Guidebooks 8 mins read

What is a Digital Guidebook?

By August 19, 2019 August 26th, 2020 No Comments
What is a digital guidebook for vacation rentals

A vacation rental digital guidebook is your guests’ introduction to the rental space they’ll be staying in. Complete with detailed information about the room or home, amenities, and surrounding area, these digital guidebooks break down all one needs to know during a stay.

Guidebooks have become a staple of the vacation rental industry. They’re easy to prepare, cheap to roll out, and positively contribute to the guest experience.

How guidebooks became popular in vacation rentals

Before guidebooks, owners had to be more hands-on, meet guests at the rental, and provide verbal recommendations. It wasn’t the most convenient process, but it worked for a time.

Eventually, owners left city guide books on the coffee table. To make the experience more personalized, some created binders. The process was time-consuming for the rental owner, especially for those who weren’t artistically inclined. One lesson came out from this era: guidebooks improve the guest experience and help promote a local experience.

Nowadays, guidebooks have become an expected part of the vacation rental experience. They can be personalized to the rental space. Owners can make each guidebook their own to further separate themselves from other rental properties.

Sample Guidebook

The advent of the physical guidebook allowed owners to be more detailed, especially when it came to the nuances of the rental unit. They could also be less involved in the check-in process, which comes in handy when managing multiple units with similar arrival times.

Guidebooks are now a digital thing

When guidebooks first entered the market, they were often unattractive, physical booklets, binders, or sheets of paper laid out near the front entrance. They got the job done, but they risked being damaged, and updating them was a hassle.

With the advent of smartphones (who doesn’t travel with one anymore?), the next logical step was to turn the paper guides into a convenient digital reference. Going digital removed those two worries entirely.

When the first digital version of the guidebook hit the market, it did two things:

  1. Provided an enhanced guest experience by giving them access to property information beforehand
  2. Alleviated owner worry by ensuring the book is always available

Some owners opted with Word documents, while others went for PDFs. While both work, they don’t always load the same on all devices or screen sizes.

In the years that followed the push for digital, the concept was tweaked and altered. Companies like Hostfully created platforms that allowed owners to create digital guidebooks quickly, cheaply, efficiently, and that load on any device. Not only that, most guest books now only require the user to click on one link for it to load — no need for another app or wizardly IT skills.

screenshot of digital guidebook

Example of a digital guestbook

Here’s an example of a digital guidebook. Notice how professional and clean it looks. It also offers all the information the guest needs at his or her fingertips. What’s even better is that a guidebook like this takes under 30 minutes to put together!

What digital guidebooks offer

The wording of every guidebook may be different, but the content within is mostly the same. What vacation rental owners get to do is create something that speaks to the personality of the unit. Since these guidebooks are digital, they are flexible and can be changed easily.

For the guest, this creates a valuable resource that’s full of information to make their stay more comfortable.

It starts with fantastic guest content management

Being able to manage the content of the guidebook ensures everything the guest may need is included. Content management allows the owner to choose from a selection of popular templates and essential information easily, organize sections for an easier read, and choose from predetermined wording to make sections clear and concise.

Sample Guidebook

The focus of the vacation rental guidebook is the guest. If it doesn’t help them, it’s not serving its purpose. A guidebook should be user-friendly and provide the most relevant information upfront.

Custom guidebooks have specific categories that help organize the information and give guests everything they need. These include:

What a vacation rental guidebook should include

  • Arrival: check-in procedures, directions, and public transportation options, local weather, and everyday needs like children’s equipment rental.
  • House manual: provides guests with vital information like WiFi password, smart thermostat instructions, house rules, included essentials, and added benefits like pools and fire pits.
  • Departure: goes over check-out procedures, including how to leave the house and arranging for ground transportation.
  • Places to eat: customize the best local eateries and leave a note on your menu recommendations.
  • Breweries and coffee shops: give guests an idea of where to get their favorite libations and their morning coffee.
  • Activities: provides a glimpse of the best things to do in or around the local area, including hiking, swimming, and walking trails.
  • Bars: especially during sports seasons, give guests an idea of which bars are worth the visit.
  • Attractions: lists off local theme parks, museums, arcades, and other means of enjoying the local area. If you have a secret spot not mentioned in city guides, platforms like Hostfully allow you to create custom entries.
  • Shopping: Help guests pinpoint malls, grocery stores, outlets, and convenience stores should they have a shopping need.

Note that platforms like Hostfully use Google Places to make the process of selecting recommendations easier for the owner. If you can find the spot in Google, you can quickly transform it into a recommendation.

But to go the extra mile, owners should consider custom entries. They’re easy to set up and help guests get that local experience (a growing trend in the travel industry). Most custom entries touch on spots like:

  • Beaches
  • Parks
  • Wineries
  • Fitness centers
  • Banks and currency exchanges

Consider what may be relevant for an out of town guest and make it a custom category.

All your guests need is a hyperlink

In an age where you have to download an app to access anything on a smartphone, access via a simple hyperlink is the key to pushing convenience.

For your vacation rental guidebook, go with a provider where guests will only need one link that they can access on their phone, tablet, or laptop. Unlike an app, a web-based guidebook can be saved for access while offline, which helps in the event your guest is in an area with no service and no WiFi.

Great digital guestbooks load on any device or browser

With digital guidebooks powered by Hostfully, there is no concern over how it will load on any device. They’re built to be intuitive and reformat to fit mobile devices, tablets, and desktops.

A DIY PDF guidebook won’t be as convenient to the guest. While putting effort into a PDF may sound like a perk for your guests, when implemented, the PDF document can’t be easily read. On a mobile device, users will have to zoom in and out for the smaller print to be legible. And while linking to recommendations within the PDF document is , it’ll make it long and tedious to scroll through.

If you’re going through the effort of putting together a guidebook, you may as well create something that’ll be useful for guests. To do this, go with a platform that can load quickly efficiently on any device.

mobile phone view of a vacation rental guidebook

Going digital brands your property

With an Airbnb guidebook, every vacation rental appears to be the same. The images will change, and the content within may be different, but the look of the guidebook will remain constant.

You want your property to stand out, and you should be able to give your digital guestbook a personality that separates itself from others. An option to customize gives you the chance to showcase your properties unique qualities and cater the guidebook to the look and feel of your rental.

Easy for owners to get them setup

When you think about putting together a digital guestbook, it may be intimidating, like building a website from scratch. While that may have been true for earlier versions of this vacation rental technology, current digital guidebooks are as simple as dragging and dropping the categories and information you want to display.

Without having to learn special coding or tinkering with building your layout, an intuitive and responsive rental guestbook can be put together with ease. Since your guestbook will need to be customized to your rental, you can easily enter custom text in predetermined fields.

Add the images you want, delete the information you don’t, and provide your guests with a digital guidebook that lets them know they’re in good hands and have an enjoyable getaway waiting for them.

See what it’s all about

Ready to take the leap? You can play around with the tool for free and see how quick and easy it is to get started.