Hotec Operations Profile: Vacasa's Joe Strumolo

Joe Strumolo, senior director accounting operations for vacation rental management platform Vacasa, is set to attend Hotec Operations, an annual conference presented by Questex, the parent company of Hotel Management. At the conference—scheduled this year for June 11-14 at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.—buyers meet one-on-one with hospitality-focused suppliers to learn about new products and services and to keep up to date on emerging trends. Ahead of the event, Strumolo shared his thoughts on the vacation rental side of the industry and how trends from traditional hotels are driving change in how his segment operates.

When he joined Vacasa in September, Strumolo noted the wide range of vendors approved for the company’s properties. “We wanted to … go through and rationalize why [we are] using certain vendors. Why are we using certain products? What other products are out there? Should we be using those products?” That determination drove the company to attend Hotec Operations. “It was recommended to me by some peers in the industry and when I saw it, I was like, ‘This is exactly what I need: Two days of just talking to people and not checking my email, and then I can come back and do everything else.” 

Vacasa, Strumolo said, does not own any of its properties. As a management company, the team helps its “owner-partners” get “the best return on their investment.” For many owners, he added, the vacation property they rent out is “the most important asset that they own outside of their primary home. And they're entrusting us with that.” The company has to take care of the owners, their assets and the guests who book the rental. “So [there’s a] really big responsibility there for us to the owners.”  

As the company’s portfolio grows, Strumolo is helping to standardize the look and operations of the units. Standardization, he said, means that “people know what they're getting. … They know that they're going to get certain things and that those things are going to be of a certain quality.” 

Leveraging Tech, Driving ESG 

Next-generation technology, especially artificial intelligence, is shifting the way the entire hospitality industry functions, according to Strumolo. “We haven't seen this type of adjustment in the workforce—and how we're going to interact with the world—since the ’90s when the internet was coming along and cell phones were coming along,” he said. “It unlocked an incredible amount of capability by partnering with machines.” 

Vacasa is using AI in “a number of areas,” he continued, but emphasized that while technology can be helpful, it cannot replace people. Just as people learned to “partner” with technology like email and the internet 30 years ago, business professionals will learn how to partner with the newest iterations of technology in the future, he predicted. 

Environmental, social and governance initiatives also are changing the ways hospitality businesses operate, Strumolo added. “We need to be responsible and understand what impact we're making and why. And that goes into our product selection. We are reviewing all of our products right now.” In February, the company deployed what Strumolo calls a “major shift” and opted to put bulk amenities in its units. Bulk amenities are easier to install in traditional hotels than they are in vacation rental units, he explained, because individual owners of those units may not want someone drilling dispensers into their shower walls. “I can't just make an adjustment, because it’s not my property,” he said. But working with the owners, the team has had “great responses and feedback” about the initiative since it launched. “That trend is here to stay. That work is never done. There's always going to be innovation in products and how we're able to make them with a lower impact.” 

These innovations helped attract Strumolo to Hotec Operations. “When we look at things like sustainability, when we look at things like community impact, I'm really looking forward to hearing what some of those other companies are doing—and how we may be able to repeat those things,” he said. In the same vein, he is looking forward to sharing “a couple of lessons” his team has learned along the way with other attendees. 

Hotec Operations will take place June 11-14 at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Applications are open for buyers and suppliers.