Congrats on being a vacation rental host! The hospitality business can be a rewarding space to be in but there are some critical processes that you should nail down before opening your doors to the first booking. The process of welcoming guests to your vacation rental is one of the most, if not most, important steps in ensuring a great stay. It sets the tone for the entire experience, helps guests feel more at home, and reduce questions that may interrupt their experience.
A welcome guide solves all of these problems and is one of the most valuable things you can provide to your guests. Most of us that have done some traveling have seen and used welcome guides. In past times they were a large binder, often disorganized, sitting on a coffee table or kitchen counter of the vacation rental or hotel. In this article we’re going to focus on the evolution of the welcome book, also known as a digital welcome book or digital guide book.
This digital welcome book will contain all the same information that you’d expect in a traditional welcome book but delivered in a neatly organized format, accessible on any device, and can even be sent to guests prior to their arrival. While that’s a general overview of the digital welcome book, it’s really just skimming the surface. In this article we’re going to dive into the steps on creating a perfect vacation rental welcome book including:
What To Include In Your Welcome Book
1. Packing & Preparing Category
Before getting into the details of the vacation rental, the guests must first pack. Give them information on what they should bring, things guests commonly forget and any other tips you can think of. For example, if you’re near a beach let guests know if you supply beach chairs. If not, perhaps recommend they bring some. Or if a guest is arriving during a rainy time of year for your area, recommend a raincoat and umbrella.
2. Arrival Information
Ensuring guests know where they are going on arrival is essentially in getting their trip off on the right foot. Make sure directions are thorough, parking information is clear, checkin time is clear, how to access/unlock the unit is clear, etc.. It’s common for guests to skim your guide so make sure you clarify everything for arrival to prevent frantic and unnecessary calls & texts when they have trouble getting in.
3. Host & Emergency Contact Info
Make sure guests have a clear path to contacting you as well as an emergency contact if you are unavailable. Include as many contact methods as possible such as phone, text, email, Whatsapp, etc..
4. How To Instructions For Critical Functions
Guests don’t want to bother you with questions and you likely don’t want to bothered with them either. The secret: create how to instructions for everything. This may include:
- Kitchen appliances (stove, coffee maker, etc.)
- A/C or Heat
- TV & Streaming Services
- Washer / Dryer
- Anything else you can think of
5. Wifi & Internet
If this is not crystal clear it will be the first question you get :). Make sure Wifi details are easily accessible. Some guests may need to jump on a work task after a long travel day before they can settle into vacation mode.
6. Safety Info & House Rules
Make sure guests know how to contact emergency services such as police & fire rescue. Also ensure that any house rules are presented to them. The more transparent your expectations, the better the experience will be for both the guest and host.
Depending on the type of vacation rental you have, many guests may already have a lot of their activities planned. For example, you could be at a wedding destination or near a concert venue. However, many guests may also look to you for insight on activities. Activities can be somewhat hard to recommend as it depends on the guests age, interests, time of year, and likely additional factors. Do your best to provide a few options each for younger guests, parents with kids, older guests and if you have any special attractions based on the time of year list those as well.
8. Restaurants & Bars
Everybody has to eat and they almost always look for host recommendations to ‘eat local’. Give them your favorite restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Let them know if reservations are recommended and take it a step beyond by recommending a specific menu item.
9. Nearby Grocery Stores, Banks, & Other Essentials
Want to go over and above for your guests? Give them the lay of the land with nearby grocery stores, butcher shops, fresh fish shops, nearby banks/ATMS, medical clinic & hospital, the closest drug store and anything else you may think the majority of guests might need during their stay.
10. Checkout Instructions
Make sure guests are aware of any checkout procedures you would like them to follow upon leaving. Also ensure they know the checkout times to avoid any rush or altercation with your cleaning crew.
11. Thank Them, Touch On Reviews
We always recommend adding a dedicated category/topic for thanking the guests for choosing your vacation rental for their stay. Mention how important 5-star reviews are to growing your vacation rental business and ask them to please take the time to leave one on AirBNB, VRBO, etc..
Benefits of a Vacation Rental Welcome Book for Guests
As we mentioned before, a thoughtfully put together welcome book can transform a guest experience from good to great. Guests want to spend their limited time doing what they came to do. Most likely that is vacationing, going to a business meeting, seeing an event, or just relaxing. They don’t want to spend their time asking questions, trying to get the A/C to work, learning how to work the coffee maker, how to turn on the pool lights, etc.. A vacation rental welcome guide puts the solutions to all of their questions in a format guests have available to them 24×7. Even better with our digital welcome guides, guests can have this information prior to arrival. Thus, they can learn, study and familiarize themselves with common questions before their vacation even begins. This has shown to alleviate travel stress and make guests feel more confident about their stay. Let’s touch on these points and more with our four primary benefits:
- Neatly Organized, No Excess – The digital welcome book is transforming the old binder that we’ve all seen in decades past. Those binders were tough to keep up to date, often contained menus and brochures of outdated businesses and were flat out dirty, sticky and gross. A digital welcome book is neatly organized with content placed in categories. A digital welcome book can be updated by the hosts at any time, from anywhere in the world which often makes it more up to date for guests.
