Competition continues to increase in the vacation rental market, but so too does demand. Being in a healthy and competitive industry is not a bad thing. In fact, it can increase your ROI and give your business a better opportunity to differentiate from the local competition.
As such, vacation rental professionals must continue to find ways to improve their hospitality. A great first impression on your guests is the best way to leave an everlasting impression. You must go above and beyond to make the first visit enjoyable for guests. You want to make sure you spend the right amount of time, ask the proper questions and convey the right information. Plus, little additional things here and there, make a world of difference.
So how do you impress guests right from the start (while also setting the tone for a 5-star stay)?
To help you, we gathered tips from 14 vacation rental professionals on the best ways to welcome guests to your vacation rental property:
Personalize the welcome (Chris Schalkx of GuestReady)
GuestReady, an Airbnb property management company, makes a point to personally welcome the guest at each property. Before arrival, GuestReady has ‘greeters’ work with a checklist to make sure everything’s in order. Once arrived, the greeters explain the basic house rules and walk guests through what they need to know. Greeters also share a few local tips, to make the guest feel like they’re visiting local friends. This approach is always well received.
What should you avoid when welcoming guests? Overcomplicating things. After a long flight, guests are not looking for a tour around every detail of the house. Keep the intro short and friendly and make sure you stay connected with guests whenever a question arises.
Help guests feel like locals (from Third Homes)
“One of the best advantages of vacation rentals compared to hotels is being able to fully immerse yourself into the local culture. As a host, you can take it a step further and assist your guest by offering helpful local suggestions. These can include a list of your favorite restaurants or chef, must-see local attractions, and area excursions.”
Let guests know what additional hygiene measures have been taken for health and safety (from HomeToGo)
HomeToGo, the fastest-growing booking channel for property managers worldwide, recently conducted a survey among property managers and guests. The results highlight a slight disparity between the cleaning standards guests demand in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and how property managers are responding. “45% of guests surveyed included enhanced cleaning in their top three decision-making factors when making a booking” explained Rachel Tabellion, Head of Sales at HomeToGo. “Yet 27% of property managers aren’t highlighting COVID-related cleaning measures they’re taking”.
The good news is that 73% of property managers noted that they are including extra cleaning measures in their listing, but only 18% are reflecting it in the final price. Tabellion summarized the findings, explained further in their white paper on the future of travel in 2021.
We recommend both listing extra cleaning measures and reflecting it in your price.
Set clear expectations for yourself and with your guests (Sharon Schweitzer, etiquette expert and founder of Access to Culture)
“To make the hosting experience enjoyable for both you and your guests, do a self-assessment and determine if, when, and how you plan to interact with your guests. This is your vacation rental property; you need to determine if you and your family prefer privacy, or company.
“In your property description, state whether you will be on-site during the rental. Setting these boundaries communicates expectations, and how you expect guests to behave and treat your property. No vacation rental owner has time to hover over guests, micromanage their stay, or imposing group activities. After all, this is a vacation rental, not a party invitation. More useful hospitality tips:
- Prepare a visitor’s guide with popular landmarks, attractions, restaurants, and entertainment venues, as well as nearby pharmacies, gas stations, and post offices.
- Consider having guests complete a Special Requests Form when booking the reservation (allergies, medical issues, dietary needs, etc.).
- When guests arrive, provide a warm welcome by name, with a personal greeting.
- Finally, when greeting guests upon arrival, lend a hand with baggage and assist with property access. A cold bottle of water or a cool refreshing beverage is a welcome treat on arrival.
Send a driver and set the right tone at the airport (Sabina King of TaZa.co)
Sabina manages vacation rentals in Bali, Indonesia. For Taza rentals, the most popular service for guests is to provide a driver (instead of a taxi) to pick them up from the airport. Transitions in travel are important and can be a source of stress for guests because there are many unknowns, especially when traveling to a foreign country. The guest pays for the driver (same cost as a taxi), but rests assured that they are trusted and that the driver knows the way to the property.
Sabina made a point that it is best to avoid providing too much information at one time. People are busy and have limited attention spans. Offering 10 paragraphs about the home in an email blast just won’t get read.
To solve this problem, Sabina is working to make her house manuals more visual rather than relying on lengthy text. Sabina notes: “We send an email and then we also have our greeter and staff reinforce the important points quickly when they arrive and then during their stay. It may seem like a lot, but we’ve found that multiple touch points are necessary to communicate important info.”
Give a local gift at arrival (Emmanuel Arnaud of HomeExchange)
A major tactic used by many of the hosts on HomeExchange is to give a gift to guests upon arrival. Many hosts leave an edible present for guests that ties into the local culture where the rental is located. A thoughtfully put-together welcome basket is also a good idea.
