The best guests are the ones that come back again. Not just once, or even year after year, but those that book several times a year.
They come for their summer vacation with their kids and grandkids, and then have a week by themselves in the fall. Add onto that a couple of weekends where they come with friends, and the annual girls weekend, and you have discovered the holy grail of guests – the MRs or multiple returnees.
These folks treat the place with the utmost respect; they will often fix things that break and will even buy new kitchen utensils if they see the need for a replacement. In short, they act as if the place is theirs while they are in residence and they are the best guests to have. They are gold.
What makes them come back?
There are some types of guests who will always choose a different location.
They will say that’s why they don’t own their own place – so they can experience something different each time. But there are those who are searching for that special place they can call their own often for the same time each year, and with some quick trips in between.
Guests who consistently return to the same place will often tell us that it’s a combination of having all the features and facilities they need together with a feeling they are welcome.
They will often say that the first time they came to the place, they felt ‘at home’, and on each return they love the familiar aspects of it. This makes it important that you keep them informed of any changes you might make.
Here’s a few more tips to encourage these ‘golden’ guests:
Create a relationship with them from the start
You never know which of your visitors will turn into the most loyal of repeat guests so make sure you treat every enquiry as it these are the ones. From the very beginning answer every email in full and with your personality.
Don’t just respond with ‘here is the availability and here is the rate’ – instead treat them as if they are the only guests you want to have. Tell them something great about the location, or offer some advice on places to go and see. Show them your local expertise and your willingness to help them fit into the location.
Greet them royally when they arrive
This does not mean you have to be there personally. But you can leave them a handwritten note of welcome, together with a thoughtful guest gift (not the standard bottle of cheap sparkling wine). Perhaps something home-baked or from a local supplier. Use their names in the note, or better still have their names up on a chalkboard in the kitchen along with a welcoming message. Using the names of their kids and pets adds to the impact.
Respond quickly to any issue
We often hear that guests don’t go back to a place because they had a problem and it was either ignored or there was a slow response. If their vacation was impacted because something broke and was not fixed quickly like a hot tub or wifi connection, you won’t see them for dust. The memory of disappointment lingers for a long time and unless there was a really good reason for not handling a situation promptly, these would-be returnees will not come back. On the other hand, a problem that is swiftly resolved can often result in more loyalty than you would expect if there had been no problem at all.
Give them a great last day
This means not asking them to go through hoops before they leave. Most guests are happy to put the furniture back in the rightful places, strip the beds, empty the garbage bins and clear out their stuff from the fridge.
However, you don’t endear them to you if they are asked to scrub toilets, wash floors, dust, polish and vacuum. That is old-school and just not expected practice any more. Anyway, you’ll find that your repeat guests will probably do those things without being asked because they want to leave ‘their holiday home’ in great condition and want you to be happy with them.
Send them a thank you note
If you have collected a damage deposit, then send it back immediately along with a note of thanks for choosing your place. Offer them a discount or some small incentive for them to book again – perhaps to experience the place in another season. A three night for the price of two offer is a great one for low season.
Keep in touch with newsletters and broadcasts
Hopefully you have collected data on your guests demographic – you know something about their family, their occupation, their hobbies and passions, and their dreams. If you don’t, you may have not read their emails and their feedback enough, because you are very likely to find that sort of information embedded in their communication.
With that data you can target specific guests with information on events and activities in the area; suggest they come to stay for upcoming birthdays and anniversaries and maybe offer discounts specially for them. Your repeat guests can be your lifeblood in the low season and they can also be your referral angels, because they will talk about your place to their friends. In effect they become your ambassadors and you need to treat them as VIPs. And the payback can be great.