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12045 Views 38 Replies Latest reply: Oct 16, 2012 12:55 AM by evan_m RSS
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Jun 1, 2011 6:09 PM

Where to draw the line - are we property owners or travel planners?

I am at wit's end - having racked up a total of 117 e-mails from a couple who will be spending 5 nights at my apartment in Paris, and who have asked for extensive help with micro-managing every moment of their stay here!  Travel to a foreign country can be difficult, and while I certainly do not mind sharing some advice and tips ( especially for first-time travellers or those with mobility issues, for example ), I have had to put my foot down!  This has become increasingly common, and it appears that people no longer want to take the time to do their "travel homework", but demand expert advice from those of us who are just providing rental accomodations.  I include lots of useful information about local favorite shops, etc, as well as current events in my apartment manual.  I have maps and guide books available for guests' use and other nice amenities.  But I am not sure many people really understand the difference between apartment rentals and hotel accomodations.

 

For guests who inquire about tour guide services once they arrive, I am happy to discuss my availability and fees, according to their needs.  This has worked out well in most cases, and if I cannot provide the services they require, I will recommend other guides that will suit them.  This is quite different from providing something for nothing...

 

I had to inform one prospective guest that my "secretarial duties" would be covered by his deposit - this, after he cancelled his reservation at the last minute, preferring a hotel with air conditioning, and sent me a string of inquiries asking my opinions on several of his choices...even going so far as to ask me to reserve the hotel for him!  I have since refunded his deposit, and have simply stopped answering his bothersome e-mails, but I cannot believe the nerve of some people...

 

Anyone else experiencing this "travel agent" problem?  How do you handle it?

  • sophie Senior Contributor 969 posts since
    Mar 4, 2011

    This has happened to me a number of times also.  Renters expect you to be their personal concierge with questions on every little detail.  I, like you, will answer questions to a point.  In this day and age of computers, you can get every bit of information with our dear friend "Google".  If I find that they are consuming too much of my time (I have 3 rentals), I tell them to do a search or to look at Tripadvisor with all the forums and advice on that website.

    • New Member 11 posts since
      Jun 20, 2011

      I'm going to bet this is likely the most popular and common lament of Vacation Property Landlords.

      It's a fine line between feeling like a Concierge or tour guide  and providing truly needed information about ones property and  immediate surroundings.

      I'd even go as far as saying It's akin to when someone asks me if my  property is close to a beach, when my headline reads: "Pathway to  Private Neighborhood Beach" and "one house removed from waterfront" 80%  of my inquiries don't read my copy.

      A great number of rental inquires can be lazy and demand/request stupid  simple information that is already listed on a vacation information  listing or requiring a little additional thought and research.

      To avoid alienating a potential renter or resentments from a booked  renter, I have some standard email templates I leave in my "Drafts"  folder I can cut and paste into email replies.

      In addition, I also have a number of web links on the surrounding areas  such as restaurants, Camber of Commerce and Town Government & Beach  Information web links.

      Lastly, after the 4th touristy information email request, I assure the  renter that I have ample information addressed in my "Welcome Letter"  and a Bounty of information pamphlets & menus in a "Brochure Basket"  at the property.

  • peter.staats New Member 1 posts since
    Jun 22, 2011

    i love it all: pick up, shop at Costco, fix, advise, improve, check in..then get out of the way,

     

    peter

    http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p374550?cid=E_OWNERINQUIRY_DB_O_20110618_propertyurl_text_LPROP

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Jun 22, 2011

    I had guests who sent me 65 emails in a month, asked me to arrange a private cook for a birthday dinner, spent an hour discussing the menu on an international call, asked for a discount on the rent, called me repeatedly for my advice on every detail of their trip, interrupted my dinner at a restaurant so that I could order for them at their table, texted me repeatedly during their week's stay to ask everything from where to go for ice cream to where to shop. They were furious that I had other commitments which meant I wasn't available to sit down with them and plan every day's schedule. At the end of the week, I found they had trashed my house and left a week's worth of rotting food in the frig, a dozen bags of stinking garbage, and pieces of broken items they tried to hide in the trash. (If they were confused about the location of the dumpsters, they could have texted). These were professional people who seemed to think that a self-catering house comes with a fulltime concierge. They had absolutely no respect for me or my property.

