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Intro
Guests are a crucial part of the short term rental equation. Without them, you have no one to stay at your home, no one to leave you reviews, and no extra income. Obvious as this may seem, going above and beyond for a guest can really set you apart from other hosts. It doesn’t require loads of additional work or lots of money to really wow your guests. Simple DIY home updates, for example, are some ways to get ahead. One of the easiest and most effective ways to set yourself apart as a host is to craft a guidebook to ensure your guests get the most out of their stay. Whether you’re hosting on Pillow, Airbnb, Homeway or Booking.com, your guests will love this personalized touch.

Airbnb has a popular feature that provides a collaborative guidebook for guests for 23 of their most popular destinations. The Airbnb site describes the guidebook as “a collection of all the best places in every city, as told by Airbnb hosts. Find everything from coffee shops and parks, to secret spots.”

We talked to Andrew Carlone, CEO and co-founder of Coral, a tech startup that has developed a personalized, app-based platform, so hosts can create a magnificent guest guidebook and house manual of their own. During their development stage, Carlone and his team stayed in Airbnb rentals to fully understand everything a guest could possibly want or ever need. This is why the Coral team is referred to as “expert guests.”

Back to the Basics

A local handbook, when combined with a house manual, come together to create the ultimate guest guidebook. Here’s how to do it. First thing’s first. Assume your guests know nothing. “Because of the amount of growth the rental industry is experiencing, it’s best to assume your guests have never used a platform like Airbnb before,” says Carlone. “Include check-in times and key and entry information to ensure that guests have all the information they need before they show up. This way, they won’t be fumbling around or asking questions at the door.”

Once your guest is able to check-in, details like where to put their shoes, what the Wi-Fi password is, and where to find supplies like dish soap or extra blankets are always appreciated. The goal is to anticipate what your guest would need and curtail them from constantly reaching out for easy answers. Speaking of reaching out – contact information. “You’d be shocked at the lack of information provided by hosts in their house manual,” says Carlone. Make sure to leave information about how to contact you in an emergency, and ask them for their contact information in case you need to reach them as well.

Technology is Our Friend

Risking five-star reviews from simple mistakes, like check-in confusion, jeopardize future repeat bookings and occupancy rates. Platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway are experience-driven and you’ll want to make it as stress-free as possible. “The solution is simple – provide access to information,” insists Carlone. The best way to do this is to make it available in digital form so guests can read your rules before they arrive. “A digital house manual is a must-have,” he states. Lastly, a manual and guidebook available in digital form makes it accessible to guests when they’re not in your home. After a day of sightseeing and adventuring, being able to quickly look up that awesome pizza place you recommended is a huge perk.

Timing is Everything

Making information available to guests early on can help you manage guests’ expectations. Some customers might expect hotel-style room service or assume you’ll have amenities like hair dryers and ironing boards available. It’s best to nip unrealistic expectations in the bud: A good digital manual is easy to send in advance and will lay down house rules so guests know what to expect when they visit your property – and what you expect of them.

Include the Local Low-Down

Including local insider information that guests wouldn’t know is much appreciated by guests and allows them to really experience what it’s like to live in your community. You already know this information – eliminate the hassle of them trying to figure it out themselves. Things like what public transportation route is best from the airport, what day street cleaning is, and what coffee shop does the best latte art are all tips that make your guests’ experience the best. And they really appreciate it. Also, don’t forget to offer something different than you would find in a Frommer’s travel guide. Your guests probably already checked out Yelp or similar sites. Think outside the box. “Most hosts only include restaurants and bars,” Carlone laughs. “What about tourist attractions, special events, concerts, grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor stores and hiking trails as well? The list is endless! Don’t just write about your local restaurants.”

Curate Experiences for Your Guests

When making local recommendations, think about the type of guests you attract – Couples? Honeymooners? Business travelers? – and what they want to see and do in the local area, rather than including just your own personal preferences. “Not all recommendations are created equal,” warns Carlone. “A 65-year-old host isn’t necessarily going to enjoy the same activities that Millennials do. Try to curate experiences for your specific guests.” Making arrangements with nearby businesses can work wonders, too. “Tell your local bartender to take care of your guests if they visit their establishment or add recommended menu items from your favorite restaurants in your guidebook.”

Use the Right Tone and Keep Your Manual Concise

If you want your guests to read your manual, make it engaging. “The best house manuals and guidebooks are those where the host has injected their personality,” Carlone emphasizes. Using your own unique flare does the same for your guidebook as it did when you decorated your rental. Write like you would write to a friend. Maintain a fun, charming tone throughout to keep guests hooked. Guests remember this and it makes their experience memorable. A manual also needs to be clear and concise. Carlone recalls seeing, “a number of long-winded house manual and really brief ones. Guests need to be able to digest critical information, otherwise, they’re not going to read it – plain and simple.”

Make it Fun

Everyone appreciates good design! Go the extra mile when creating your guest handbook and make it visually appealing. Use a site like Snappa or Canva to add quality graphic design elements to your manual. You don’t have to be an expert to use these sites, and the finished product will look that much more polished.

Take Note of Building Rules
More than half of all Airbnb rentals take place in multifamily buildings. If you’re listing your unit for a short term rental, make sure to include any building policies in your guest guide. Are pets allowed? Does your landlord enforce quiet hours or a smoking ban? These are all good things to note in your guest guide to keep out of trouble!

Delivery is Key

You put in all the work to perfect your beautiful guest manual. Make sure that guests can get the most of it! Send your manual to guests as soon as they book the reservation, and consider re-sending it 24 hours before check- in as well so that it’s nice and fresh. Consider printing a copy and leaving it in an easy to spot location like the kitchen counter so that guests have a visual reminder when they arrive. A guestbook is only valuable if guests actually read it!

Conclusion

So what are the key takeaways, here? Creating a house manual can boost your credentials as a host and build trust with your guests. Make information available as early as possible and in a digital format. Include local recommendations and curate a wide variety of choices targeted at specific guests. The right tone can both help take the stress out of the vacation rental experience and cement your status as, “the host with the most.”

About Pillow

Pillow is solving short-term rentals for multifamily properties, allowing building owners and property managers to have control and transparency over short-term rentals while enabling their residents to rent their units short-term on Airbnb. Pillow is the official and exclusive multifamily housing partner for popular short-term rental listing platform Airbnb. Pillow takes a complicated, time consuming process for multifamily building owners and created a solution that greatly benefits Multifamily operators and residents alike.

If you own a multi-family complex or management company and are interested in providing short-term rentals, email partnerships@pillow.com or visit www.pillow.com.

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Written by Todd Conway | July 1, 2018

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