Every year I go to a vacation rental with my husband, son and daughter-in-law. This year we added a grand-daughter and there will be another next year so as you can imagine the experience is different every time as the family grows. We are owners of vacation rental properties ourselves so it’s always interesting to see how others do it as we search, make our inquiries, book, travel to the property and enjoy our vacation. Although we are familiar with all the processes, we’ll always come away with some learning points and AHA moments. In fact we have incorporated new procedures, replaced items and bought new products based on what ‘wowed’ us on our last stay. The guest experience can be very educational.
Search – Of course the search is where it all starts and we begin with a criteria of location, budget, property size, that is pretty much fixed, but after that it comes down to what captures our attention the most.
Learning Point 1 : Images must be spectacular, showing great looking bedrooms, immaculately clean kitchens and bathrooms, and attractive exteriors. We have rejected properties that had bedrooms with ugly bed coverings and only two pillows; or a photo of a deck taken on a rainy day. We’ve been swayed by an image of a table laid up for a meal, or a photo of a bookcase packed with paperbacks. It’s interesting what will move us (an ordinary family) to book one place over another.
Communication – I tried to book a beautiful villa in Orlando for this past summer and sent an email to the owner asking about availability as it showed open on the listing. I got such a curt response saying it was already booked – it felt like I had been told not to bother the owner – I would never think about booking it even if it became available. This guest experience opened my eyes to the value of great communication.
Learning Point 2: Make a point of being as helpful and friendly to everyone who inquires, even when you are fully booked. These are the folks who may come back to you in a lean year so deserve as much attention as the ones who got in early. Be polite, welcoming and encouraging, and you could get a customer for life.
Booking Process – We don’t really care how we book, as long as it is streamlined and doesn’t take effort. We don’t want to be wiring money or going to the bank for a check to be sent in a different currency. Credit cards, or Paypal works best for us.
Learning Point 3 – Either use a third party booking process or make sure your home-grown one is effortless for your guests. Don’t make your guests do things they would not normally do such as faxing documents, going to the post office or bank etc.
The vacation: We have been so fortunate in the past three years going to Maui, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas in that every place we have stayed has lived up to and mostly exceeded our expectations. Each place has supplied a ton of information on the local area and offered contact with local people who could answer our questions.
Learning Point 4: The people staying at your vacation rental probably don’t have any idea of what to do and where to go when they get there. Help them plan by providing plenty of information before they go so they can book activities and events well in advance.
Have you been a guest in a vacation rental and used the guest experience to improve what you offer your guests? What did you learn? Let us know in the comments.