Tourists are attracted by the ‘wow’ factor

After what has been a seemingly long and thankless year for many holiday rental hosts and agents, the brief taste of summer that we experienced before the recent rains has triggered a spark of optimistic preparation amongst many hosts.

There are so many ideas being touted about how to make a real difference in the guests’ experience with the ultimate objective of getting great reviews, recommendations and returning guests. That is, of course, if you have a mindset that is focused on tourism first and revenue second. The other side of that coin is an eye-opener of note.

Every serious host will know that first impressions really do count and the few extras that require a nominal investment will go a long way towards making the start of a guest’s holiday an inspiring one. Hosting is not just about meeting and greeting. Irrespective of the level of accommodation offered, some form of investment, be it in time or money, is required on an ongoing basis. This includes making an extra effort in communicating with guests prior to arrival to clarify and manage their expectations.

Experienced hosts will automatically have all the basics in place – thoroughly clean accommodation that is uncluttered and tastefully furnished, with all the required facilities and amenities in place, including decent linen and towels (not threadbare and rough). Those less experienced, with a mission to “make a buck” above all else, will find that whilst they initially do get bookings, the post-experience may not prove to be as rewarding as expected. And in a market where the oversupply is voluminous, if you don’t go the extra mile you will not see the financial return you may have expected without doing something different.

Every living person loves a surprise, so when you make a booking somewhere and you get a quick, professional and warm response, it immediately makes you feel close to euphoria that this may be a sign of what is to follow. An approach that demonstrates a willingness to help goes a long way towards building a relationship with incoming guests, so that when the day comes to greet them, it is like meeting up with old friends.

Add to that a few extras when they arrive and you are off to a good start, as your guests start ticking those review boxes in their minds. So many people think that the inevitable chocolate on the pillow does the trick, but you can achieve so much more with a few creative ideas that will remain a memory for the guests long after they have left.

In this technologically advanced age, don’t assume that every guest is techno-centric or even wants to hassle with Uncle Google when trying to find places of interest. A well-prepared guide book on local activities and experiences always goes a long way to assist guests in planning their stay.

Add to that the latest copy of the local newspaper and you could save your guests a ton of time. Pro-actively offer advice and remember that whilst lock-boxes are a good idea for late arrivals, there is nothing quite like a personal, enthusiastic welcome by a host. Put on your tour guide hat and spend some time educating your guests on what to do and where to go.

As the nightly rate rises for more upmarket accommodation, there is an unspoken expectation that guests will get their money’s worth. A welcome bottle of wine, an appropriate flower arrangement, fruit or snack bowl, starter kits for the kitchen and bathrooms (specifically in self-catering options) and even discount vouchers that you can arrange with some local restaurants and spas will immediately be noticed and remembered.

Always try and get as much information on your guests through pre-arrival communication and determine if there are special events that they may be celebrating. Follow that up with appropriate action to add to the positivity of their experience.

Top of the list in managing expectations is being upfront in the description of the property and accommodation. Never use misleading pictures or descriptions. There is nothing worse for ratings than a guest arriving at their holiday destination to find a damp, semi-dusted excuse for a holiday rental with only the sparsest of amenities, unless that is what you booked.

And do not forget that there are certain must-haves in SA like braai facilities (not just a hole in the ground with a grid), Wi-Fi (a 21st-century reluctant necessity) and appropriate security, depending on the location of your property.

In planning your personal approach to attract returning or referred guests, keep communication front of mind before, during and after their stay. This will add a dimension to their experience that will knock “invisible” hosts out of the park.