Depending on the data you’re viewing, the number of travelers who read vacation rental reviews before booking a property is anywhere between 75% and 90%. No matter the exact number, the takeaway is simple: reviews are really, really, really important!
Reviews are one of the few universal must-haves across the hospitality industry. Online travel agencies (OTAs) like Vrbo, Expedia, Airbnb, and Booking.com all have their own nuances and quirks. Stipulations and opportunities are perpetually evolving, but reviews remain constant in their value—they are the flywheel that makes the industry go.
Vacation rental property managers and hosts who rack up reviews on those sites and others are rewarded with better placement in the search results. Indeed, reviews don’t just build trust with potential guests, they can also have a profound impact on vacation rental listing visibility, and ultimately, the number of bookings you receive.
So, how can property managers improve vacation rental reviews and give their revenue a big boost in the process?
Let’s start with this simple truth: negative and less-than-favorable reviews are a natural part of the vacation-rental ecosystem. In fact, if you know how to properly respond to a negative guest review, it becomes another platform for you to show off your skills. That’s not to say you want to make a habit of collecting poor feedback, of course; negative reviews stink, but they’re not as prevalent (or as detrimental) as you might assume.
According to Expedia Group, 80% of traveler reviews are actually positive.
That’s pretty encouraging!
If you’re a host or property manager looking to improve your vacation rental reviews, then, it could just be a matter of momentum—a slight change here, or a minor tweak there to finally trigger a steady stream of four- and five-star ratings.
We asked our incredible Vice President of Customer Service & Client Support, Millie Wishnow, to share some tips for improving vacation rental reviews. She identified four big categories that property managers can focus on while trying to boost their ratings:
It has always been important, but now more than ever. Data collected during the pandemic has revealed that 9 in 10 travelers are making accommodation decisions based on health and hygiene protocols. Cleanliness isn’t the only thing guests want during COVID-19, but it’s the most essential.
Really, though, cleanliness in the hospitality industry transcends the pandemic. Travelers expect their accommodations to be clean no matter where they’re staying. If you’re looking for ways to improve your vacation rental reviews, make sure your vacation rental cleaning protocols meet (or even better, exceed) expectations. Your guests will definitely notice, and their appreciation will shine through in their post-stay feedback.
When it comes to amenities, the little things can go a long way: coffeemakers, hairdryers, microwaves, and other everyday items certainly help your guests feel more at home.
In an effort to improve your vacation rental reviews, try elevating your lineup of amenities to another level. Travelers love fire pits and hot tubs, for example—but those aren’t viable options for every property manager. And that’s okay! More practical upgrades such as video games, Netflix subscriptions, board games, and even books can do the trick. While you’re here, be sure to consider your audience, too: if your rental is pet- and kid-friendly, your amenities should reflect that (food and water bowls, child-safe utensils, and so on).
Guest service is a lot like amenities: the little things can go a long way. Attention to detail really is the secret weapon here, and when property managers deliver on those “little” things, guests notice. It starts with the basics, such as having enough toilet paper in the bathroom and coffee filters in the kitchen. Cabinets should be stocked with essentials (tea, spices) and closets need to be prepped with towels, fresh linens, and even extra lightbulbs—just in case.
But guest service isn’t just about stuff. Your responsiveness matters, too.
Millie says: “As a property manager, you want to provide information that guests can use to reach someone in case of emergency, such as plumbing issues or A/C issues, as well as details about who to contact with general questions. Also, don’t forget to share other pertinent details, such as WiFi passwords and instructions on how to operate the TV, fireplace, or hot tub.”
Cleanliness, upgraded amenities, and sparkling guest service are three awesome ways to improve your vacation rental reviews. But if you really want to go above and beyond, put on your concierge cap and knock your guests’ socks off with just how insightful you are. Think about it this way: travelers choose to book your rental because they don’t want to stay at a cookie-cutter hotel. They want authenticity, and by golly, you can give it to them!
One reliable strategy is creating a “Welcome Letter” packed with fun and useful information. You can up the ante by pairing your letter with goodies, such as homemade treats or a bottle of wine from a local vineyard. Either way, the letter can be a vehicle for sharing tidbits like:
Ever versatile, your “Welcome Letter” can also feature gentle reminders regarding the check-in, check-out process or any guest responsibilities, such as taking out the trash.
One final thing to keep in mind as you set out to improve your vacation rental reviews: in order to get positive reviews—or reviews, in general—you have to ask for reviews. Don’t forget to do that in your post-stay follow-up emails, and don’t hesitate to send out friendly reminders.
And hey, while you’re here, feel free to check out some other installments in our “Ask an Expert” series: