Absolutely! I feel rather silly answering this as we are newcomers to vacation rentals, but we have definitely developed a philosophy that we want our home to be remembered for our hospitality and the "little extras."
We have three "giveaways" that we add to our home everytime someone checks in. First, I should mention that I have created a questionnaire that I send out to our future guests about one week before their arrival. I created it on Word as a "Form" so all the guest has to do is receive it as an e-mail, open it up and check boxes or select items from pull-down menus, and e-mail it back to us. From that information, combined with our phone conversations that we have with guests before they arrive (and we always insist on talking to prospective guests in person to give us a comfort level of how our home will be treated) we are able to arrive at appropriate items that are personalized just for them.
So far, every guest has been overwhelmingly appreciative. I had to actually encourage one woman to tell us what they liked for breakfast because, as she said, "No one has ever asked me that before!" We make sure that they tell us their favorite brands or type (i.e.Raisin Bran if they want cereal, and whole, 2%, or 1% if they want milk.)
We advertise that we stock the refrigerator with enough food so that a guest does not have to run to the grocery store the minute they get in, just to have breakfast in the morning. We don't go overboard but, through the questionnaire, they write what items they eat for breakfast and snacks. This doesn't have to cost a lot of money. If the guests are staying for a month we tend to provide a little more than if they are staying for three nights. Usually, it has been things as simple as a bag of bagels and creme cheese, orange juice, some fruit, or eggs and some cheese for an omelette.
One family requested chips and dip. As it turned out, their flight from across the country was delayed by three hours and they didn't get in until 10:30 that night. They had two teenage boys with them, and Dad of course, and when my husband asked if they had been able to get anything to eat and pulled out the Blue Corn Torilla chips and salsa you would have thought we had just given them a Ferrari! Mom was dignified about it, but the three "boys" dove into those chips like there was no tomorrow. Three days later they were still thanking us for the great food we left for them. (Obviously, we had also provided some breakfast items, which they never would have had time to go get, and I'm sure that when they awoke in the morning some Cheerios, milk, and grapefruit was a very welcome sight after a harrowing trip the night before!)
We also leave a "welcome gift." Again, we decide how much to spend based upon how long the guests are staying. We also tailor this to them personally, and I think this is a touch that people appreciate. For instance, when I was talking on the phone with the wife of a couple coming to visit she mentioned that her sister (who lives in our city) was insisting that while they were there they "had" to go see a museum together. So we purchased two tickets to the museum for them, and wrapped them nicely in a little gift bag. We always leave a card with our gift welcoming them, thanking them for staying with us, mention that we hope they enjoy the [whatever the gift is], and wish them a wonderful stay. Again, it seems as though all of our guests have been almost surprised to see something like this. I think the hospitality is remembered the next time they are planning a vacation, and it has brought us some nice reviews.
Also, from the questionnaire we send, we surmise what their interests are and leave a couple of magazines on that topic (even though I think this is just a standard thing to do, my husband counts this as a gift "because it costs money!" He usually complains about spending money on these things, but we always check people in, and when he sees their reaction to these little touches he always takes it back!
These things can be given for anywhere between $20 and $75, depending upon how much they have spent on their rent, which, when you think of how much you get back for it in terms of happy guests, good reviews, and hopefully referrals, it isn't that big of an investment. If it is a very short stay, (three or four days) we charge a cleaning fee. This makes up for the expenditure and keeps happy guests. And besides, this may sound corny, but it feels good to see people excited with the choice they made for their vacation and to know that we have added to it, even if it is in a small way.
We also ask the guests some questions to find out what they like, before buying the welcome gifts ... primarily, since many people are allergic to nuts and/or many people don't drink alcohol, we want to make sure not to provide those things for poeple who don't want them.
The theme at our guest apartment is eco-friendly, sustainable, local, organic.
For most guests, we provide a bottle of wine from a sustainable solar-powered Napa winery. Some guests prefer beer, so we provide a selection of beers from various local microbreweries. Other guests have asked for Perrier water or other beverages. We also provide locally produced gourmet chocolates, crumpets, artichoke spread and jams / marmalade, organic California raisins, all natural organic oatmeal, organic non-dairy milk, a big carafe of organic orange juice, a fruit bowl with organic bananas, apples, and oranges, and a nice fresh bag of shade-grown organic whole coffee beans.
There is a big selection of organic teas ... herbal teas, Early Grey tea, etc, in the cupboards as well as a full spice rack, including organic black pepper and garlic mills, and other condiments, olive oil, sugar, etc, in the cupboard ... but those generally last through many sets of guests, so I don't count them as part of the welcome gift.
We generally spend about $80 on the welcome gifts for each new set of guests.