- Accessible Before Arriving – The digital welcome book can be accessed prior to arrival. This helps guests familiarize themselves with your vacation rental before they step in the door. Reducing their stress and anxiety and promoting relaxation upon arriving.
- Recommendations Easily Accessible – With a digital welcome book you can share your recommendations for restaurants, activities, attractions and other essentials on an easy to use digital map. Guests can access this map from any device even while they are out and about.
- Give Guests The Info They Seek – A welcome book for your vacation rental will greatly reduce guest questions. When guests don’t have their plans interrupted waiting for responses from hosts, their stay is more enjoyable.
Benefits of a Vacation Rental Welcome Book for Hosts
The main benefits of a welcome book for hosts is the reduction in questions and as a result the improved experience for guests. Let’s also look at some of the benefits of a digital vs printed welcome book for hosts:
- You’ll Reduce Guest Questions – Without a welcome book, you’ll likely be inundated with the same questions again and again. This is a sign that you need a welcome book. A welcome book is essentially a FAQ for their vacation and going digital with your welcome book means you can add new FAQs whenever they come up.
- More 5-Star Reviews – This may seem obvious but when guests have a better stay, you get better reviews. Simple as that.
Benefits To Going With A Digital Welcome Book
- Update It From Anywhere – No more are the days of printing out pages & having to swing by your vacation rental to put it in the welcome book. Simply pull up your computer or phone and edit on the go. Guests will instantly see your updates.
- Include Video – Video is a fantastic way to explain things and has never been possible with printed welcome books. Introduce video as a way for guests to get to know you and teach them how to use your vacation rental.
- Can Be Sent Ahead of Time – This is mostly a benefit to guests but you’ll sleep well knowing your welcome book can be provided to guests ahead of time and they have all the info needed for a great stay.
Should I Use The AirBNB Welcome Book?
The AirBNB welcome book does not do a very effective job at communicating the necessary information for your vacation rental. Its main purpose is to share local recommendations, restaurants, bars, etc. and even using it for that has shown low levels of guest satisfaction with the product.
AirBNB says that they provide ranking boost for hosts that create/maintain an AirBNB welcome book so from that perspective, it may be beneficial to create. However, it would purely be for that ranking benefit. We do not recommend sending it to guests or showcasing it.
Get Started Building A Welcome Book For Your Vacation Rental
So we’ve convinced you how essential a welcome book is for your vacation rental and you’re committed to providing a great experience for your guests. Terrific! What’s the next step? The first step is determining whether you want to go with a digital welcome guide for your vacation rental or do a printed guide that is placed in the house.
If you couldn’t tell already, we’re big proponents of building a digital welcome book. It’s absolutely the future, it is accessible on every device, can be updated from anywhere in the world, is available prior to arrival, reduces waste, is touch-free (think COVID), and that’s really just brushing the surface. If you have concerns that some non-tech individuals will have issues with the digital guide that’s understandable. We would still recommend having a digital guide and using the printed guide as a secondary source. The digital guide will be around for the foreseeable future, the printed guide will continue to become more and more obsolete.
If you decide you’d rather go with a printed welcome guide and looking for a template to get you started, you can purchase Canva templates that are pretty inexpensive from sites such as Etsy like this vacation rental canva template.
If you decide to go digital, we’d love for you to give our GoGuidebook service a try. We offer a completely free 14 day trial where you have access to all of our features. No credit card required. GoGuidebook is packed with awesome features such as:
- Organized content for your vacation rental digital welcome book
- Complete control of branding including fonts, colors and logos
- Secure privacy control so only people/guests you give permission to can see your guide content
- Integrated Google maps that allows you to showcase your local recommendations in an easy to use format available on any device.
- Invites by email or text
- QR codes for everything including the main guide and individual topics
- So much more. See all features of our digital welcome books.
We hope you’ve found this guide helpful and see the value in creating a welcome book for guests and also see the value it can bring to hosts. We hope you weigh the pros and cons of going digital with your welcome book and ultimately see that the future is digital. Should you have any questions about integrating welcome books into your vacation rental experience, please contact us at email@example.com.