This how-to guide was inspired by a 2019 VRMA Spring Forum panel presentation by Michelle Williams of Atlantic Vacation Homes, Lynn Thurston of Watersound Management, and Sue Jones of HR4VR, moderated by Victoria O’Connell of WeGoLightly.com.
A problem impacting 50% of single travelers
If you’re managing properties that attract business travelers, you probably serve single guests often. You may have also noticed many of them are women traveling alone. This is a trend you should pay attention to. Year after year, women are outpacing men in university education applications (and eventually graduation.) The result? Over the next few years, and as more women than men graduate university, you’re likely to see more traveling for business.
Unfortunately, women frequently feel scared of traveling alone for a good reason. One in three women have experienced sexual assault, and travel is anxiety-producing, because everything is unknown and new. In some parts of the world, it may even be impossible for women to travel alone due cultural considerations.
Given the importance of this guest demographic, there’s probably more you can do to make your female travelers feel safe in your units. Luckily, the action items to get this done won’t exclude male travelers. As a vacation rental host or property manager, that’s a win-win scenario. Your properties will attract more bookings, which directly translates to higher revenue.
Walk a mile in her shoes: How to improve the female customer journey
It’s critical to pay careful attention to how you’re ensuring a safe and secure environment for women guests. If you haven’t thought about this before, here is a how-to guide to approach building in safety precautions.
Before the stay: State your intentions, then follow through
Mentioning that you want to provide a safe and secure environment is an important first step. Here are the little things you can do to your listings and property descriptions:
- Hire a professional photographer to take bright pictures of your vacation rental.
- Conversely, never use night-time pictures unless you’re showcasing a skyline view or another feature best shown at night that differentiates you from your competition.
- If upgrading your amenities or furniture, go with lighter colors and avoid dark imposing options. They photograph better and make your properties appear more open and attractive.
- State in your description your commitment to a safe environment.
- If you use remote locks, mention that too.
- Include a mention in the vacation rental’s listing description that you are committed to a positive guest experience.
Arrival and safe entry
Remember that as a traveler, everything is new – and newness puts people on high alert. A critical aspect of any travel accommodation is helping the guest reach the property, enter safely, and lock the door behind. Here are a few tips that you should consider that will make arrival safe for your guests:
Make sure the entry is easy to find:
- Provide clear instructions on reaching the property, with maps*
- Send guest pictures of the entry, pointing out any lockboxes and locks*
- Make sure the entry area is well lit. If the vacation rental property is remote, leave the front door light on. To get around keeping a light on, some property managers install motion-activated fixtures.
- Provide a good spot to put luggage while unlocking the door.
- If the neighborhood is not the safest, be explicit and encourage guests to take extra care. Offer to greet your traveller at the train or bus station. You can also provide the number of a taxi driver that you personally know and trust.
- Tell guests that they can contact you if anything doesn’t look right, and that you’ll help.
* A quick boost to creating a welcoming and safe atmosphere is to send these instructions ahead of time. You can do this by including a link to your digital guidebook (where you can input those instructions) in your initial response to the guest once the reservation is booked (or create an automatic rule in your property management platform).
Help guests confirm a secure environment:
- Use locks that are easy to operate. Ideally, use remote locks and send the code to the guest ahead of time in a digital guidebook (this case study is a great example.)
- Provide window coverings that prevent outsiders from seeing inside the property.
- If a guest is arriving at night, leave lights on inside the unit. You could look into smart devices that sync your property management software with a device control software. This way, you can automatically turn on the lights right before check-in time.
- If you are renting a room in your home, provide a lock on the bedroom door so the guest can feel more secure while sleeping.
- Install locks on bathroom doors.
How your staff can make guests feel more secure:
- Ask the guest to text or message and confirm your guest arrived safely.
- Proactively reach out to the guest at check-in. If you are using automated locks, you’ll see when the guest checked in. You can create a rule that sends a message to the guest 10-15 minutes after arrival.
- If you greet your guests in person and are hosting a single female traveler, consider sending a female greeter.
During the stay
Once a guest has settled into the vacation rental, safety becomes less of a concern. At this point, your guest will focus more on enjoying their stay and doing what they want to do on their trip. Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow that will improve safety for your travelers:
- Check in with guests at least once during their stay.
- If there are areas of your town or city that aren’t the safest places for travelers, mention that in your digital guidebook, and suggest what they can do to avoid it.
- If you’re renting a room in your home, provide expectations about shared space use.
- Do not enter the property / bedroom unless you ask for permission and notify the guest ahead of time.
- Never have maintenance workers show up to the property unannounced.
- If you’re renting a room in your home, do not linger too long in conversation.
Small efforts that make a big impact
These operational improvements may not be drastic, but they can significantly impact the travel experience – especially for women. And that’s good for your business. According to Forbes Magazine, 80% of travel spend decisions are made by women. Why not invest in making women feel as comfortable and safe as possible in your vacation rental properties?