We used to provide a discount for car-free guests. But now ... to simplify our rates, we are charging the same rate for everyone, and we are providing extra perks for the car-free guests, such as free transit passes.
These are great ideas! We are brand new to renting our place and I've been thinking about welcome gifts. I'm planning to put together a basket with some locally made products, like chocolate, wine, etc.
I really like the idea of sending people a questionnaire in advance. What sort of questions do you include in yours? I'd love some input on that.
I have a rather extensive questionnaire, but, because I created it in Word as a Form, it can be filled out on their computer in five minutes. One time, I have also quickly run through it with the guest over the phone, and they seem to be even more excited afterwards, as if it tells them that they are going someplace where they will receive special treatment.
We have a TIVO, but as many people aren't familiar with it I ask them if they have any favorite TV shows that they watch so that we can set them up to record before the guests arrive.
I have a section on food, and I tell them that we provide breakfast for at least a day, and some snacks, and then I list typical breakfast items and snacks, and all they have to do is check them off and add their favorite brand.
I also specifically ask if they are diabetic, or have any food allergies, and if anyone in their party cannot drink alcohol, or eat chocolate, caffeine, carbonated beverages, dairy, and leave a blank space for anything I've missed. (This information I really use for planning a welcome gift in the event that we want to put food in it.)
The form has an extensive list of just about every passtime imaginable. I can use this to help them make the most of their time. For instance, one couple wrote that she enjoyed spas and he didn't, and then he checked off golf, but not spas, so I was able to suggest a beautiful golf club that also had a beautiful spa so that they could have an afternoon where they were both conveniently doing something they enjoyed, but probably wouldn't have found on their own.
Finally, I have a list of our city's major attractions, and if they check off interest in any of them I find out all of the recent information about them, such as the current exhibit at a museum and operating hours. For the ones in which they have expressed the most interest, (and this is helpful for welcome gift ideas) I leave driving directions to it from our house in the form of a mapquest or google map. Even though we leave city maps in the house, and, of course, so many people use laptops to do their own mapquests, they are grateful for the time it saves them to research this themselves. One couple came in and had previously bought tickets to an NBA game that night, (that we helped them purchase) and they only had one hour to themselves before they had to leave for the game. Of course they wanted to shower, and get a little settled, so they were thrilled when I had already printed out driving directions, instructions on the best places to park, and tips about the area around the arena itself. They said they made it with plenty of time to spare, and were able to watch both teams warm up, and they were so grateful.
Again, for me, a lot of this isn't just about delivering great service. It's really about helping those folks have a great time at their first NBA game!
AZnative, this is awesome!
I hope the word get out about the personalized service you offer for your guests. When the word gets out, I hope you'll be booked all year long.
I love the idea of a pre-made check list.
Also that's really cool that you queue up the guests' favorite TV shows on TiVo.
I also like the idea of personalized google maps / driving directions, pre-printed and ready to go for the guests' favorite attractions.
These are some great ideas I think we can all use.
Unfortunately a lot of vacation rental owners live far away from the guest apartment and/or are too busy with full time jobs to add these personal touches .... but I hope your guests appreicate all the extra effort you are making. I hope there's a way for you to market this, so people will know that they are really getting something "extra" by staying at your place.
Thanks SF! That is our goal! We are in an area where there is a lot of competition, and if I was a prospective renter it would be difficult to choose one from the other. It would almost come down to just going with the least expensive property, unless the renters are discriminating enough to really read the long descriptions, and I'm not sure how many people take the time to do that.
We are hoping that our extra customer service and giveaways will help us stand apart by showing up in our reviews, and so far our guests have been great about posting nice reviews, (we only started renting in February.) Now, THOSE, I do think maybe a shopper might look at before they just go "click, paste, click, paste, click, paste" on 50 other properties with that detestable option to "Save info for other properties" feature (thanks VRBO!) We just received our review from our last renter today, and they were very nice to compliment not only our home, but also the assistance we provided (it's in review.) The "giveaways" for us are the items we have mentioned, but I think things such as personalized printouts of maps and directions could be considered a "giveaway" also, because it does take time.
Having read your description page, you have done a very nice job of mentioning the chocolates, flowers, and welcome gift, and I think we need to make more mention of that in our listing as well. We, too, leave a bowl of individually wrapped chocolates on our coffee table, but we haven't mentioned that anywhere. Reading your listing it really does make one feel that your apartment will be a real treat (no pun intended) to visit!
