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Moriya Rockman: A pioneering founder in the STR space

Moriya Rockman, Smiling House, International Women's Day

Moriya Rockman is an inspirational female founder and recognised as a pioneer in the vacation rentals industry.

As the Co-Founder of Smiling House, Triangle Luxury, and Villa Tracker, Moriya has been a key player in shaping the luxury short-term rentals (STR) space. Smiling House has grown from a single chalet in the Swiss Alps to one of the world’s premier online travel agencies in the luxury sector – home to more than 9,000 properties in 52 countries and 300 destinations. Triangle Luxury is a marketplace for the world’s finest vacation rentals – linking vendors and buyers, and facilitating transactions worth millions of dollars. And the newly launched Villa Tracker is a global distribution system that allows travel professionals, concierge companies, travel designers, travel agencies, and VIP clubs to book luxury vacation rentals across the globe.

Moriya’s contribution to the ever-expanding STR industry has been massive – and when you consider she succeeds in business while bringing up seven children, her achievements are even more remarkable.

In this interview to mark International Women’s Day 2024, Moriya discusses her journey as a female founder, the challenges she has faced, and outlines how women can succeed in business.

Tell us about starting out in the vacation rentals industry.

I was lucky to discover this industry in its very early days. When we listed our first property on Airbnb, I had no idea I was becoming part of the vacation rentals industry. Back then, everything was new and everything we did was pioneering. I feel lucky to have been part of this from the beginning, when there were no limits. What I discovered was an industry that gave me the freedom to present my ideas, to dream, and create new solutions with no glass ceiling. It was different to any other job or industry I had worked in before – and that’s why I love the STR industry. I was able to grow my wings and fly.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a female founder and how did you overcome them?

It was when I wanted to step up into the giant’s playground and develop tech and API integrations with major tech players in the industry. There were times I felt targeted as a woman. Some people doubted I was able to step up and manage complex projects which were beyond hospitality and the guest journey. But the doubts only inspired me to do things in a better way. They inspired me to learn new things, like managing developers and learning code. Every challenge has helped me and the businesses to grow.

How did industry recognition help you to grow your business?

I was very proud to win the Industry Pioneer award at the Shortyz. I was actually very surprised to win – but it gave me a huge push to keep creating. I remember attending HOST 2019 in London and talking about the need for a new direction and achieving bookings from new sources, such as travel professionals. A lot of people were listening to this, including other industry leaders – who are mostly male of course – and they came up to me afterwards and said ‘wow, it’s a great idea…but we don’t see this happening’. This only helped to fuel the fire and was the moment I began designing the first B2B platform in our space – a bridge between our industry and legacy travel players. I’m excited to say this first-to-market solution is Villa Tracker and any property manager with Guesty will be able to connect to this tool.

Moriya Rockman Smiling House International Women's Day

How do you balance your responsibilities as a mother, wife, and founder?

By constantly growing and learning – as a mum, as a wife, and while running a family business. I feel we are lucky to live in an age where remote working is possible. We travel a lot with the whole family – and this is only possible thanks to new technology and new attitudes to the way we work.

We are also lucky to be part of the sharing economy. My kids see us working and are part of the environment. They respect the work, which is enabling us to travel the world. They see that everything is accessible and possible. I like involving them in the business and getting their feedback. We can learn a lot from our kids. They have grown up in the world of tech, sharing, and understanding social platforms.

As we are travelling the world, it’s important for me to teach my kids that luxury is an exception and that’s why I make sure to expose them to nature as much as possible. This includes enjoying authentic experiences. Luxury should not be taken for granted. As a remote working family, my kids are travelling more than others, but they have to see themselves, first of all, as citizens of the world. They should appreciate and respect every culture as we keep on exploring. We meet people from all over the world, mainly in the luxury space, so it’s important to teach my kids about different people and different backgrounds. They should have gratitude and understand how lucky we are – to have the opportunity to travel, be independent, to explore nature, to seek unforgettable experiences. For me, the experience is key when you travel and that’s what I share with my kids as well.

What advice would you give to women who are keen to work in the vacation rentals industry?

Women from any background can shine in the vacation rentals space. Their age or experience are irrelevant. Every type of work experience can be embraced in the STR world. With a woman’s natural abilities of love, sensitivity, creativity, hospitality, and dedication, you can succeed in this industry.

My advice would be, don’t narrow your own abilities. You can fly high, you can think, you can create with no limitations. Don’t have too much ego. Instead, be creative, experience failure, learn, get up, and carry on.

The vacation rentals industry is fast paced. There is a lot of innovation and constant change. This presents opportunities for women to achieve success quickly.

What is your message to women and girls on International Women’s Day 2024?

Step up, bring your light, share your ideas. Don’t let anyone limit you or tell you it’s not relevant or too difficult. Surround yourself with like-minded people who will inspire you and don’t let anyone clip your wings. Be authentic. If something is authentic and real and needed, it will succeed. I encourage you to dare, participate, and share your voice. The world is ready to be inspired by you – so please step up and take action.


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