     

    I had another group who arrived for a three week stay without even a map of Italy, no printout of the directions to the house or the address, and no idea of what they wanted to do during their vacation. They thought I'd be around to plan everything, make reservations, tell them where to go everyday. They called at least a dozen times driving from Rome to the house to ask where to turn, keeping me on the phone for two hours.

     

    I'm considering offering a package that includes planning detailed itineraries for day trips, for which guests would be charged a modest amount, and would like to know if anyone else has done this.

  • lent.eckhart New Member 4 posts since
    Apr 27, 2011

    I am in Costa Rica and found a local Travel Planning company that will handle all these things for me and does NOT charge a fee to my guests for their services (they get paid by the tour companies, rental car company, etc). The company even pays me a commission for the referrals . When I get questions about activities, private chefs or whatever, I respond with something like "I will refer you to our concierge, who is much more of an expert than I in these areas. " and cc my travel planner.

     

    My guests receive professional service and I get my life back!

  • michelle.lindsey New Member 1 posts since
    Jun 22, 2011

    I believe the type of guests you discribe are hard workers.  They expect a lot of themselves and in turn expect a lot from everyone else.  I commend them, they provide for their family and still manage to set aside quality time for a family vacation.  Problem... most of these hard workers actually work harder prepping for the vacation. We're seeing them at an all time LOW. When they arrive, they're mentally spent.  All they really want to do is sleep, but their new Task At Hand is "concern for their family's Vacation". It has them in a panic.  I see their faces and hear the strain in their voice and quite generally feel sorry for them.    It's for this reason I crafted the tour pages on our website

    http://www.baxter5.com/maps/index.html

     

    For these folks,  I highly recommend the professional tours.  The guides are well prepared to keep all entertained for their first day and the tour itself, the guide and the angels God placed in the tour with them spark the minds of their family.  So their vacation becomes less about planning and more about fulfilling dreams

    ~ Michelle Lindsey, Baxter5 Apartments, Los Angeles

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Jun 22, 2011

    I concur with your response eckhart, and have adopted a similar solution to this problem.  I refer those types of clientele to a local travel group. With the answer that "they have several knowledgeable folks just waiting to help you with your plans". Although I am quite happy and do enjoy a "few bits" of correspondence, sharing my knowledge with my clients to make them feel comfortable.

  • New Member 3 posts since
    Jun 22, 2011

    This happens to us all the time also, and it does seem like the guests who ask the most questions are the same guests who ask for the biggest discount, leave the biggest mess and are the biggest complainers after their stay. It can be very frustrating. I try to refer them to guidebooks or travel agents and respectfully remind them that we are just a vacation rental, they are renting our home, but not our travel services. I have a full time job and am not able to provide extensive services, but I have compiled lists of things to do, contacts, restaurants etc that I send out to people who are renting from me, which helps. I am in Costa Rica also, and would love to have the contact info for the Travel Planning company that you use, Ekhart, I am on the Caribbean side.

  • cycy Contributor 27 posts since
    Feb 17, 2011

    I also have this problem. I am in the 1000 Islands in Clayton NY and guests are always looking for my travel services. I tell them about the highlights and I have a book at the cottage for them to use as a reference but I still recieve emails or phone calls about where is a good resturant, what else can we do etc. I recommend that they call the chamber of commerce and they can give them some advice. I supply the phone number for them. It does get bothersome but what else can ayone suggest?

    • mike Contributor 90 posts since
      Dec 29, 2010

      Another seemingly hot topic which I am sure several owners deal with a lot, me included. I have commented several times about the need for educating renters on the differences between hotels and vacation rentals as well as communicating some general "etiquette" that should be expected from travelers when booking vacation rentals.

       

      As more travelers are lured away from hotels into vacation rentals the more we owners will deal with guests expecting hotel type service. Certainly owners are willing to share some local tips and favorite restaurants but the travelers need to know when they are crossing the line. Travelers need to be better educated on what to expect from an owner and what is expected of them. It will ultimately improve their rental experience which is what's most important if we want them to continue to book vacation rentals.

       

      Mike Cushing

      www.BookbyOwner.com

       

      BBO-logo-color-withtag-hr-cmyk-300w.jpg

  • tansy Active Contributor 395 posts since
    Feb 15, 2011

    We are in Normandy in heart of the WW2 invasion , right beside Ste Mere Eglise, Utah Beach & Carentan... I could end up as a WW2 guide if I am not careful! We are dealing with 84 or so sets of guests this season.

     

    I've produced a suggested day out taking in all the relevant sights & what you should see with lots of photos, restaurant hints etc. plus loads of website links on a pdf format... this is emailed with a hard copy in each unit.

     

    I also do a confirmation pack with extensive information about what is here in the houses, cleaning, recycling etc. along with brochures, maps and pamphlets all about the region & WW2, shopping, market days in the area. This information pack costs me 7 - 9€ in postage alone. The brochures etc I get from our local tourist office... I can even get the brochures in the relevant language as well!

     

    Doing this not only have I stopped cancellations, I've also stopped masses of daft emails etc. The investment in postage & printer ink is probably coming up to 1,000 € a year but believe you me it has made such a difference to my life as majority of folk are prepared and at least know what they want to go to see, so now we just give advice about things like times, parking & good restaurants.

     

    Interestingly though I've got a booking this year a family reunion in Normandy, the German side coming from Germany where I sent the information pack but they don't speak brilliant English & the other half coming from the States who didn't get a pack... I am being emailed by the American side (lots) to include we want a family dinner - as soon as I quote prices and menus they don't want that option & so it goes on!!

     

    I do find with Americans & now the Asian market though, they are cramming Europe into 2 - 3 weeks! So it is a case of it's Tuesday it must be Paris... I've met some Tiawanese the other day 'doing' Normandy in a day! So of course they want information before they come.

     

    I took this stance from when we booked a river cruise on the Canal du Midi - we parted with our money in quite an agressive manner - pay right now to gain more information type attitude, in return we got a photocopied information sheet barely legible plus 1 map of the canal... I was so disappointed that was all I had to show for 2,000€  then had to go out & buy guide books on the region - what for - to sit on our book shelf for ever & a day ...and worst of all we weren't prepared either when we got there...there is nothing better than local advice what to see & where to go - plus it helps you understand your product!

  • New Member 2 posts since
    May 25, 2011

    We have a rental property in the Caribbean -- StLucia.

     

    I found early on, that the best way to handle this was to mail an information packet to each booking guest.  Sounds similar to last poster.  These are word documents on my computer which I revise yearly or as necessary.  I mail them out which really does not cost all that much yearly and this way I know my guests - -as long as they have taken the time to read it -- are well prepared for their visit and know who, what, where etc. 

    I have a sheet on "suggestions of things to do", hikes, beaches, general advice, restaurants, etc.  In  that packet I send a confirmation letter of the reservation stating payment terms etc. 

     

    Yes it did take me a while to formulate them at the beginning but now it's a snap to just print them out and pop them in the mail.

     

    This still does not stop some asking questions, but it limits it.  After receiving their info packets, most guests ask me a few questions just before leaving and that's it.  And I know they are well informed and ready for a great holidya which is what it's all about.  I often hear back from them regarding how much this has helped.  I have many return guests and think this helps to bring them back.  There's no way they can do everything on my "suggestions" list on one trip !!

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Jul 17, 2011

    A bit late...... but hopefully some help nonetheless.

    like the others here, I have put together an info pack explaining everything. I email this to people - no cost to me.

    the info pack refers questions to the businesses and local tour operators directly, and failing that, the local tourist office.

     

    Works 95% of the time.

  • New Member 3 posts since
    Sep 28, 2011

    Hello Everyone... @ Mike  ..will you share some of your guests etiquette tips.  That sounds like a great idea.  I truly believe that sometimes you have to provide a learning opportunity.   Especially when people are doing something for the first time. 

     

    There are differences in staying in a hotel/motel vs. someone's vacation home and I have thought at times that some of my potential guests really had not thought of the details of  booking.   They do not know they are working with someone who owns the home or manages it for a friend, they may have another job and no one is available 24/7 for inquiries/questions/tips.... or that  it is the personal home of someone, with things in the home that are special and important to them, just as it would be in their home (I know anything placed in a rental property you have to be prepared to hear it may have been broken during a stay). 

     

    Nor, do they know that many property managers are not "professional" property managers with a staff  and I think sometimes people believe that because they have someone on the telephone or email, they can asks all the questions and  you will be available to make changes and ask for special attention.  This isn't a bad situation, but looking at it from this standpoint helps me understand why some potential guests approach the process the way they do.  And... I was a training consultant for many years and support providing at least basic knowledge and understanding to help things become more efficient and effective. 

     

    and...Basically when booking a hotel, it's done online or on the telephone and you do not speak with someone who is the "expert" on the property or area.

     

    All that said... I would love to hear what Mike includes as etiquette tips and if anyone else has home rental tips... or things of that sort to share, I would appreciate it.

     

    Thank you,

  • marilyn Active Contributor 459 posts since
    Nov 9, 2011

    Hi Manouche

    This answer may not be timely as I am new to the Community.

    My homes are all in the Hamptons, East end of Long Island New York. Guests are typically large extended families.

    With over 500 homes advertising in the Hamptons, I find that I need to set myself apart from the rest. Therefore, we do offer concierge services to our guests. We have had guests from Denmark, Germany, France and Italy. These folks are clueless as to what to expect in The Hamptons. The language might be an issue for some of them as well.

    As a result, I find that by my extending  a helping hand to them, they have a more enjoyable vacation.

     

    After my renters have made their second payment, I forward a 16 page brochure "what to do in the Hamptons". This email answers most of their questions with regards to restaurants, tours, golf, tennis, boat tours and charters, etc. This is something I personally prepared for my guests and are only offered after booking. If a guest needs a reservation, I am happy to do so. Since my homes are seasonal, guests rent 6 months in advance. I tell my guests to review our "brochure" and to let me know what they will need. Reservations need to be made 4-6 weeks in advance as the area gets very busy during the summer and reservations are not always available when they are at my homes. Everything is always done way in advance so that I can enjoy my summer as well. We are typically booked 100% 3 months in advance of the season, so guests have plenty of time to do what they need in advance. The occassional last minute rental guest has always turned out to be the problem guest.

     

    Regards

    Marilyn

    www.hamptonhouseproperties.info

    • tansy Active Contributor 395 posts since
      Feb 15, 2011

      Marilyn whilst I commend you for sending information out - I, as a paying guest would be rather 'put out' if I had to wait until I'd paid all my money...I find by sending the information with the confirmation (even then no money has exchanged hands), my guests are really relaxed about their forthcoming holiday and are falling over themselves to pay me...

      • marilyn Active Contributor 459 posts since
        Nov 9, 2011

        we send basic information out with our confirmation. But our 16 page brochure "what to do in the Hamptons" is sent to guest after recipt of the first payment, NOT the full payment. This brochure took me weeks and weeks of laborius work to compile. We only offer this to our "paying" guests.

        • marilyn Active Contributor 459 posts since
          Nov 9, 2011

          Hi Manouche

          What you are doing is well beyond the scope of a vacation home owner. Transporting a guest from the airport is a fabulous amenity. I really do not know anyone else who provides this service. I believe greeting your guests and seeing them off is the perfect way to make your guests feel "at home". We do this as well as reservations, order special equipment like cribs and hospital beds for our guests. We do not "tour with them". We provide all the tools of a great vacation and let them take it from there. BUT, sometimes you get the guest you cannot please no matter what. Luckily these are few and far between still making this a fun business for me.

            • tansy Active Contributor 395 posts since
              Feb 15, 2011

              I think it is a fantastic idea & service...if we could do it from Normandy we would like a flash...CDG can be a nightmare picking up hire cars etc. Regrettably the quote we got for a return journey was in excess of 500€ & we can't build that into the rentals!!

               

              But for someone in Paris to organise this service is an inspiration & would tip me over to choosing her place!

              • marilyn Active Contributor 459 posts since
                Nov 9, 2011

                This is an extraordinary amenity when traveling abroad. It is always difficult to find a taxi in a foreign city, not to mention finding one that speaks English. When traveling I find I usually choose venues that provide transfers to my destination.

                Also, unfortunately, some taxis look to take advantage of American tourists and charge a huge amount, much more than is customary.

              • sophie Senior Contributor 969 posts since
                Mar 4, 2011

                tansy & manouche,

                 

                having flown into CDG numerous times and finding it quite busy at times, we just were back last month and we landed, walked to baggage, collected baggage and hailed a cab in 20 minutes!!! It was the quickest I have ever been through CDG. We were laughing in the back of the cab. Of course traffic was horrendous that morning!

                 

                But...manouche, I'm bound and determined to stay at your property next time so hopefully I will get the luxury of the driver!

            • marilyn Active Contributor 459 posts since
              Nov 9, 2011

              This is definitely a much for travelers of a certain age or homes offering luxurious accommodations.

               

              In the hamptons, guests need cars to explore the area, so guests come complete with their own transportation.