We have only started renting our home in February. I didn't have the questionnaire made up for our February guests (FEB and MAR were guests who stayed for the entire month, so it wasn't used for them. Consequently, we have only had four guests to fill it out. This is not a very large test group. However, so far, not only did none of the others balk at using it, but, as I mentioned they seemed to be rather surprised in a pleasant way that we are taking such an interest in helping them have a nice stay. We have our latest guest review pending with VRBO right now (that's another one of my frustrations with VRBO... they take so long to post a review once it has been submitted) but you might want to take a look at the two other reviews that we have, and both of them mention the customer service.
I always tell them in advance that we will be sending them a "concierge services" questionnaire about a week before their check-in date, and they have responded to that by saying that they will be happy to fill it out. Then, when I have sent it, it has led to me needing to follow up with them by telphone about some of their answers - may we help you get tickets for such and such? Here are the golf coursed we would recommend for you. Because your kids want to do such and such, here are two links to the best choices for that so that you may look at them in advance and see if either of these will fit the bill, and if not I can find a different place that would be more to your liking. (This not only allows me to build a rapor with our guests, but it also gives me an opportunity to get to know them better to see if any red flags pop up in terms of having them as guests.) I do try to give them websites in advance so that they can be looking at the available activities before they get here. It helps them plan. At that point they have all written back with very nice notes. One guest wrote, "WOW, we are so lucky to have found you! This is great!" so, so far it has been going well.
I sensed that one of our guests might not want to be bothered with it, so I called them on the phone with other information, and then segued into the questionnare by telling them that we provide such and such, and would she mind answering a few questions for me to help us make their stay more enjoyable? She was fine with that, and when they got to our home (we always check our guests in, in person to go over how to operate some of the tech stuff in the house) they were thrilled when we opened the refrigerator and pointed out "here are the breakfast items you requested," and "here are some brochures for the museum you said you wanted to see" (we go to hotel chains and grab the pamphlets that they have in their racks of area attractions... we have built up a good inventory of brochures for all of the sights. We also make a point of stopping by spas, golf courses, and restaurants to get their brochures as well.) I pull out the ones that would fit their interests, and then stack them and tie a ribbon around the stack to make it look more "gifty" and leave it on the kitchen counter with their welcome gift and any maps for places they want to visit.
Juelam, sorry if some of this thread has maybe gone off topic from your original question. To try to keep that going, I don't know if this counts as a "give away" but we have a fax machine, and we provide paper for it, and also put loofahs in both bathrooms with some bath salts, and make sure to point out that these items are for them to keep and enjoy.
Would you be willing to share your pre check in list? I love that idea and would love to use that same pre check in list for our property in Walla Walla, WA.
I think that is a great idea. Definitely helps that you own the spa. Unfortunately, I live about 90 miles from my units and can't give all the personal touch that I have in my head. And there numerous.
Aznative, I like that list idea. I think it's great. Have you considered doing a web version of it where people can go to it and fill it out. It can also go into a database that way you have some stats at the end of the year on what people are leaning towards.
Also, I added Roku box which I highly recommend and getting a Netflix and Hulu Plus account. We have gotten great reviews on it. The good thing is that you can customize what shows and movies appear on it. So if you know that before they can there. You can update it through the web. You can also add Pandora radio so it has the music they like. Please note for Roku, you need internet speed of 6 mbps or more. They also have Roku in HD.
I'm currently working on a partnership with several local places where we either give them a free spa massage (If they are returning guest) or give them a discount on their spa.
We also trying this with local restaurants. It's a way for the restaurant to create visibility for themselves. And also helps us look better then othe rental units.
We also provide a customize 26 page insider guide for all guests. It has everything a guest needs to know about the area. It also has sample iternieries for a 3 and 5 day stay. I think it's better to have more information then less.
Honestly, I wish I was closer because I love doing personal touch that guests don't know about. However with my full time job and how far the cabin is from me, I can't do everything I want to.
Thanks all for the great ideas. I am in the process of putting together a visitors guide specifically for our neighborhood that will list good bars, restaurants and shops, as well as where to find amenities - library, medical, groceries, etc. I've been planning to leave a welcome gift but hadn't thought of doing a questionnaire to help dial it in to guests' needs/likes - thanks for that suggestion!
These are all really good ideas that I imagine would set you apart from your competitors.
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Wow, I am amazed at the time you guys are spending doing these things. With 3 houses it is an impossibility. I have been renting my homes for a few years and have done numerous things but have stopped doing many things because it didn't seem to matter to guests and I wasn't getting anymore reviews from them or any other comments:
Things I used to do but DON'T anymore because most people wouldn't even acknowledge it or use the items:
1. Fresh eggs, fresh orange juice, tons of breakfast cereal (individual), numerous kinds of oatmeal, huge containers of full size candy bars and snacks, microwave popcorn, pancake mix, fresh milk, speciality popcorn from my state.
