vacation rental conference

How human touch beats smart technology to get more direct repeat bookings

human touch versus technology for direct vacation rental bookings
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In my previous two posts, we tackled breaking free from Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and setting up a price strategy. The next topic is a combination of the two: finding ways to encourage your guests to return. In my opinion, building client loyalty is probably the most important task for a property manager in the future. 

Solaga Holiday Homes was founded in 2008 with one goal in mind: to focus on providing high-quality holiday apartments in Malaga. Since we first opened, thousands of guests have walked through our doors, and many of those keep coming back, year after year. Over time, we tried different approaches to ensure that our guests had a great holiday experience and would want to come back. For instance, we provided free airport transfer, a bottle of wine or water on arrival, free parking, etc. But at the end of the day, none of that really mattered. The single most crucial selling point for a guest is a personal, professional, and reliable service. So that is what we are offering today.

Smart locks and other high-tech gadgets vs. memorable human touch

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a wide range of new software features come to light to help our day-by-day operations. Some of these might save you time, some of them might even save you some money. In times of pandemics, many experts do recommend the use of smart locks to minimize personal contact at check-in. And while I can see the point of it from a social distancing perspective, a smart lock will do just that, keep the distance between you and your guests! It is certainly not a tool that will help you get your guests to return. Don’t get me wrong, we do have a few smart locks installed in some of our properties, and it’s a fantastic tool, but we usually don’t let people do a self-check-in. We will continue to meet and greet all our guests individually, show them around the property and provide them with valuable information about the city and its surroundings.

technology vs human touch for direct bookings

Our philosophy has always been to build a personal relationship with our guests, and we will continue to do so. This is of utmost importance, and I strongly disagree with experts that say that the future is digital. Yes, I will give you that smart technology can save you a bit of time, but it should never replace one of the most important aspects of your business: the human touch. If you fail to build that rapport with your guests, they simply will not remember you, and you will become increasingly dependent on the OTAs to secure new bookings. We all know that there is nothing better than repeat business.

2022 vacation rental conference

Personal check-in and local information

personal check-ins improve guest experience

Since our inception, we have always opted for 24-hour service and personal check-ins. I agree that both practices represent a considerable expense for the company, but I look at it as a fantastic investment at the end of the day. I am utterly convinced that a personalized check-in makes all the difference in the world, especially when your staff is highly trained to provide invaluable local information. Everyone loves a tip from a local.  For example, the first question that pretty much all our guests ask us is a recommendation for an excellent place to eat. So we asked hundreds of our local friends and family to make a “Top 15” list of the best places to eat and later created a blog post called “Best local Tapas bars in Malaga.” Our guests simply love it.  

Communication upon arrival

We always maintain a high level of communication with our guests before they even arrive to make sure they know how to get to the apartment, whether they arrive by car, train, or plane. We created a property on Google Maps to have a link ready for the guest before arrival. Moreover, we are in contact with them via SMS or WhatsApp on the day of arrival to make it easier for them. They really appreciate being guided all the way to the property and not stroll around the city with suitcases searching for a hidden street.

Departure and check-out

We also make a point of meeting our guests on the day of departure. Of course, it might not always be possible to do so, but we always try. We assist them with their luggage, order a taxi if needed, and of course, try to get as much feedback about their stay as possible. Whether positive or negative, feedback is crucial, as it highlights areas where there is room for improvement. Always remember to get the guest’s personal email address if the booking came via an OTA, and make sure to highlight the advantages of booking directly through you in the future (money-saving, for instance). 

Repeat business and direct bookings!

better guest experience leads to more bookings for vacation rentals

In these difficult times, there is nothing more important than to secure direct bookings. If you can find ways to improve the level of service you provide your guests, you should get to it right away. Imagine that instead of paying the hefty commission charged by the OTAs, you could keep it in your pocket. Commissions charged by OTAs are extortionate. Think for a second about what you could achieve in marketing with the amount of money you pay to the OTAs every year! If you manage to provide your guests with excellent service and experience, they will choose you again in the future, no doubt about that. Remember that what is important for the guests is not a cheap bottle of red wine on arrival or a smart gadget that can magically open a door. Make sure your guests have an unforgettable holiday experience, give them first-class service, and they will come back with their friends the next time. Guaranteed.


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Born and raised in Denmark. Moved to Malaga in 2005. Spanish wife and twin boys. Started Solaga in 2008. The holiday rental industry is both my living and hobby. I have been working with all tasks, such as cleaner, maintenance, support, marketing, customer service, COO, and CEO.

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