How to get off to the best start in the travel industry
The short-term rental market is booming – especially where home properties are concerned. In 2018, Booking.com reached a milestone of five million reported listings in homes, apartments and other unique places to stay. Here, four recent entrants to the market give their thoughts on how best to make a listing a success.
Lin Sharkey hosts The Anchorage, a four-bedroom townhouse in Liverpool, UK, welcoming Booking.com guests since April 2018.
“Personal interaction goes an awful long way. When people make a booking I email to thank them for their reservation. I’m then in touch 48 hours before their stay to check when they’re likely to arrive, so I can be at the property to greet them and give them a show-round. We provide a very generous welcome hamper, so when guests arrive it’s a nice surprise for them.
You can give good quality of service whether you’re a one-star property or a five-star property
First impressions are really important. You can give good quality of service whether you’re a one-star property or a five-star property. A bit of tender loving care costs nothing! I also think it’s important to think about each group of guests individually – why are they here? Are they a family? A group of friends? We had a group of six women celebrating their 50th birthdays, so we made sure we had six champagne glasses and a chilled bottle for when they arrived.
You need to genuinely believe in the property and the area. You’re running a business of course, so you have to get your costs right too. During flat months you might have to use constructive pricing to reflect the ups and downs of travel, maybe reducing your rates a month or two weeks beforehand if needed.”
Canal House Bangkok
Ohm Chansuwan hosts Canal House Bangkok, a two-room house in Bangkok, Thailand, welcoming Booking.com guests since March 2018.
“Before starting, I went to some of the bigger hotels in the city to see how hotels handled their guests, then deliberately decided to offer something different. I offer breakfast, but rather than a heavy American breakfast that you might find anywhere I serve something more traditionally Thai, with soy milk and oats. What the locals eat, in other words.
I want my guests to see that the experience they’re getting isn’t the experience they’d have in a hotel. We describe very clearly that we’re located close to a temple, that we’re not a fancy hotel. I try to get across that it’s a chance to experience local life.
From the beginning, I’ve always been sincere and honest with the guests. If it’s their first time travelling in Bangkok it can be a little hectic and overwhelming, so I try to give them tips for how to really enjoy the city and steer clear of scammers. I’m reassuring them.
Having good photos is important. I have a photographer friend who helped me. The first thing people look at online are the photos, the price and the location. And I try to meet all of my guests too. In a hotel the manager probably can’t meet all their guests. That’s what makes a home property different.”
Patrick Brand hosts Spinoza Suites, a two-suite property in Amsterdam, Netherlands, welcoming Booking.com guests since February 2019.
“I think the most difficult thing has been getting our online profile right. The way you describe the property is very important, because as the owner you don’t know what the guest is specifically looking for. It was tempting to maybe write too much, especially in a product like ours where we were so involved with the architect, thinking about the concept and the materials. But you need to be patient that these things will start to come across in the reviews that people write, and not just in the text that we put on our Booking.com profile.
Image credit: Spinoza Suites
We actually have an agreement with the Hyatt Hotel, which is our neighbour, whereby our guests can pay a small sum to have breakfast there or use the fitness facilities and spa. It combines the best of both worlds – an independent property with character, but also the facilities of a hotel.
I think if you have a good system in place, combined with a nice personal factor, it makes people want to leave a review. If you’ve had a really nice chat with the owner and he or she has passion for the product, you’re likely to leave something positive. If you’re staying somewhere mediocre and you don’t really have anything to say then you’ll be less motivated to write something.”
Home in Vancouver
Catherine Bailey hosts a one-bedroom house in Vancouver, Canada, welcoming Booking.com guests since August 2017.
“Our initial goal – you always need a goal – was to fill 100% capacity every day, so we always adjust the price accordingly. Sweat equity is important too. Clean the property yourself, because as the owner you know what’s broken and what’s not. It’s a good idea to sleep in the property a couple of times to ensure the quality of cleanliness.
Stock the kitchen with regular items you yourself would need to cook with, but not perishable goods. Buy good quality but not too expensive, as people may take it home! Often our guests buy what they need and leave it in the kitchen, so we’ll leave it for the next guest – everything from spices and cooking oil to different teas. Everyone has different diets.
If you decide to charge a cleaning fee don’t make it mandatory for your guests to clean, but ensure you tell them to ‘leave the property in the same manner as they found it’. It’s also important to provide full disclosure on orientation day. Let guests know about garbage day, for example, so they’re not surprised to hear trucks going by collecting, or message guests to advise if the electricity goes out in the area so they know what to expect. And provide an umbrella if it’s raining. Small things count.”
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Hero image: credit to Scott Webb, Unsplash
- Give guests a personal touch. Meeting them face-to-face can be the simplest way of doing this
- Consider the type of traveller you’re hosting. What would make their stay more enjoyable?
- Use online photos and a concise, well-written profile to show off your property in the best light
- Be patient. Providing a good service will produce good reviews