been done and a safety net was in place for our members.”
He explains: “ARAMA is privileged to be relied upon by its members to provide them with information in timely and clear ways. However, ARAMA also relies on having good relationships with other industry organisations and experts, especially AccomNews and Resort News, to help ‘colour in’ the picture.
“For instance, ARAMA may release a health directive but the publications always provide excellent expert commentary and context, and this helps members understand how the directives apply to them.”
According to Trevor, ARAMA has received very positive feedback from its members, many report that throughout COVID they not only relied on the information, advice and support provided by ARAMA but they also depended on the inciteful information and commentary from Accom News and Resort News.
Moreover, members also state that the AccomProperties (AP) website provided an important safety net for their MR business when they needed it most. Trevor fiercely agrees and says that without ARAMA’s special relationship with AP, and without APs delivery model that helped members segue from holiday letting to permanent rentals during COVID restrictions, many “ARAMA members would have been stuck with empty beds”.
He says: “AP delivers connectivity to members for platforms like realestate.com and others, alongside essential ancillary services and advertising portals, allowing members to take their rental accommodations and sales listings to market in the most cost-effective ways.
“Members ask me, how is it so cost effective? I explain that it is only possible because of the close working relationship ARAMA has built with the AP organisation. In 2019, we formed a partnership and agreed special rates for ARAMA members who join AP, both organisations identified a need for this important cost-effective service because members were not receiving it anyone else.”
As a result, AP is now a market leader because it provides a tailored, cost-effective service to members, it gives them exactly what they need and evolves with them. During the COVID crisis, this model provided managers with an easy way to convert their holiday beds to long stay beds, it provided flexibility, it was prompt and very cost-effective and helped the MR industry, managers and unit holders in a great time of need.
Patrick Clarke, owner and manager of AP agrees: “Our portal was designed to specifically meet the needs of MR industry, we had the insight to do this because of our longstanding relationship with ARAMA, our AccomNews website and especially our highly respected management rights publication, Resort News. Our experience and contacts mean that our team always has its finger on the industry pulse.”
He explains: “AP was created in direct response to manager’s needs and is designed to be a comprehensive and easy-to-use vehicle to sell and rent accommodation property. We are the only organisation that shows such strength of support for this industry and ARAMA members, only this month we became one of the sponsors of the Women In Management rights (WIM) events for the next 12 months. Other organisations may claim to offer all sorts of ‘bells and whistles’ features in order to try and entice you to sign up to their service, however you will find that they do not have the desire or experience to support, protect or defend the MR industry and its members as AP does.”
Patrick continues to welcome new members to AP: “Although it’s the new guy on the block, AP has experienced phenomenal growth in the short time it has been operating and it has grown well beyond our expectations. I am also very pleased to have received such fantastic feedback from managers who appreciate the intimate and personal service we offer. It has been a hard year for all of us in any business, but I am very proud that AP has provided a shining light for so many.”
When faced with a pandemic ARAMA really “stepped up” says Eric van Meurs the former National President of ARAMA, a management rights owner/manager and a member of AP.
He said: “When crisis hits our industry, it brings out the best in all of us. Within days of the unfolding pandemic: The ARAMA Board of Directors, CEO, staff, and industry leaders stepped up to ensure members had access to vital information to protect their staff, guests, and businesses.”
It is true, ARAMA immediately organised weekly webinars that replaced face to face meetings and offered a vital lifeline to many of us in the industry. The sessions provided access to industry experts, wise advice, and plenty of reassurance. A 24/7 crisis phone support was also provided, from an industry leader who advocates for the management rights industry and is a former resident manager himself.
ARAMA provided educational events and e-News Bulletins also protocols and they prepared best practices for resort managers. They were the main source of essential advice for its members and all MR professionals, in a period of vast uncertainty, when health guidance, advice and restrictions were changing every day!
ARAMA made pandemic operational plans available to all members and managed crisis calls from distraught members. Clusters of members were able to reach out and support one another and face local challenges together. Professional mental health counselling services were also made available to all members.
Talking about the value of ARAMA, Eric said: “Before I purchased management rights, it was clear that ARAMA was the only body dedicated to the growth and protection of the management rights industry. ARAMA membership is the single most important “investment” I have made into the success of my management rights business.”
About AP, Eric said: “I would encourage all managers to get their rental properties listed with AccomProperties. All resident managers, and in particular ARAMA members, should be excited about this initiative. The ‘easy-to-navigate’ system allows managers to be more efficient in what we do - generating more revenue for owners and ourselves.
“I would encourage all managers to take up the opportunity to get their rental properties listed and, if fully licensed, then those that come up for sale as well. The platform could be a revenue generator and means of managing the rental pool. AccomProperties is a well-respected platform that has extensive industry knowledge and experience, and we are very happy to be able to partner with them in taking it to market.”
One of many testimonials for AP from MR managers: Sophie Dillon, Resident Manager at Alexandria Apartments, states: “It was such a pleasure to deal with AccomProperties they actually liked talking to its clients! It was the first time we needed to use an online residential rental and sales listing marketing service – and the service we received from Patrick at AccomProperties was superb! Patrick was always available and incredibly helpful. He anticipated our needs and fixed our problems promptly and effortlessly.
“In an era where most companies hide behind email, it was such a pleasure to deal with a company that actually liked talking to its clients.”