When a guest arrives in a hotel room, one of the first things he or she will check out is the information book. Usually it will include the room service menu, a list of the hotel facilities such as where the fitness suite and business centre are located, and will probably have information on local restaurants and other attractions.
It is often presented in an attractive, bound format, with tabs so you can easily find what you are looking for.
Guests coming to your vacation rental are going to expect something very similar although with significantly more detail since there is no concierge to call on when they have a question.
What the Welcome Book is for
Your Welcome Book serves the same purpose as the hotel example although there are some major differences in what should be included and how it is presented.
- It’s just what it says….to welcome your guests to the property; describe everything they need to know to enjoy their vacation, and to help them have a trouble-free time. It should not be full of ‘rules’ or dire warnings of what could happen if any of the rules are contravened.
- Unlike a hotel, if your guests run into any problems or have questions, it’s preferable they have a solution to hand rather than having to resort to calling you or your caretaker each time.
- Think of it as a ‘how to’ book for your home, and include useful tips on making life easier, and the vacation better.
- It’s your opportunity to share your knowledge of the local area and include your personal recommendations on the best restaurants, equipment hire locations, places to go and things to see.
What it should look like
We want guests to read the book and share it with everyone in the group. If it is a few sheets of tattered and coffee-stained paper, with handwritten amendments and crossed-out sections, it’s going to be given the respect it deserves which is very little. On the other hand, if the book is attractively presented with a cover that clearly identifies it as the Welcome Book or Cottage Guide, guests will take the time to look at it.
- Don’t go for the cheapest folder. Make it something that is nice to pick up and look at – more of a coffee table book. You can publish the book on Blurb or Shutterfly if you have evergreen information, however since details tend to change – telephone numbers for example – you would also need a supplementary contact sheet.
- The front cover should clearly show what the book/folder/manual is. Otherwise it will get pushed to one side in the mêlée of your guests’ arrival. If you use a folder with a clear envelope on the front where you can insert a sheet of paper, use a vibrant image that will make it easily visible.
- Remember, the key is to motivate your guests to open the book so making it readable and appealing should be your goal.
What’s in it?
The structure of the Welcome Book will have a direct impact on whether your guests pick it up and read it through. However, with the best will in the world, the lake or the beach or the ski hill will always be more appealing than having to sit down and read an instruction manual.
So, don’t make it hard work!
Quick Start Guide
Think about what you would want your guests to know if they only read one page of the book. Then create a single page that has all that information.
The quick start guide should be in several places
- The front of the manual so it’s the first page they see
- Inside a well-used cupboard ( a kitchen cupboard is the best)
- On the wall in the laundry room
The idea is to make it visible but not ‘in your face’ as it would be stuck onto the fridge door for example.
The guide would normally include (at least) the following:
- Wifi password
- Garbage collection day/times
- Checkout time
- Where to find the Power Outage Pack
- Emergency contact numbers
You may only have half a dozen sheets of paper to go into your Welcome Book but it’s still important to organize it to create an ‘easy read’ format. This means having a Table of Contents at the front and tabs for each category. These are available in office supplies stores.
Set your categories to:
Welcome – Your friendly and personal welcome note.
Appliances – Don’t include long instructions; it’s better to keep all the manuals in a separate file for guests to refer to if necessary. Keep this section short with minimal but useful instructions (Tip: a quick guide to the microwave’s most-used features is helpful and prevents midnight calls when guests are trying to make popcorn!)
Entertainment systems – You should keep instructions on how to use the TV/DVD/Satellite/Apple TV etc., near the equipment on a laminated sheet, so just include the basics.
Emergencies – You should have a list of emergency numbers in a visible location in the property. A perspex display holder is ideal for this. In the Emergency section of the manual you can have more detail on walk-in clinic hours & vet emergency information. Also include what they should do in the event of a power outage, and what happens when the power comes back on.
What to do and see – This is where you can really input your local knowledge and could break out a couple more tabs for hiking/biking/dog walking trails etc. The more personally recommended information you can provide on the local area, the more your guests will be satisfied. It’s a huge time saver for them when they can simply refer to your recommendations than have to spend hours of vacation time researching other web sites.
Restaurant recommendations – make sure you include half a dozen personal recommendations on places to eat out and takeouts in the area. You can detail it down to your favourite dishes too. This is such great value for your guests.
There is much more you could include – maps, driving routes, equipment hire places, your favourite snorkeling spots etc. Just get on your guests wavelength and provide them with everything they need to enjoy their stay.
Don’t forget to supply brochures and leaflets from local tourist establishments as well. This is not in lieu of your personal recommendations, but in addition to them.
And make sure they are up to date!