I know many owners here in Europe are preparing to welcome their first holiday rental guests of the season as the Easter break begins. The old adage “first impressions count” is never more important than when trying to run a holiday business, so why should a holiday rental be any different to a quality hotel? Guests have the same needs; they may be stressed out from finishing up at work, tired from the journey, possibly with over excited children, and all they want is to arrive and find everything perfect so they can get straight on with the job of relaxing and having a good holiday.
In a way, your first guests of the season are the most important, because their feedback could really set the bar for the rest of the season – if you get it right and exceed their expectations then you could find yourself getting a fantastic review, which has the potential in turn to drive more bookings as travellers increasingly look for social proof before making a purchase . But if you get it wrong then a bad review just might impact your chances of filling those remaining empty weeks in Summer.
So here are a couple of my all-time best ways to woo your guests into love at first sight with your holiday property…
Guarantee a smooth arrival
If you do not offer an airport meet and greet service and instead your guests have to find their own way to the villa, make sure that your arrival instructions are absolutely fool proof! When I was working in Tour Operating I lost count of the times I heard of guests getting hopelessly lost when trying to find their villa – One family even ended up checking into a hotel for the night as they had literally spent five hours going round in circles! Check your driving directions scrupulously and if there is anything all that could cause confusion, then fix it. A good rule of thumb on the European roads is to make use of the Kilometre markers on all the main roads so they know exactly where to turn off, and of course you should also be providing the correct address to plug into the Sat-Nav, or at the very least the closest landmark followed by a few final directions.
Your guests must also have clear instructions for things like key codes for automatic entry gates, details of where to find the key, and above all, a mobile phone number for someone who can help in the event that something should go wrong.
Make sure the property feels warm and dry
The chances are that even in Europe, is your property has been closed up over winter it is going to feel cold and dusty. There is absolutely nothing worse than being cold on holiday, so be sure to give the property a good airing before arrival, and put the heaters on for a few days to warm it through and make sure there is no damp atmosphere. Any damp issues of a more serious nature must be completely rectified before guests arrive, because as well as being unsightly it can also be a health hazard. All bed linen should be freshly laundered (yes, even if it’s already “clean”!) and make sure the whole property has had a thoroughly deep clean – this really is worth doing as it will help make changeover cleans much easier.
Depending on the time of year, it’s always worth the added effort of buying some fresh flowers to welcome your guests, and leaving the lamps turned on for evening arrivals. Even leaving the television switched on to the children´s channel can assist with a smooth arrival and settling in.
Make them really feel welcome
As we said before, you have to expect that your guests will be arriving tired, stressed and probably hungry, so one of the most welcoming touches you can add is a well thought out grocery pack of “essentials”, and a handwritten compliments slip to welcome them to the property. Whenever I have travelled to hotels as a “VIP” and received maybe some fresh fruit and a handwritten note from management, it just always managed to put a smile on my face – even if the room was not that great!
So what do we mean by a “well thought out” welcome pack? Well this depends on the type of property; Is it high-end and luxurious, with a premium price tag? In which case the welcome pack/gift should very much form part of your value proposition and be factored in to your pricing accordingly (Chilled Cava on arrival??), on the other hand a cheap and cheerful rental may just offer it as a token extra and would include a more basic selection. Do also consider who is in the party – are there children, and if so what would they (and Mum) really love to receive? And also what time of day are they arriving? Night time arrivals might appreciate having their first morning´s breakfast sorted out for them so they don’t have to rush straight out in search of food on an empty stomach.
For owners who are conscious about operating their rental business in a responsible manner, your welcome pack is an amazing way to introduce the idea of “giving something back”– think about local artisan type products you could add in as a really special touch, and always be sure to tell guests why its special, local, and where they can buy more.
I mentioned adding a handwritten note to make your guests feel special, but why not take this one step further and give them a list and directions to the local supermarket, delicatessens and a good bakery in the pack, so they can very easily get stocked up and settle in for a relaxing stay.
Of course you should also be providing an information book In the villa which you can stuff full of insider tips and advice on what to see and do during their holiday, as well as a section of “house notes” which will help them to get to know the property, work out how to use the appliances and generally be a good and welcome guest.
Making the effort to give your guests the best possible welcome will pay big rewards as your guests can more quickly get on with the task in hand (relaxing) and take home some happy memories (of how thoughtful the owner was!)