A 2011 travel survey by tour operator Thomas Cook and the ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) listed a number of outrageous complaints vacationers had made to their travel agents about their travel experiences. While most of these will make you laugh and wonder at the nature of people who make what seem to be frivolous complaints, it’s worthwhile considering how their expectations could have been better addressed before they got to the complaint stage.
“I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”
“It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time – this should be banned.”
“On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food at all.”
“We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels.”
“The beach was too sandy.”
“We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white.”
“We bought ‘Ray-Ban’ sunglasses for five Euros from a street trader, only to find out they were fake.”
“No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.”
“I was bitten by a mosquito, no-one said they could bite.”
I spoke with a guest recently about a lakefront location they had booked, and were disappointed that the lake bed was rocky and one of their children had cut his foot. The listing had mentioned there were rocks but it wasn’t enough – “the owner should have provided detailed information on where the rocks were located to prevent injury”.
It’s easy to say that travelers should be responsible for finding out location information on their own, but the best recourse is for owners to share what they know in the most comprehensive way possible. Let them know if there are bugs or fish in the sea; describe local customs and cultural differences, and what they should expect to find on a restaurant menu. If there are hazards they may encounter in the local area, whether it’s a security or a safety issue, give a warning.
There is a supposition in psychology that states:
The meaning of communication is the RESPONSE you get.
The response you get to a communication is more important than what you think you communicated. Although we could argue that both parties have equal responsibility for accurate communication, as a vacation rental owner it really is your responsibility to communicate your message in such a way that the other person will understand it in the way you wanted them to understand it.