For many vacation rental owners the busy summer season has drawn to a close with September arriving, Labor Day over and the kids back at school; we will all have had different experiences but one thing is clear – vacation rentals are mainstream as an accommodation choice, and everybody is benefiting. Owners are appreciating the income and the majority of guests are enjoying the freedom that the self-catering option brings while delighting in the amenities, facilities and attention to detail offered in their chosen location.
I’ve had a long summer managing the issues that arise in a busy rental agency, as well as dealing with my own two cottages that have been consistently rented every week. There’s learning in every situation and even after 20 years in the business, I can still get surprised by something that a guest demands or that an owner delivers. Here’s a couple of things that occurred this summer that got me thinking about hospitality and why, now that vacation rentals are mainstream, it is ever more important to see ourselves as providers to the tourism industry and not just vacation rental owners.
Even if you never meet your guests, it’s still possible to show 5* hospitality. Take the guest who complained the air conditioning was not working in their rental property despite the fact it was not an advertised amenity and had never been installed. The owner arranged for a portable A/C unit to be delivered to the property, apologized for the ‘breakdown’ of the non-existent facility, and called the following day to ensure his guests were happier.
When a massive storm took down power lines in many parts of Ontario in early July, rental guests were left high and dry – with no water to flush toilets or to have a shower in properties with electric water pumps, and the worst thing….many guests were left without the ability to access their technology. Some left after two hours as they were not able to make a phone call or update their Facebook page. Seriously! We heard of one owner who went to a local Rent-All, picked up a generator and drove 3 hours to his vacation home to set it up so his guests could keep in touch with work.
Lighting the way
Thirty years ago when I was taking my young children to vacation rentals in England, it was truly a self-catering experience and it was also a self-entertaining one. There was no satellite TV, internet connection or even telephone service. There was a charcoal BBQ circa 1960; we took our own pots and pans and had an amazing time just enjoying pitching in and being together. What I have noticed in recent years is that rental guests are more demanding, less resourceful and nowhere near as self-sufficient as we were. Today’s VR owners need to allow for this and to be prepared to hand-hold much more. For example, we had a call from a guest in panic because the automatic ignition wasn’t working on the BBQ. Her family had never used a BBQ because they lived in a condo and were completely unaware there was a manual method of lighting it. The owner found and sent a YouTube video showing how to use a lighter in the hole at the side of the unit.
Owners who develop a culture of hospitality and deliver top notch service are going to be the ones who really benefit as guest expectations and demands rise. Getting there is not difficult – it may take a change in attitude but it will be worthwhile. Vacation rentals are mainstream, and it’s time we all recognize and act accordingly.