Vacation Rentals And The Real Guest Experience
Over the last few years there has been a lot written about guest experience but pretty much all of it has been written from an owners point of view.
In this article, I blow the lid on the real guest experience and show you how looking at it with fresh eyes can bring you direct bookings.
A change of perception
You may not know this, but I was the first person in the vacation rental space to start talking about guest experience.
Back in 2004, I realised that every bit of marketing that I had done over the previous 10 years had been from an owner/managers point of view.
My point of view.
I had a huge aha moment when I realised that I had spent the previous decade telling people WHAT I WANTED THEM TO HEAR.
As opposed to WHAT THEY WANTED TO HEAR.
When written down, this appears as a subtle change in two sentences but this is the most powerful marketing change that I ever made.
The owner's guest experience
Nearly everyone in this business talks about the guest experience as that that is connected to the property.
Some talk about the meet and greet process, some talk about welcome packs and others talk about thread counts, toiletries and cleanliness.
Of course, these all play a part of the guest experience but as I said at the beginning of the article, these are all part of the owner controlled experience, NOT THE 'REAL LIFE' GUEST EXPERIENCE.
The real guest experience
Forget about being owners or managers for a moment.
Put yourself in the guest's shoes, map out their days and you'll end up with a chart, more or less, like the one below...
This chart will vary a little depending on your location and the type of property you own but it shows guest activity for a 24 hour period.
The biggest segment is of course sleeping (hence the importance of high thread count bedding and great bedroom photos).
Once the guests wake up, they'll make coffee and breakfast and generally lounge around. Time spent lounging will vary from group to group, especially if you have large outdoor spaces and a pool. Guests staying at city centre properties tend to head out early in order to see the sights.
Lunch falls into 2 categories - Eat in or eat out and this also varies by location and or mood. Some may have lunch at the property some days but choose to eat out on others.
The SECOND BIGGEST segment is exploring. This obviously takes on many forms from bucket list adventures (theme parks, whale watching, etc.), sightseeing, taking the kids to the beach, hiking, local parks, shopping, visiting museums and much more. The list is endless.
They may then eat out or head back to the property to cook dinner.
This is then followed by a 'what's on' period where they'll go to a bar, theatre show, gallery exhibition, take in some live music or visit a club.
You can play with the percentages and the activities but the actual guest experience will be similar to the above chart.
Around half of the guest experience has nothing to do with the property
As you can see from the two charts above, the guests spend around 46% of their time exploring away from beachside and countryside properties and a whopping 59% of their time away from city centre properties.
Beach and countryside vacations tend to be more relaxing than city centre breaks. Hence more lounging.
If I'm visiting Rome for a long weekend I'm going to look around Rome. I'm not inclined to spend my time looking at the inside of the rental property.
Putting this information to use
The most successful marketing strategies are buyer-driven.
Satisfying potential customers needs results in sales.
I can't stress this point enough.
Potential guests start with a dream and then start researching their chosen location. It's at this research stage that they start looking to answer important questions.
What is there to see and do in the area?
What's on while we're there?
Where can we eat and drink?
What can we do with the kids?
They look to answer these questions before they start thinking about where they'll stay.
As a marketer, you can't cherry pick parts of the guest experience and hope to answer all of the potential guest's questions.
Booking a vacation or holiday is potentially a high price ticket transaction and if the buyer has doubts (questions) these doubts inhibit the booking.
You need to satisfy all of their needs in order to gain direct bookings.
- People aren't coming to your location because you have a place to stay. They're coming to the area because of what there is to see and do. They just happen to need somewhere to stay while seeing and doing those things.
- A guests pre-booking experience should reflect their actual experience, not just the property part of their experience.
- Remember, they're only going to spend half their time at the property.
- If your website and overall online presence reflect the real guest experience you will see higher on-site times, more engagement on social media, more enquiries and more direct bookings.