2. Bouquets of fresh flowers from the florist
3. Bottle of french wine (their choice, red or white)
4. Movies from Pay per view (with me paying)
5. I even gave a personalized birthday cake for someone whose birthday occurred while in the home and got nothing more than a thanks, that was nice.
This was a huge amount of work, stress and cost before each check in and I don't feel there was any benefit from it so I quite doing it after about a year.
The things I still do are:
1. Starbucks coffee, hot chocolate, numerous teas, flour, sugar, popcorn, spices, condiments and chocolate on pillows.
2. Welcome booklet with all information on dining, attractions, menus, etc.
3. Soap, lotion and bath gel from L'Occitane. Sewing kit and manicure kit.
IMHO, If I was on the side of the renter, I probably wouldn't answer a questionaire as to my likes and dislikes or what my plans are as I feel that there is no privacy left in this society with on-line searches, facebook, my space, email, etc. You can search you name and your Pandora playlist pops up on the web.
I agree with the privacy issues regarding online issues. The form I send is by e-mail directly to the guest, and they e-mail it right back to me. I don't think I would ever put my questionnaire online (such as on our website, if we ever got one.
The benefit of the questionnaire is that is does save a lot of money on the first things that you mentioned. You never know if someone is allergic to eggs, diabetic so they can't drink orange juice, or can't eat chocolate or anything with caffiene. Asking people exactly what they want seems to be very appreciated for us so far.
As for the L'Occitane products, I started a thread asking if anyone knows where to get mass quantities of these products in the hotel size bottles, and didn't really get any response. Do you give away the regular size bottles? I LOVE L'Occitane, and would love to leave their products in the baths, but I don't think we could afford to leave the full size/full price versions. Do you have a source to buy the smaller sizes? I especially think the Milk or the Green Tea scents would be good choices because they would have more generic scents that just about anyone would like.
Sophie, those are great points.
We have been operating the vacation rental for about 11 months. I have some guests who are delighted and very appreciative of the welcome gifts, and I have other guests who act like they couldn't care less. When it comes down to it ... I think most people are looking for a bargain. I wonder if some people would rather NOT have the welcome gifts, and instead have a cheaper place.
Sophie, I find it interesting that you say you stopped being so gung ho about thank you gifts after the first year ... because I've been thinking along the same lines, and here I am, coming up to the one year mark, too! I like the way you scaled down the gifts and still provide a personal touch that the guests will remember.
It definitely hurts your bottom line to be spending too much money on thank you gifts (we spend $70 to $100 on each set of guests). And you feel the sting a lot more when the gifts are not appreciated by the guest. If we have an average of 3 guests per month (3 x 12 = 36 sets of guests per year), that's approximately $2500 to $3600 per year , spent on thank you gifts. We just found out that our annual homeowner's premium is $3300 higher than before (because of the extra liability associated with operating a vacation rental). So ... to absorb that cost, we need to either cut costs elsewhere, or charge a higher rate to the guests.
I bet we could cut down on our thank you gifts without much of change in guest satisfaction ... and without having to reduce our prices either. In fact, during the first 2 or 3 months we were in business, we used to ONLY provide a small box of fair trade chocolates, and some roses from our garden, and a little handwritten note welcoming the person. Maybe we should go back to doing that again. It would save us $60-$90 off of each reservation. Hmmmmm!
We do provide lots of other stuff that I don't consider part of the welcome gift ... maps / brochures / binder of restaurants / take out menus, etc., all natural supplies in the bathroom like soap, shampoo, Q-tips, toothpaste, floss, Advil, aspirin, first aid kit, sewing kit, paper / tissue supplies, and laundry soap and dryer sheets ... and in the kitchen ... spices, teas, coffee, sugar, non-dairy creamers, stevia, olive oil, non-stick spray, alumimum foil, saran wrap, cupcake liners, dishwasher detergent, coffee filters, sponges, etc ... but all of this I just count as "supplies" from our end.
Come to think of it, even without the welcome gift, people would probably be pretty happy with our place. They certainly were, back when we first started. But .. it is kind of nice for the people who arrive late at night from an international flight, that they have something available for breakfast, etc. And it seems like a bottle of wine is such a nice way to start a vacation.
So ... I haven't decided yet, but ... scaling down the welcome gifts, is certainly something I'm mulling over.
As an example: one of the things that is really expensive is the bowl of fresh organic fruit ... we pick basic fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges, that I would think everyone likes. But ... sometimes the guests leave the fruit behind, untouched! And by the time they leave, it has spoiled to the point we cannot eat it either. I was thinking of leaving a note "If not planning to eat the fruit, let us know so we can pick it up and so it won't go to waste." But this speaks to Sophie's point ... why add this extra stress? Now the guests have to try to meet up with us to give us the fruit, and it's a big hassle. Wouldn't it be much simpler to simply not buy the fruit in the first place, and save everybody the trouble?
