The vacation rental industry is growing like crazy, and that’s a good thing for homeowners and travelers alike. The flood of options on the market has opened up new opportunities for homeowners to make extra money, and for people to travel all over the world and feel right at home.
Many people prefer vacation rentals because it’s a more relaxed, comfy experience where you get a taste of the local culture. But it’s important to realize that guests still expect a hotel-quality experience from vacation rentals. With less regulation than hotels, vacation rentals need to go the extra mile to offer the same level of cleanliness and professionalism that people get from hotels. Here are a few ways to ensure happy guests and and hotel-like stay.
This is one of the biggest complaints that many travelers have with vacation rentals. With so many different types of vacation rentals and homeowner situations, clutter and cleanliness varies widely from rental to rental, but guests expectations remain the same: a pristine, uncluttered environment, no matter what.
The floors should be swept, vacuumed, and mopped, the linens clean, fresh, and folded, the bathroom and kitchen sterile, mirrors and windows clean, and there should be no clutter or dust, anywhere.
It’s also important to do a deep clean on a regular basis, where you clean the doors and baseboards, scrub down the kitchen and bathroom, particularly in the nooks and crannies where grime can build up, and so on. It’s nice to make a checklist for deep cleans so that nothing gets left behind.
At personal homes, people tolerate a bit of mess. But when on vacation, a dirty environment is a huge turn-off for many people and can lead to bad reviews and decreased revenue. Maintaining a clean rental is an essential first step for every homeowner.
This is also extremely important, because otherwise you’ll lose out on customers without even knowing! While travelers have embraced the vacation rental industry, the massive growth is largely due to platforms like Airbnb that allow streamlined searching and booking. Simply put, people just don’t want to deal with booking hassles. This is where a vacation rental can directly compete with a hotel: often, vacation rentals are easier to book than hotels are. So take advantage of this.
Make sure your rental is listed on at least one of the big platforms like Airbnb or HomeAway. Make sure it’s easy to find in search, has plenty of pictures and keywords. Make sure any and all fees are clearly noted, so the guest knows exactly what they are paying for upfront. If you can, offer an “Instant Book” option. Believe me, this will give you a huge bump, as many guests search only for properties they can reserve immediately. Depending on your situation, it can be hard to offer this option, but I urge you to try to make it work.
There’s nothing worse than arriving in a strange city in the middle of the night, traveling to your vacation rental, and then having to wait around for someone to drop off a key, or deal with any of the million hassles that pop up around check-in. Flights get delayed, plans change, cars break down, and no one wants to be stranded in a shady neighborhood of Rome at 2am, with a full bladder, calling the rental manager over and over before she picks up and explains that her helper’s car broke down and she’ll be there as soon as she can. (Yes, this happened to me. It was awful.)
This is where hotels have an advantage: their check-in process is simple and no matter what time of day, someone is there to help you. With vacation rentals, that’s just not always possible. Luckily for homeowners and rental managers, we live in an age of helpful technology.
Two words: keyless entry. With keyless entry, your guest can enter the property at any time (after you’ve given access, of course). It eliminates all of the hassle of coordinating key drop-offs, delayed flights, and the extremely insecure method of “key under the doormat.”
For a relatively small amount of time and money, installing keyless entry can go a long way in making your guests happy and feeling at home. After a long trip, they will be grateful that all they have to do is show up, walk in, and go to sleep.
While guests don’t expect the hotel amenities like room service and concierge service, there is definitely a bare minimum of amenities that guests expect no matter where they are staying. The essentials are: WiFi, TV with at least basic cable, toiletries, and basic tourist information. Also, since unlike a hotel, your guests are on their own, it’s important to provide extra towels, sheets, blankets, and pillows. If your rental has a kitchen, it needs to be stocked with the basics as well — dishes, pots and pans, cooking utensils, and cleaning supplies.
Once you have the basics, you can slowly add more items like hair dryers, phone chargers, and entertainment options like Netflix or Hulu into the mix.
And there are many ways that you can go out of the way to provide an even better experience than your guests would have at a hotel. You have the local’s insight — give them a personal, local experience that they won’t forget. Make a welcome book detailing all of the best things about the area. Leave a gift of chocolate or a bottle of wine for them to enjoy when they get in. Go above and beyond, because you can, and because that’s how you wow your guests.
A great things about hotels is that there is always someone you can call for help, at any hour, no matter what you need. This isn’t feasible at many vacation rentals, and that’s fine. People understand that they can’t call you at 2am to bring them some McDonald’s. But, there are of course real emergencies that happen, and you, or someone you trust, needs to be available 24/7 to deal with a problem — say, if a pipe bursts, or any millions of things that could go wrong (but hopefully do not). If you’re in the area and available to be on call, make sure guests know the best way to reach you in an emergency. If you’re not in the area and you don’t have a rental manager, arrange for a trusted friend or contact to be available to handle problems. You’ll want to compensate them, of course.
Also, it’s a nice idea to provide a list of emergency numbers and contacts that live on the fridge. So the local emergency line (like 911 in the US), the local police, fire, poison control, et cetera. Everything you’d want a babysitter to have!
While guests of vacation rentals don’t expect the type of service they’d get a hotel, they still expect a hotel-like experience: clean, professional, and comfortable. Providing, at the very least, these services and amenities, along with the personal and relaxed environment of vacation rentals, will ensure that your guests will never want to go to a hotel again.