As a vacation rental manager, you’re running a 24/7 business; your brand is always on display. While your online listings reel in future guests, your first chance to impress them on a personal level comes just before their stay.
It’s not always practical to personally greet each guest upon arrival, but the traditional accommodations industry, and their front desk, set the expectation for this long, long ago, and it’s not an expectation we can expect to see changed.
So with logistics considered, how do you go about extending a warm and proper greeting to each and every guest? This is where the welcome letter comes in. For many reasons, it can be one of the most important aspects in your guest experience; a factor that influences the success and growth of your vacation rental business.
What is a welcome letter - and why do you need one?
The welcome letter is your chance to make a more personal and genuine connection with your guest, letting them know that you are there for them, and that you sincerely hope they have a wonderful experience. But it’s also a great opportunity to stress the most important details that could save both you and your guest time and frustration during the stay.
Not to be confused with the confirmation letter your guest received at the time of booking (either from you, or from your OTA partner), the welcome letter shouldn’t be a summary of financials or a detailed outline of policies. Instead, think about how you would greet a guest face-to-face, because that personal bond and friendly introduction are what you’re aiming to achieve here.
This cordial greeting is your true first impression. You may opt to send the welcome letter to your guests via email just prior to their scheduled arrival, or perhaps you would prefer to leave a printed copy to greet them as they enter the home (of course, you can always do both).
Either way, this is your chance to grab that moment - the opportunity to win them over and set them at ease. By doing so, you’re setting the tone for a worry-free visit and, ultimately, happy guests. They know they can count on you as a caring host, whether you’re local or remote, because you’ve made it known in your welcome.
If you really nail it, you’re likely to see an increase in not only positive reviews, but personal and meaningful ones. You’ll also find that visitors who consider your area to be their favorite vacation spot will be more than happy to book future visits with you.
What to include in your welcome letter
Beginning with a blank sheet of paper can be overwhelming. Follow these tips and add in a little of each suggestion, and you'll have a perfect welcome letter in no time.
While it may be a daunting task to completely tailor each letter to each guest, a touch of personalization is easy to add to an established template. Take advantage of whatever information you have to enhance your welcome with a simple acknowledgement of that guest and their party.
Sometimes, you will only have a name and travel dates:
“Hi, Bob and Sue! We hope you enjoy your week away, and find our city to be a great place for fun, relaxation, or whatever it is that you need to return home refreshed and full of wonderful new memories!”
Other times, a guest may have shared some information at booking that comes in handy when you want to make a kind gesture:
“Hi, Smith Family! We hear that Mary is celebrating a birthday this week!”
“Congratulations on your 25th wedding anniversary, Chris and Tina!”
Aside from making a connection, you’ve just let your guests know that you pay attention to details and that you honestly care about their visit.
Whether you’re sending your welcome in advance or not, always provide the guest with the address of the home and basic directions on its location. Your guest may keep this with them throughout their visit, and as they explore, the reminder could be a welcome guide. Make sure to include access information, as well as gate codes to the community, if applicable.
Are there some special features or aspects of your property that may be confusing, or overlooked? Clarify these details in advance rather than waiting for a frustrated call asking how to operate an appliance or where to find a remote control. A few guideposts to the finer points of your property and the basic necessities are a big step toward being thoughtful and proactive!
Besides, your guest may not realize that you have things like board games in a cupboard or access to paid sports packages on TV if you don’t point it out!
Don’t let the little touches or big additions go by the wayside because flustered guests are trying to figure out how to navigate your home. Lead the way!
Nothing is more unsettling than being a stranger in a strange land! Let your guests know that they are not alone.
If something goes wrong, or if they have questions or needs during their stay, how should the guest communicate with you, or your appointed staff/representatives?
Provide contact phone numbers and email addresses for those in charge of handling matters like timely maintenance, cleaning and general assistance. Additionally, include emergency contact information for local fire, medical and police services. Although 911 seems to be a common knowledge tool, you very well may be hosting guests from an area of the world where 911 does not exist.
While your policies were probably outlined in detail in your property listing, and again in your booking confirmation, you should take this opportunity to share the highlights in a more concise manner. What are your prominent concerns when it comes to daily maintenance of your property? Here are a few potential issues you may want to address:
- Remind guests to lock up the property and shut off lights when they leave the home.
- Do you have check-out procedures like gathering trash by the curb? Summarize the check-out process.
- Are there HOA rules or local ordinances the guest should know about: “quiet hours” or no parking in the street?
Your Welcome Book is the best place to show-off your status as a local expert, so make sure they can find it upon arrival!
You can share some of your favorite hot spots and local suggestions here as well, but keep it brief. You’re saving them the time and trouble of finding information - potentially saving them money with local know-how - and surely they’ll appreciate the feeling that they are experiencing a local gem in your destination!
You can always be helpful, even if your knowledge of the guest is limited.
“No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find unique ways to experience the area. Consider stopping by the State Park for some quality time with Mother Nature. It’s only 15 minutes away, and it’s bustling with wildlife this time of year. If you’re up for some activity while you’re there, you’ll find a great kayak rental and launch site right beside the parking area at the lake. They offer discounts when you rent more than one kayak - but only if you ask!”
Again, if you have a little insight on your guests and their travel purpose, you can customize this a bit.
“If you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate Mary’s birthday, Brown’s Diner offers a free meal for the birthday guest, along with a cupcake and a song!”
“Might I suggest a romantic picnic at Lake Somewhere, just five minutes away from home! The sunsets are spectacular, and it’s a local spot that not many have discovered yet!”
The single most important aim of your welcome letter is right in the name - be welcoming.