Yes, I enjoyed Sophie's post, as it certainly gave me a lot to think about.
Best gift we found is a cosmetics pouch filled with soaps, body wash, shampoo from Thymes, a Minneapolis-based luxury soap maker. Its retail value is about $25 but every summer they have a one a year sale and I stock up on enough packages for the year, then ship them to my property manager every 3 months. They put them in the unit for free and I tuck in a small postcard sized note, thank you for your visit.
Its very easy for the manager to store, and no work for me after I buy them and send them.
Guests really like them, and frequently comment on this extra in their comments, so we will continue to do them.
We also used l'Occitane which another owner mentioned they like a lot. If you have one of their boutiques in your city or watch their online website, you can also get in on their specials. Then stock up.
We don't do food since we don't know people's allergies, preferences for healthy foods and we are concerned about spoilage. We did shopping totes once but they're much bulkier, and and just an empty bag doesn't make a big presentation.
I put a travel toothpaste and a nice custom handmade set of travel size bath salts, bar of soap, and shampoo neatly packaged in the master bath. We used to do each bathroom, but decided to cut our costs down. I now spend less than $3 for each set of guests for the soap set and toothpaste.
The bath set I have custom made by a shop on Etsy - I chose the scent, colors, etc. And I couldn't beat the price!
Last year I had silver frames engraved for each guest, but the housekeeper couldn't remember to put them out each time for the guests, which was disappointing. These cost about $12 each with the engraving.
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Thanks for the effort you put into helping all of us by putting a photo on here! That looks very nice, and the price is great. I imagine people will use it more than a picture frame anyway, so it is probably more appreciated by your guests.
We were doing something similar, with all of the items made up in a gift box, until recently. One of our guests opened the box (which was $6.00 for it and the contents), then opened one of the bottles (the shampoo, I think), there was a tiny bit gone, but everything else was untouched! However, the entire gift set was not a complete waste because the set had been broken up in the packaging.
Now we are trying something else. We went to a local retailer that stocks interesting brands of travel-sized toiletries and are now putting them out, lined up attractively on a tray, individually (but side-by-side.) There is a shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and because we are in Arizona, I added another tube that is the same size and coloring, but not the same brand, of an SPF 30 Sunblock. They look attractive next to each other (we sort of set them on a diagonal on the tray we bought to leave permanently from BB&B) but the beauty of it is, just like what happened with our last guests, one of the guests used the lotion, but nothing else was touched, and another guest used the shampoo but nothing else was touched. So now we can just replace the little bottles of what was used, rather than having to put out an entire new set. The bottles run $2.49 ea, so this isn't too bad (although I do love your little card and gold ribbon! What a nice touch!)
BTW, I still wish the person who gives out the L'Occitane products would tell us where they get them for reasonable prices! lol! It would be so nice to use them but they are just cost prohibitive, even in the travel size
thanks for reminding me. I use a company called Hotel Amenities Resource. www.hotelamenitiesresource.com You will need to contact them to get a wholesale price list but most of the l'occitane 1 oz products are under $1.00. I found that if I give any larger size that a lot of it is wasted as so many people use a little bit of the product and then leave it. Another idea that I do is buy the 2 oz size of lotions, etc at Bath & Body when they run their bi-yearly sales. I think July & January. Also, when they get a new fragrance, they offer them for $1.00. Let me know if you have any other questions!
What a beautiful picture.
With seven homes, it is rather challenging to provide amenities, but did last summer.
Michaels was having a clearance sale and we bought, soothing eye cover, shower sponge, small notebook and pen and soothing beachy candle tins. Put everything into a pretty gift bag with lots of tissue paper, ribbon and voila. Wrote a personal note and inserted in bag. Addressed the bag with tenants name and left for them when they arrived. Received one thank you out of 12 rentals for our spa gift bag. For one tenant returning for their sixth year I left one white, one red and one blush bottle of wine. They left two bottle at the house after they left. Not even a thank you. Not sure it's worth it.
This year we will be giving a three piece BBQ tool kit wrapped and ribbon with their family name on each tool for them to use at our home and to take back to their home after their vacation. Our name will also be on the tools for them to remember us. Will see if this will be a hit. At the end of each rental season, I try to find clearance items for the following year so that our costs are kept in line.
This year we are printing postcards, providing stamps for our guests to mail to their friends and family. Hopefully this will be a good amenity while promoting our homes to other friends and family.