               

              However, guests arriving by rail do have an option of pick up. We have an agreement with a taxi/shuttle service which will pick up our guests. I am happy to make all the arrangements, however, our guest pay the taxi directly.

            • lent.eckhart New Member 4 posts since
              Apr 27, 2011

              This is a wonderful amenity for your guests!

               

              Our area of Costa Rica is about an hour drive from the airport and the roads are not always well marked (and quite a few are unpaved), so many of our car rental agencies offer free transportation from the airport to  vacation rentals, then deliver the car that afternoon or the next morning. This provides a much more pleasant experience for our guests.

               

              And we  encourage those who are not renting a car to use a semi-private van service that does door-to-door service. The cost varies with the number of people who ride with you, with the maximum cost being $85 and the minimum $25 per person each way. I have used this service myself for the 5 hour trip to the capital city of San Jose and it is quite pleasant .

      • marilyn Active Contributor 459 posts since
        Nov 9, 2011

        My brochure is sent out with the first payment which is 120 days before arrival date certainly giving guests plenty of time to make arrangements.

  • thaxterlane Active Contributor 779 posts since
    Jul 27, 2011

    I believe 117 emails sets a record.  I am envious of your patience.  I'm not sure I could handle that level of communication.

     

    I offer my guests a variety of services and information.

     

    First, my rental home (on Martha's Vineyard) is reached by ferry or air.  In order to be certain my guests have ferry passage for peak summer weeks, which sell out months in advance, I coordinate all purchases.  I'm not certain how many other owners offer this service but I find my guests are very appreciative, particularly those that are not familiar with the ferry service.   I began arranging ferry service in the second or third year of renting my property, approx 15 years ago.  A few guests  neglected to purchase  ferry tickets as I suggested.  Securing a last minute ticket required several weeks of many daily telephone calls (internet reservations were not yet available) waiting for a ticket to become available.  I decided I would never have this happen again and took over the ferry process.

     

    I have numerous guides at my home, both professional travel books and binders I have compiled myself:  walking tours, beaches, water sports, farm stands, restaurants, historical sites, nature trails, summer bus schedules.   My website, linked on vrbo and homeaway, has a list of online resources, recommended travel guides, and my own "25 things to do".  I refer all prospective guests to this information.

     

    I have always offered to answer any questions my guests have about my home and the island.  In the course of getting to know my guests I often inquire about their interests which naturally leads to conversation about local sites and activities.  The majority of my guests are familiar with the island from previous visits or the media, and may have one or two questions.  Most of the questions are about restaurants, arranging for bicycle and kayak rentals, providing information about golfing and fishing, which beaches are best for children - many of the questions are standard by now.

     

    I haven't had too many high maintenance guests (i.e., 117 emails).  The island location likely limits the amount of information someone could seek and I provide a list of sources that may reduce the inquiries directed to me.

     

    As a traveler I ask few questions of the property owner because I like to do my own research. (I love to read travel books; I've read travel books for destinations I don't have plans to visit!)  The majority of properties I have rented have a binder with information about the local area.  Some have travel guides.  I don't expect the owner to serve as my travel planner, but there are all different types of travelers and some clearly need to feel supported by the owner, especially when traveling overseas.

     

    I expect that this level of support is necessary for some travelers and there isn't much that can be done to discourage their queries once they are underway.  Perhaps a statement in an early email defining the service an owner will provide would be useful.   Carefully wrtitten, it could encourage guests to enjoy the process of discovering their destination and crafting their own visit, rather than relying on the owner's idea of a visit.  And, for requests that the owner serve as concierge, making reservations, setting up tours, and other such activities - try providing complete information, including best time to contact the service (time zones can confuse and intimidate), to your guest with the suggestion that they, not you, will be able to best determine their needs. 

     

    It seems that there are more people interested in vacation rentals than ever before.  It may be that some traditional hotel guests are not going to transition easily to rental property guests.   Some gentle education is in order . . . .

     

    Good luck!

  • New Member 6 posts since
    Oct 15, 2012

    I want to give a small adive wuth an example. let ur consider a safari and lodge owner in africa. How he shoul start hi/her business:-Some self-studies can help you in your quest to become an African safari guide.  Reading books on African wildlife and learning wildlife identification is a great idea, as is learning off-road driving or vehicle maintenance.  Other ideas include joining outdoor clubs to gain the knowledge that can be found there, such as Survival 101 and more.


    Addo Game Reserve

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