Amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, some vacation rental owners and managers still manage to attract guests. Some guests book remote locations to escape the city. Others are stranded travelers in need of a place to sleep. For vacation rental owners and managers that cater to these guests, staying safe and healthy is the priority.
Unfortunately, the best defense against COVID-19 – staying away from other people – is at odds with how many vacation rental professionals check-in and check-out guests. Even in 2020, a large number of hosts and rental companies still do this in person. Luckily, there’s a technological solution that’s quick to implement, and that’ll allow you and your staff to maintain physical distance.
Breaking down the in-person check-in process
If you take a moment to break down the check-in process, here’s what you accomplish as a host:
- Make the guest feel welcome
- Give guests access to the property
- Show the rental
- Explain any unique features of the unit
- Go over check-out procedures
All the points noted above are necessary to provide guests a personalized and warm welcome. After all, your vacation rental isn’t a hotel room. There are unique features you need the guests to understand for their stay to be worth leaving you a 5-star review. However, consider the costs of in-person check-in:
- The time spent traveling to and from the property
- Guests chat you up to get local recommendations
- You’re interacting with guests when they’re jet-lagged, or just traveled hours with kids in the backseat (they’re not in the right state of mind)
- During a pandemic: you’re meeting travelers who may carry the virus without knowing it
Options you can implement to eliminate in-person meetings
Although some guests appreciate the personal touch of an in-person check-in, a growing trend in the hospitality industry is changing it altogether. Travelers already know how vacation rentals work: you get the keys to a fully functional house. All they need are the finer details of how the property works. And in 2020, technology makes it easier than ever to communicate information like that. Let’s go over some of the tools you can use to ditch meeting guests in person:
Send details via the booking platform chat or email
All booking platforms have a guest communication feature. If guests booked directly via your website, you have their email. So in both cases, you have a reliable way to reach the guest and send information. Unfortunately, both are difficult to implement self-check-in. For booking platform chat, it’s a cumbersome way to convey details. You have to copy/paste your message on the app, and the final format is hard for the guest to read. For emails, you may run into formatting issues since smartphones have varying screen sizes, operating systems, and even email display apps. You want something consistent to ensure you’re always delivering a consistent guest experience.
Share a PDF file to guests
At first glance, a .pdf may seem like a good workaround to reduce in-person check-in. But sending a .pdf comes with challenges. For starters, some booking platforms don’t let you see the guest’s email. So there’s no way to send it to them. On top of that, the guest still has to print the .pdf before traveling. Then, with a .pdf you also have to deal with the hassle of formatting a document – and if you don’t have graphic design skills, the result may not look professional.
Link to a digital guidebook ahead of time
A digital guidebook contains all the necessary information for a guest to self-check-in. There’s a section that hosts can set up directions, as well as detailed instructions on how to gain access to the rental once on-site.
Of course, hosts can still include all the other crucial information, like the rental’s rules and house manual, local recommendations for restaurants, shopping, activities, and nightlife.
However, if email and .pdf guidebooks were inefficient for vacation rental self-check-in because of formatting and delivery challenges, how are digital guidebooks any different? Designed from the ground up for viewability, digital guidebooks look great on mobile or desktop. They’ll work on any device. As for delivery, all a guest needs is a hyperlink, and the guidebook is accessible—no need for an app on their end.
From the guest’s perspective: email vs. PDF vs. digital guidebook
What it comes down to is delivering information efficiently and pleasingly to the guest. Here are what your three options look like from their end (we’ll let you be the judge of which is best):
Extra revenue: digital guidebooks offer more than self-check-in
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing in-person greetings with guests is a great way to keep yourself and your staff’s health safe. Digital guidebooks are a great way to do that. But they also offer so much more. Notably, you can use them for upselling products and services to guests – the same way a hotel does with water bottles and housecoats.
With digital guidebooks, upselling is straightforward. Once you’ve created your guidebook, activate the Hostfully Marketplace and connect it to a payment processing platform like Stripe. You can then create any product or service you may wish to upsell to guests. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are services upsold to guests by hosts and managers:
Bonus: fully automate the check-in process
Switching to digital guidebooks is the first step to a fully contactless vacation rental check-in. Now since you’ve already taken the plunge and went fully digital, may as well optimize your business process with a bit of technology. Wouldn’t a completely hands-off solution to reservations and check-in be great?
With digital guidebooks, all a guest needs to do is click on a link. This lends itself perfectly to vacation rental property management platforms (PMPs), which give hosts and managers a suite of tools that optimize their business. One of these tools is automated messaging: a feature that sends out prescripted communications based on event triggers. So what does that look like for contactless guest check-in? Something like this:
Sidenote: if you’re curious of all the other things a PMP can do for your business, you can check out these webinars and demos.
Wrapping things up
How the COVID-19 pandemic will pan out is anyone’s guess. But one thing’s for sure: it’s testing the creativity of the vacation rental industry. Luckily, software solutions like digital guidebooks make it easy for hosts and managers to implement contactless self-check-in.