The perfect guest arrival experience: Key factors revealed

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The arrival experience sets the scene for the entire stay. We unpack a recent study with a selection of US-based bookers to discover how travelers plan for and experience the first day of a trip

Travel is more than just arriving at a destination. We recently conducted qualitative research with 17 US-based participants to discover the unseen efforts they went through in the days before departure, up until they arrived at the property’s doorstep.

The study included domestic and international travelers made up of couples, groups, and families with children to learn about how they plan and experience a trip. Our participants were a mix of air and car travelers who stayed at both hotels and vacation rentals. Here, we reveal the insights they shared that can help create the perfect guest arrival experience.

Help make the pre-trip experience a breeze

Coronavirus concerns currently make up the bulk of pre-trip planning for all group types, according to the participants. Travelers, especially international ones, must meet certain requirements and plan ahead for safe things to do at their destination. Partners can make things easier by sending guests info about local coronavirus requirements such as quarantine rules, operation hours of nearby businesses, or how to book local experiences. You can help by pointing guests to local testing facilities or clinics to give them peace of mind when in an unfamiliar place.

Other high-effort tasks mentioned by participants include finding places to eat and things to do at a destination. Again, the coronavirus has heightened the need to book far in advance with the expectation that availability is scarce. Informing guests of the current situation in your area or giving them insider tips are a welcome way to ease the burden of pre-trip planning.

Getting around is also a key component in this phase. You should inform guests about airport transfer options—especially useful for families and groups with lots of luggage—and add any transportation options such as free or rental bikes to your listing.

Quality accommodation is everything

The participants emphasized that the actual state of the property was the most important factor in the arrival experience. They felt that properties that met their expectations outweighed any negative pre-trip experiences and were happy when the accommodations they booked turned out to be as they were described on the booking platform or shown in pictures.

Providing high-quality photos of your property can help set realistic expectations. You should also make sure that your property description is accurate. Travelers expressed disappointment when an accommodation was over-promised or missing any listed amenities. For the latter, partners can still salvage the arrival experience by addressing these issues quickly and delivering on guests’ expectations.

Hotel guests


Check-in procedures set the tone of the stay

Of the participants, the study reveals that most are happy with check-in procedures. In particular, they appreciate when contactless systems are in place amid coronavirus concerns, and enjoy the friendliness of the staff at both vacation rentals and hotels.

However, partners could improve when it comes to waiting times for check-in, especially after guests have traveled a long way. Families, in particular, need detailed info about check-in times to plan activities for children and keep them entertained while waiting.

The participants mentioned that partners could do more to reduce uncertainty about the property. Vacation rentals, for example, could provide clearer info about how to access them, while hotels could communicate all fees upfront. For both types of properties, guests found on-site parking to be a difficult experience. To address this pain point, consider including parking info in your property description or pre-arrival communications. This is particularly useful for car travelers, whereas air travelers want to know the best way to reach your property from the airport so they can plan transportation around your check-in hours.

Put yourself in your guests’ shoes to address their needs

Each type of traveler has different accommodation needs. Our participants pointed out that vacation rental guests, for example, want info about the amenities inside a home or apartment, such as cookware, appliances, and other practical items. Due to a lack of a front desk, they also need very detailed check-in info. Providing this info two to three days before their trip is a good way to keep it fresh in their minds. Hotel guests, on the other hand, want to know about your shared facilities, such as the swimming pool, cafe, or gym.

Travelers who stay for longer than three nights are often looking for more reassurance because they made a higher investment. You can help address some of their concerns by telling them more about your property and its amenities during your pre-arrival communications. For vacation rentals in particular, guests want to know how your property caters to their longer in-stay needs, such as cleanliness, WiFi, and daily supplies.

By anticipating and addressing guests’ pain points before they even arise, you can provide them with a comfortable trip planning experience – and welcome them to a perfect first day of vacation at your property.


Update your property description

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What do you think of this page?

  • Many travelers, especially families and groups, experience more pressure around planning before and on the day of arrival
  • The condition of the accommodation itself is the most crucial factor in how travelers experience the first day. It’s imperative to set expectations that match the experience
  • Guests appreciate contactless check-in procedures and additional info amid coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns
  • A display of goodwill from the property and timeliness in addressing any issues can help accommodation partners turn around negative arrival experiences