Last summer we also supplied two bottles of water in each bedroom. Made a label on our computer which we put on the face of the bottle which said compliments of Hampton house properties. I think we will continue this as it was appreciated. Little cost, tenants appreciated.
We always leave soaps, lotions, tons of pool towels as well as bath towels. We leave extra towels on the beds as well. We have small baskets of toiletries prepared in advance by our cleaning service and they just need to place it in each bathroom. Each home has 5 bathrooms. We use 3 cleaning companies as there is a total of 35 bathrooms.
This is our third year renting one house and our second year renting two others. All three houses are 2-3 hours away from our home. The time and expense for the welcoming gifts became prohibitive. I've scaled them down to management levels that my housekeepers can deal with.
I no longer offer give-away soaps/shampoos/conditioners. With 6 bathrooms to keep stocked, we installed dispensers on the wall, and I shop for quality products at Costco to refill them. I advertise to our customers that shampoo, conditioner and soaps are supplied as well as hair dryers for each bathroom. I have installed lighted make-up mirrors (I get fabulous comments on that!). I purchase foaming hand cleansers from Bath and Body Works, when they go on sale. (The foaming style lasts longer.) Each kitchen has some staples, spices, and condiments stocked for our guests. There are herbal teas and a starter pot of coffee beans. Honeymoon and annivesary guests are offered a bottle of wine - red or white of their choice. I have locking cupboards where I keep the wine stocked, so that my housekeeper can put the chosen style out for the guests. One of our houses sleeps up to 10 people, and I do very little extra because of the volume. It gets expensive. I would like to do something, but haven't found just the perfect offering as yet.
We're considering adding 'evil brownies' to the wine offering, but I hadn't taken into consideration allergies and diets. I might rethink that one.
We are collecting pictures of welcome treats for our newsletter.
Please send me a pic of your welcome basket/gift to email@example.com and get featured in our newsletter!
well, I stopped doing welcome packs many years ago when I got some arrogant so and so announce it depended what was in my welcome pack if he would honour me with his booking! I also found the packs were abused, tossed to one side or even complained about...as I used to put eggs from my chickens (are they salmonena tested..no can't eat them) Camembert... I might be pregnant so Listeria threat, cider - don't like it, wine that usually was OK, butter oh don't eat satuated fats and so on!
Now in each unit - I have 3 properties, I have 3 towels per person, high speed hair driers,the stock cupbaorsd are full with salt pepper, herbs, stock cubes, tinned goods, flour, pasta, tea, coffee etc. etc. I leave cleaning materials, washing up liquid, loo rolls, dishwasher tablets, hand soap.
For the couple only units where I am on site this year I gave everyone a lavender basket with dried lavender, lavender sugar, oil and sachets of lavender to put in draws all made from the lavender in our garden.
Then I send out a card a week or so after their visit thanking them for choosing our house...as my husband is a professional photograher the photos on the cards are of here & the area.
When I confirm the booking formally by snail mail I send an information pack that costs 12US$ to post of brochures information and maps of the area plus suggestions for days out & websites to look up.
Plus we are on call...they are after all only renting our house of us, not becoming part of our family & it isn't our fault if it rains on their parade either!!
Great thread! We tried all the cute little bottles, free snacks, wine...etc. Although we think we've narrowed it down to a few things that are least expensive, least time consuming, and most appreciated from guests in our rentals.
- Snacks: 2 bottles of beer, 2 sodas, 2 bottles of water (best offered upon arrival), coffee + coffee maker in kitchen.
- 1 bottle of wine: people LOVE this and it costs us (at bulk rate) something like $3/bottle
- Soap/Shampoo: we use the dispensers which we always keep filled with high-quality shampoo, soap, and body gel. Buying these things in bulk at the local Costco was easiest for us.
- Free cell phone usage: we are based in a foreign country so guests love to have access to a local cell phone. We give them $2 credit for free (plenty of credit to call friends/family/tours) and then charge if they go over. This is semi time-intensive (the maids have to notate how much was consumed) but a very appreciated touch according to guests.
In general, we survey guests when they leave. Back at the beginning, we asked "what little gestures meant the most to you" and we derived the aforementioned list from those responses.
From the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog
We stock our house with many conveniences but do not provide any gifts other than a bottle of wine with a welcoming note.
I'm considering a gift basket of such things as locally made jams, chocolates, soaps or lotions, and possibly a souvenir or beach toy (for children) of some sort - all items that could be assembled in a basket or sand pail prior to the start of our season (May to October) and stored for the housekeeper to place on the weekly turnover schedule.