Provide a welcome letter or instructional booklet (from Third Homes)
Each home has particular quirks. Simple things that you know inside and out can confuse a guest, like operating your kitchen appliances, electronics, and security systems.
To make the transition easier, leave a welcome letter or instructional booklet that is easily accessible in your home. Alternatively, you can email a packet to the guest ahead of time. A digital guidebook is a great way to transition this to a fully online process.
Make sure to be available (Mary Cave of Duas Quintas Guesthouse)
When welcoming guests, always check to make sure that they know where to find you and emphasize that it is part of your job to be available if they need you.
Likewise, Mary’s advice on what not to do is to allow check-in to take priority over your welcome. You should be conscious that welcome and check in are two separate items and welcome always has priority. It is important to go back and complete any check-in tasks at a later stage, but if a guest does not feel welcome right from the start it is hard to undo that later.
Don’t use automated welcome emails (Sydney Smith of Maliko Retreat)
Don’t use automated welcome emails, always write a personal thank you for the booking. A month ahead of their arrival, send a map, an estimate of how long it will take them to collect their luggage, instructions on renting a car, and directions to your property. You should also send a list of events happening during their stay. Find out from them when they plan to arrive and greet them personally on their arrival.
(We agree with Sydney here to a certain extent. However, we do believe that it’s possible to personalize automated emails too! Try it with our Hostfully Property Management System!)
Use a welcome checklist (Michelle London of Lillian Farms Bed & Breakfast)
When welcoming guests, have a checklist that you can use to set up your property prior to arrival. Turn on the air conditioning (or heat, depending on the season), turn on lights both inside and out, turn up the hot tub, make sure the TV is working, stock the refrigerator, blow off porches and decks, and leave a welcome note and treat.
The number one thing to avoid is to never ignore your phone. If a guest calls, answer! Sometimes the calls are ridiculous, but you still need to answer them.
Sometimes it’s a guest wanting a dinner recommendation or directions into town, sometimes they’re having difficulty operating something in the property, or, worst case scenario, something has stopped working. There is nothing more frustrating for a guest than to not be able to reach their host. If you are unable to answer the phone, be sure to return calls promptly.
Michelle also told us a story about when she had a guest call at 1:00 am to tell her they heard coyotes outside, and wanted to know if they would come into the cottage. True story!
Tailor the experience (Elissa English of MainelyGlamping)
Welcoming vacationers is all about knowing your guest. Try and find out who you are working with and what makes them tick. Welcome amenities shouldn’t be standardized, they should be personalized. Strive to ensure whatever the welcome amenity is, that it is locally made.
According to Elissa, people don’t come to Maine to eat or take away a product that they can get back home. They want something unique that is going to provide them with a new experience. For example, for families who ‘glamp’ with her, she provides locally made pancake mix and locally made maple syrup so they can enjoy a complimentary local breakfast as part of their package.
No doorway conversations (Gary Auerbach of Frisbee Guy)
Avoid having a conversation while standing in the doorway. Gary and his wife have had many welcoming experiences where they’re shown the room, given a key, asked if they need any recommendations for food, and that’s that! The very act of welcoming someone in your home is basic human interaction. Come right out of your home or room and engage your guests in conversation. If the opportunity arises, even sit and have a drink with them.
Being a host requires good communication, but understanding their needs (and giving a little extra) comes from sitting down and having a relaxed conversation.
Consider a welcome bag (Randy Bonds of BRIC Vacation Rentals)
At BRIC Vacation Rentals in Playa del Carmen, they prepare a hand crafted welcome bag for each guest. The guest is also educated about the property and provided with a mobile phone to use during the stay. The phone is programmed with their assigned hotel ambassador’s number to reach anytime for help. After check-in, guests are transported to the vacation rental property and the assigned ambassador follows up with an introduction, offering assistance during the stay. Randy’s number one best practice is to have someone assigned to each guest to act as their primary contact and representative during their stay.
Use the perfect words (Fred Davidson of Condo.Capital)
Words are powerful tools that affect your business. The words that you and your customer service team use influence how your guests feel. Train yourself and your team to use the right words for proper communication.
For instance, if your vacation rental is fully booked, it would be unwelcoming to say, “we are sold out.” However, it would be kind to say, “We are fully committed, can we offer help for you to find alternative accommodation?” Make every word count toward building a good relationship with your customers.
Respect a guest’s privacy (Sydney Smith of Maliko Retreat)
Avoid interacting with the guests unless they ask to see you or give you the impression they want company. You must respect their privacy. Be sure to strike a balance between giving total privacy while still being accessible. Sydney’s most valuable tool for this is the text message. It’s not as intrusive as a call, and the information you give is in print, and can even be a link.
Final thoughts on the vacation rental guest experience
Guest check-in is the most important touch point of a vacation rental customer experience. Properly welcoming guests is an art that all vacation rental professionals must perfect.