Approximately a year after graduating from the University of Richmond in 2005, alum Matt Landau purchased a vacation rental company in Panama. Seven years later, he is the founder and brain behind Vacation Rental Marketing Blog (VRMB), a company dedicated to helping vacation renters and property managers build successful and sustainable businesses, according to its website.
VRMB offers a free newsletter that gives tips and tricks on how to be successful in the vacation rental industry and also has a podcast series and TV show, according to the website.
It may seem as though Landau was destined for the vacation rental industry, but he had not always known where he had wanted to go after college.
“Senior year, I was concerned that I had no idea where I was going,” Landau said. “But I picked up the [UR] alumni magazine and saw another UR alum, Casey Halloran, sitting on a hammock in Costa Rica after he created his own travel agency. And I thought, ‘That’s exactly what I want to do.’”
A few months after contacting Halloran, Landau flew to Costa Rica to intern for Halloran’s agency, Costa Rican Vacations, for three months as a travel journalist, he said. During his time there, he wrote a guidebook on vacationing in Costa Rica for the agency, he said. After that, he got an offer to follow the company to Panama and work on another guidebook, which inspired him to stay there and invest in his own company, which grew to what VRMB is today, he said.
The VRMB podcast series, "Unlocked", takes listeners inside the mind of some of the world’s “most innovative vacation rental professionals,” according to its description. The goal of the podcast series is to “share best practices and to remind vacation rental professionals that we have everything we need inside of us to succeed," according to the VRMB website.
The Vacation Rental Show with Matt Landau, available on YouTube, is the first-ever travel show to showcase vacation rentals, Landau said. Landau was originally approached by several networks to be the host of a show about quick vacation makeovers but ultimately declined when he realized he wouldn’t have any say in the creative process, he said.
“I wasn’t super comfortable building an unrealistic storyline of vacation rentals,” Landau said.
After passing on those offers, Landau pitched his own show idea to a few outside producers and was able to get LiveRez, a software company in the vacation rental industry, to sponsor the first nine episodes, he said. After those episodes wrapped filming, Landau was approached by another sponsor to continue the show for another four episodes, making the pilot season 13 episodes, he said. The second season was picked up and sponsored by Booking.com, which increased the show's exposure and audience, Landau said.
During his time at UR, Landau was a student in economics professor Jonathan Wight’s “Economic Development in Asia, Africa and Latin America” class. The class studied the theory and evidence of economic growth. During the semester Landau took the course, Wight had his students help local businesses with their development strategies, Wight said.
"[The students] get an appreciation of how difficult it is for outsiders to come in and bring development to a particular region,” he said. “It’s far easier for local people to bring about sustainable development changes than it is for outsiders.”
Wight believes that his students will be successful if they can see the world through different lenses, he said. Matt was one of those students, always thinking outside the box, Wight said.
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"He was very creative and engaged," Wight said.
Landau said Wight’s class had been such a different learning experience compared with other UR classes for him.
“Being able to solve problems outside of the classroom was the greatest thing I learned during my time at Richmond," Landau said. "I will never forget that class.”
Landau also studied abroad at St. Louis University in Madrid when he was a student at UR. While there, he was introduced to the things he is passionate about today, he said.
“I learned about travel, language and international business while I was there,” he said.
Landau recommends everybody go abroad if possible because doing so forces people to adapt, learn and understand others, he said.
“The cultural, business and language perspectives allow you to absorb [your education] in ways you can’t find anywhere else,” Landau said.
Michele Cox, director of study abroad, knew Landau through his time at UR, specifically because of his time abroad and his success with international business, she said.
"I think that Matt’s experience in Madrid was a very critical factor for his future in an international field," Cox said.
Cox also applauded Landau for his work abroad.
“Many people are fearful of cultures that seem so different, but he is going to those places and humanizing them,” she said. “You can go to these places and learn a lot about them, so I’m glad his work and his show is bringing that to everybody.”
Cox’s advice for students who are interested in going abroad, and specifically working abroad, is to focus on connections.
“Networking with alumni is helpful, like Matt did with Casey,” she said. “There are also a bunch of Facebook groups such as Spiders in Asia or Spiders in the Middle East that really help you with that experience.”
Landau credited his success to studying abroad during his time at UR and his connections.
“When I met Casey, he had my dream job,” he said. "Halloran was [...] running his own business while having a lifestyle that rewarded him with adventure, and that sounded like my personal paradise, so I went for it."
Landau recommends that other students find their own dream jobs by getting close to somebody who holds that position, he said.
“Reaching out to those people and offering up your assistance is something that will be received well and is a good use of resources and time," he said. "It’s a step towards your own success.”
Editor-in-chief Olivia Diaz contributed to reporting.
Contact international writer Kaitlin Edwardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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