My other thought was providing a gift card for breakfast at a nearby restaurant that is a favorite with locals and visitors alike. But this might become expensive if it's a large party - perhaps I could do coffee and _____? Or, a gift certificate to a local farm stand - there are several that our guests might visit.for provisions.
I do think guests appreciate the extras and the unexpected. We always get a thank you for the gift of wine.
Lots of good ideas here - much to consider - thank you to all!
Wow - I'm loving the Maple Leaf Cabin Syrup idea! I would love that as a guest and of course the local shop soaps, wine, and extras are cool too, but as a vacation owner I'm not liking the "what do you want for breakfast" Now, I lived near my rental than that would be cool as I could make sure everything was taken care and on time, but for my house cleaner to handle that task??? Might be alittle overwhelming. Still, as a guest I think that idea is very cool and unique, but as an owner it would not work out for me.
We live about 4 hours from our vacation rental so logistically we're not able to do some of the personal touches we'd like to or that others can. However, we are blessed with an AMAZING cleaning service who puts out whatever we send their way. We always stock and advertise as an 'open pantry' policy, things like laundry & dish detergent, paper towels, cleaning supplies, coffee filters, just all the basic items. If someone is getting married or celebrating an anniversary we leave them a bottle of wine or call the restaurant they're dining at and cover their appetizers or treat to dessert - it all depends on the guest. (Note: we don't require our guests to tell us where they are eating - they usually ask for a recommendation and if we know they are going then we call the restaurant)
Our most-every-rental welcome gift is a cheese and sausage combo served on a slate serving tray/ slateplate / cheese board. The cheese and sausage can be found at a great discount after the Holidays and the Slate tray is from a small company (www.slateplate.com) who offers Vacation home owners a discount.... They have different sizes for different size rentals - for our larger rentals we get a 'group' size and for smaller groups, we get the 'personal' size.
As for guest response, like others have mentioned, not everyone acknowledges the gift and this as an owner makes you kind of annoyed. We too have thought about doing away with it all together, but our hope that even if they don't say thanks, hopefully it sticks in their mind and they'll remember us for friends or families trips.
After several early years of personalized welcome card/flowers/wine/survey, we decided to stop as it was the rare guest who even mentioned the extra effort/expense. Life is much easier now and we haven't seen a change in bookings as a result. If it makes you feel better to offer a welcome gift, I would suggest you continue the practice, but as for me I'm happier by not being annoyed by their lack of appreciation (and I enjoy drinking their wine!).
We normally stock general amenities, such as liquid soap, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, first aid supplies, paper products, dish and laundry soap, wraps, sandwich bags, foil, coffee filters and the like, and have the housekeeper purchase a bouquet of flowers for the dining room table for each new guest. She checks the amenities to ensure that they are stocked, and thus far, we haven't had any complaints (nor kudos, for that matter). We DO get repeat guests each year -- as a matter of fact, half of this summer's guests (we're already fully booked for summer as of Valentines Day!) are repeat guests who booked as early as their last stay.
We rent mostly to families, so we don't get a lot of arrogant types, thank God; Not sure that any level of amenity would please some of them....
Jim, we do much the same thing as you minus the fresh flowers. I used to provide little welcome goodies and found that no one really mentioned them to my disappointment. What they do notice and mention is all the extras we provide in the kitchen (same as your list plus spices and plastic food storage containers), free long distance, WiFi, flashlights, tool kit, laundry detergent/dryer sheets, first aid kit, bug spray, flameless candles, etc.
I probably spend about the same amount of money annually on these supplies as I did on the welcome gifts. I think in this economy it's a better place to put our dollars. We, too, rent mostly to families of average means, so a fancy gift basket--while certainly nice--isn't probably as appreciated as all the standard items we stock in the cabins.
Now if I was traveling from far away to a romantic destination, I'd probably be thrilled to have a bottle of wine, fresh flowers and some treats upon arrival. I think it all depends on your market and their needs and expectations.
Exactly, Amy...it's all dependent on the market to which you're catering. On occasion, when we're renting to someone who mentions, for example, that it's an anniversary or retirement or other special occasion trip, we'll often leave some wine as a welcome gift, but for families, extra toilet paper is generally more important:)
Besides renting out our place, we also rent from other VRBO owners when we go on holiday, so we get to experience both sides. Welcome baskets, while nice and caring, don't do much for us. Comfort, well-stocked apts/houses and local info prepared by the owner do...
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Our caretaker tells me that I do more for our renters than other owners in the area. All I usually do is put out a bottle of wine, but recently I purchased a stash of a really great CD with songs from this area to gift as gifts.
I haven't received any acknowledgement specifically for the wine, but I have noticed a jump in reviews since I started the practice. We have more reviews than any other VRBO in our area, which I think really helps our rental rate. I also have had a jump in return rentals and referrals.
