After another bumper summer for the holiday rental industry, Airbnb has taken it upon itself to declare the industry categorically mainstream. Thanks for that. While many of us may be glad to finally shrug off the label of providing ‘alternative accommodation’, I hope no-one’s in a rush to scrap their individuality of offering or hospitality.
Why? Because, quite frankly, I believe that delivering unique guest experiences is where the industry’s strength lies.
The sustainability of unique guest experiences
Sound like hard work? It’s not. It’s 100% sustainable. Both for you and for your business. In fact you’re probably already doing it.
Every guest who has a memorable time staying at your place, will talk positively about their experience to family, friends, colleagues and even complete strangers. One of the most common icebreaker questions at networking events or dinner parties has to be favourite or recent travel experiences (even in 2021).
Every guest you interact with or provide a recommendation to will have a unique experience of your place because what they want to do, and the conversation they have with you, will always be different to somebody else.
Providing poor or run-of-the-mill recommendations, or failing to communicate what guests can do during their stay are the only things that make this hard work.
What it means being mainstream while delivering individual guest experiences
The spotlight’s on you!
Isn’t that great? No, it is; that’s a rhetorical question.
Holiday rentals have been ‘alternative’ for too long. What the pandemic has done for vacation rentals is put their long-harped-on-about features and benefits top of the priority list and the appreciation pile:
- Privacy (no social distancing required)
- Space (for pretty much any group size, but especially relevant recently with multi-generational family gatherings regrouping after enforced separation)
- Cleanliness (minimal mass touch points here)
- Amenities (to eat, to sleep, to stream decent shows on decent size TVs, to wash the kids’ clothes… whenever you want, or if ever you need)
- Like nowhere else (just when we all needed a change of scene…)
The double whammy of domestic-only travel and demand for all of the above put cottage holidays firmly on the map for everyone, however tied to their all-inclusive or hotel concierge people were previously.
The result? Vacation rentals are now up there for consideration alongside hotels, package holidays and tours. Game on.
Those guest experiences you offer? Now’s the time to let them shine.
The real revolution? A guest-first strategy
Whatever the reason you let your property to guests (profit, pension, a deep love of hospitality, other…), ensuring those guests have the time of their lives while staying with you will make letting your property to future guests even easier.
The trouble is that guests are a breed of their own (much like us holiday home owners!). And I’ll bet that a fair proportion of holiday home owners didn’t bet on having to manage guests when they spotted an opportunity in their second (third, fourth or fifth) home. Welcome to the world of hospitality where a guest-first strategy is second nature. Or at least it ought to be!
Remember those granny annexes I mentioned in my previous blog post, that’s the reputation our industry is still shrugging off, not just the ‘alternative’ tag. Those annexes did not put guests first, just the owners’ pockets.
Even when needs must, a guest-first strategy is achievable and rewarding. And once again holiday rentals are uniquely placed to deliver this above and beyond any other holiday operator.
Why? Because there’s only one of your place. You don’t have 100 bedrooms to sell that all look the same and all contain the same guest compendium. And you don’t have a concierge squirrelling away all the best off-track places in town in return for a generous tip.
You have you, your personal serving of hospitality, your personal experiences and connections locally, your delivery of a holiday just as you would like to receive it were you the paying guest, your human touch to come to the aid of guests when they most need it.
That breed I mentioned above? Put first, they’re putty in your hands.
Standards start with guest communication
Making putty starts with how an operator communicates with guests. The guest communication lifecycle is a living breathing process. While that means it requires infrastructure, it will also be bespoke to how you would like to be communicated to (if you were the guest) and will imbue your brand personality and values. Immediately you’re setting the tone for a relationship with your guests and steering their expectations of a stay at your place.
Not thought about it like that before? Take yourself back to the last time you first went somewhere and were greeted by someone. Or the last time you signed up to or bought something new. How did the greeting, welcome or communication you received make you feel?
Investing, at the beginning, in how you communicate with guests, when you do it and what it asks of them, is the very start of delivering a unique guest experience. Reviewing this every now and then (or asking someone else close to you, to do it for you) is another way to keep your guest communications relevant, warm and genuinely helpful.
The result? Guests who feel good about staying with you before they’ve even arrived (and who are easier to deal with on those rare occasions when things go wrong).
It’s all too easy to think we’ve communicated (especially if your internal monologue’s often in overdrive, like mine!). Often we haven’t. What’s too easy to forget is that for every new guest who books, it’s their first time staying. So they don’t know anything about the place, how to find it, how the heating works, where to park, whether your favourite restaurant serves fish and chips or fine dining. The devil’s in the details.
Why it’s so important for the vacation rental industry to retain its individuality at delivery level
There’s an overriding human instinct to fit in. But this is my plea to every holiday home owner to keep sticking out!
As international travel returns and people are tempted by a nostalgic return to old travelling ways, holiday choices will be brimful.
If it isn’t clear why staying at your place will be any different to staying someplace else, people may as well stay elsewhere. If staying at your place turns out to be fairly run-of-the-mill they probably won’t bother coming back or even remember where they stayed.
By all means, have standards (please!), but keep up the individuality and appreciate how it’s the most sustainable strategy for your vacation rental business.
Here’s to standing tall.