Should every vacation rental home have one? Some strongly believe that the guest book is totally unnecessary for busy independent vacation rental owners while others can see benefits.
I thought this week I’d chosen a non-contentious subject for my blog. But it hasn’t turned out that way. For some, an entry-packed guest book suggests a well-run, thriving independent vacation rental. For other owners, it is redundant in the way we now run our properties.
Browsing through ‘Getaway X: Create Wealth with Vacation Real Estate, by Trevor Wizniewski et al’ (published by GetawayInvesting.com, LLC, ISBN 978-0-9914129-0-7), I landed on a short item entitled ‘Guest Book’. The piece was short, but far from sweet! In fact the authors pour scorn on the very idea.
Here’s what they say:
‘A lot of vacation property owners love the idea of a guest book. I have never had one at any of my properties, and I never intend to have one. I don’t see the point of having one and I do not see the value it adds.
‘I have never had a problem with renting any of my properties without a guest book, and I have had a lot of repeat renters. During the past 12 years nobody has ever asked me where my guest book was – nobody cares.
‘If you decide to use a guest book, look online for information on best practices. Keep in mind that a guest book is just something else you need to keep track of and to keep clean and undamaged.’
That’ll be a ‘no’ then?
Why I don’t have a guest book
So are they a waste of time and trouble? As the independent owner of a vacation rental, I tend to agree. But then I live in England, remote from my property in the USA. On further reflection, there may be some good reasons to have a guest book if you live next door or close to your vacation rental. I’ll return to those later, but first, I’ll tell you why I’m inclined to agree with Mr Wisniewski et al.
You may not see your guest book for months and so have little control over what negative comments guests may make. Guests will see the book as a way of communicating their dissatisfactions to you – however minor or major these may be. You are reliant on your management company or whoever looks after the property on your behalf to alert you to a problem. But by the time it’s in the guest book, it may be too late to rectify the situation and the damage done will carry over to the next guest – even if you fixed the problem.
I recently had a case where the pool pump failed and guests were left with no pool in high summer. My management agent informed the guests that he couldn’t authorize work to be carried out until he had my approval. Fortunately, we have a direct channel for dealing with problems as they arise and I quickly contacted the guest to assure him that the necessary repairs were being made as quickly as possible and to offer reimbursement for the unavoidable inconvenience.
If we’d had a guest book, the disgruntled guest may have vented his spleen in its pages as a deterrent to future guests. Instead, by offering a more immediate response, I was able to turn the situation around to the guest’s satisfaction. I did not pay a king’s ransom in compensation and nor did I lose a guest – he booked again for the following year.
We always follow up with an email to visitors inviting their comments, good and bad. The best positive comments are posted on our website to encourage other guests. All negative comments are considered carefully to see how we can improve the experience for future guests.
Some service providers will provide software that gathers guest reviews for your approval before posting them on your site, effectively replacing the traditional guest book.
Why you may want a guest book
Some guests not only enjoy giving their opinions but like to have their impressions confirmed. They are unlikely ever to meet or mix with other guests who have stayed at your property, but this is a way for them to share their common experiences, good and bad. The fact that you have a guest book on display inviting comment and revealing the impressions of previous guests is a positive. It shows confidence in your property and that you as owner are deserving of trust.
If you are regularly on site, unlike me, you can generally solve problems to the guests’ satisfaction as they arise, thus avoiding a guest book trashing. You might even get a positive ‘nothing was too much trouble’ comment!
If you have a guest book, you must have great confidence in your property – or else you’d be frequently replacing it to remove negative comments. The majority of guests who take the trouble to write in your guest book will make positive comments, preferring to take up any negatives through other channels if they are clearly signposted. You will need to stress that you or a representative are easily and readily accessible should there be a problem, otherwise they may save up all negative comments until the day they leave and hit you with complaints too late to rescue the situation.
If your vacation rental is well run, most should see the guest book as a place for positive comment or to pass on hints and tips for enjoying a stay at the property – restaurant recommendations, enjoyable places to visit and such.
Golden quotes for your website
Where there is one, the guest book of any successful vacation rental should yield up some golden quotes for the property’s website. In one place I visited recently, the entry read: ‘This is quite simply the best vacation rental I have ever visited – and I’ve stayed in a number around the world.’
Granted that you may have to put up with some abuse of the facility. One family home we’ve stayed in and returned to over the years has a traditional old guest book with many glowing entries. On one page though, in a juvenile hand there’s a warning of ghostly happenings and an unsettling account of the gory history of the house. All fabricated, of course – and followed by a comment from the embarrassed parent apologizing for her son’s misplaced sense of humor. She went on to say how brilliant the house was for their family holiday.
If you are at all nervous, consider having a loose leaf folder where pages can be easily removed, though my guess is that would only rarely be necessary.
There are many things that can sway a guest’s decision to rebook your property. A guest book is just one among many factors and no one is likely to book again purely on the strength of a glowing guest book entry they have seen. Mr Wisniewski is very fortunate in never having had a problem in renting out his properties, but for the rest of us, we’ll take any help we can get! You need to decide for your own property if the risks of a guest book outweigh the benefits.