The wine is not expensive, usually $10 - $15 per bottle given that we get a 10 - 20% discount since we buy in volume for our home cellar as well.
When we travel, the last thing we want is something to carry home, so wine works well, IMO. Renters will drink it or leave it. A CD is also good because it takes no room to pack it and if the renters are coming by car, they can enjoy the music of the region on their way home (and back the next time).
This summer we are trying something new.
As most of our rents are extended families, most of our guests have mny BBQ on our property.
We have purchased a three piece BBQ set which guests can use while at our home and then take home as a souvenir. Hopefully, each BBQ they have at their home using our BBQ tools will remind them of the wonderful vacation they had at my home.
For my high-season rentals, I leave a basket with a bottle of wine plus some gourmet snacks or coffee I pick up at Homegoods or the grocery store. I used to include a box of waffle mix plus the maple syrup, but found that many guests didn't use it up -- and the maple syrup was a bit pricey here.
For my off-seaon rentals, I don't leave anything. I'm not nearby to do it at that time of year, and they are getting a great bargain in the house.
A great bagel store just opened up outside of town; this year I may leave them a dozen bagels & cream cheese. I've also thought it might be perfect to leave them a coupon for free ice cream cones at our local ice cream parlor or maybe a gift certificate to the fabulous cheese shop a few blocks away. I like the idea of supporting local businesses this way.
I rent in the mountains to skiers. I have my cleaning man leave a case of the cheapest bottle water he can find, ($3.50) and a box of hot chocolate packets, ($2.50) with a note saying have a cup of hot chocolate on your way to the slopes and drink lots of water so that you won't get dehydrated. Believe it or not everyone say's thank you for the water and chocolate. Does it get me any return renters? Most likely not. But it does start them off thinking that I care about them.
Last summer I bought cases of water (cheapest band on sale) and made up labels using our logo and with Compliments of Hampton House Properties on the label. Wrapped the label around the bottle of water and placed two bottles in each bedroom. Mentioned to guests arriving that if they were thirsty, there was bottled water waiting for them in their bedrooms. Everyone loved the idea, but interesting, very few commented.
I have left items in my cupboards for folks with a note that says, please help yourself and contributions are welcome. Kind of a pay it forward idea. Most folks LOVE the idea of not having to go out immediately for tea, coffee, creamer, ketchup, mayo, mustard, butter/margarine, individual packets of cereal, all the spices that one would need, some flour (in the freezer) water........ etc. (who wants to buy all those things for a short stay). I also save up all the little bottles of lotion, shampoo, conditioner from the hotels and put them in a basket for guests use. I also have the larger bottles available, but some prefer the unopened. I have scented bubble bath in a fancy decanter by the double jacuzzi bath tub. I provide laundry supplies, dishwashing supplies, cleaning supplies, napkins, paper towels, etc. I want them to have fun fun fun....not be shopping and worrying about what they need to provide to have a good time in the house.
I have had only one person complain. It was the strangest call ever. I explained to them that the cleaning folks check regularily for expiration dates of the items of food left, but that we had a pay it forward policy for folks staying in the home. That the were welcome to use anything there, or not.....completely up to them. I was worried that they would not have a good time......I found out later they were fine after that and left a good review.
We just never know what gives joy or frustration....all we can do is the best we can do!
One of the times that I showed up after a guest checked out, there was fresh cherries in the refrigerator, and in the freezer there were ice cream bars......What a treat after a long day of driving. I made sure that they knew that it was so appreciated.
I leave washing up liquid, new sponge,new roll of kitchen paper, aluminium foil and saran wrap as those are the things people need but not enough to go out and buy it all new. I have an emergency basket with small stuff like razors and toothbrushes etc ( Dollar store is amazing for these) and under the sink I put all the left behind toilettries so its up to the guest whether to use a small emergency sample or use someones large bottle that was left over. I leave tea, coffee, sugar and a pint of milk in the fridge which I tell guest about but I then leave a copy of the local paper and either cake, cupcakes or cookies with a couple of teacups out on the table. It looks really inviting and the response has been that after a long drive it is lovely to have a coffee and a treat before going off to do the real shopping. Often quality cookies are bogo so it's not expensive but just sets a welcoming tone.
The best thing I have ever started to do is leave 9 folded white face clothes (walmart $3.49 for nine) for people to use to help when removeing make up, it has saved me so much money on my lovely large towels. This last change out one of the face clothes was ingrained with foundation and mascara but my white body towels were pristine, if I can't get them white again hubby uses them in the garage or I throw them away which at 30 cents each is fine with me.