10 Ways to Welcome Your Guests this Winter

winter_cottage Out of season rentals are such a bonus and we are lucky that we rent most weekends in the winter. Many of our guests are returnees and we like to make them feel really welcome, which of course is why they keep coming back! Making sure the place looks great and creating that wonderful first impression is the key, and here's my 10 ways to get the welcome right.

1 Personalised letter – leave a personally addressed note welcoming your guests and letting them know any important things they need to be aware of on arrival, like where the thermostat is and where they find wood for the fire. Make it friendly and not a list of rules and instructions. You can refer them to your cottage guide for anything else.

2 Leave some lights on – Make the place look warm and ambient by switching on some lights. Make sure you have outside lights on for night-time arrivals. It's not much fun trying to get into a dark cottage on a cold and windy night after a long drive.

3 Light the wood stove – If you have a wood stove or fireplace and are able to light it before your guests arrive, you can be guaranteed they will love you for it. Our guests tell us that the cottage always looks so welcoming, warm and cosy when they arrive.

4 Turn the heating up – If you haven't got a visible form of heating, just let them feel the warmth and turn the heating up.

5 Music playing – Set the radio to a classical station to add ambience.

6 Make the beds up with attractive linens – Even if you don't provide linens in summer because of the short time allowed for changeovers, think about it for out-of-season rentals. Weekend guests tend to arrive late after the drive up from the city, which can be quite arduous in poor conditions. The last thing they want to do is make up the beds. Give them a break and make up the beds prior to their arrival. In winter we have goose down duvets on the beds and plenty of additional blankets.

7 Leave a gift basket with winter goodies – Hot chocolate sachets, scented candles, Belgian chocolates, and hand warmers are all great things to leave in a winter gift basket. If guests are bringing a dog, bag up some natural dog biscuits or treats.

8 Provide some refreshments – I hadn't really thought about this one until I saw the following post on the Vacation Rentals Community Forum:

I recently returned from a 10 day stay in Dijon where we rented a beautiful studio. The apartment itself was a wonder and the goodies that came with it put it over the top. The owner, Coco, stocked the refrigerator with eggs, milk, cheeses, mustard,butter, ham,jam, orange juice and fruit. The pantry was stocked with cereal, coffee, tea, sugar, salt,spices and honey. A baguette was on the bread board. I am sure I forgot to name a few items. There were fresh flowers in a vase, the dining table was set for two complete with a plate of homemade brownies. I cannot describe what an impression this made on us. The comfort and amenities of the apartment followed suit. We had a fabulous time and will go back…the sooner the better. Coco's website www.myhomeindijon.com indicates that refreshments will be provided. She even includes a food preference questionnaire with her contract.

9 Provide plenty of DVDs, books and games – Although your guests may bring along their own entertainment they will appreciate a decent library of videos, DVDs, books etc. A couple of big jigsaws go down well too.

10 Let your guests know how they should prepare for the conditions – It always amazes me how unprepared guests are in winter. They are used to city roads being cleared, sanded and ploughed, and can be surprised at the amount of snow in cottage country. Our cottage road is ploughed by the township but it can be up to 3 days after a heavy snowfall before it is cleared, so we make sure our guests are well aware there may be a risk of being stuck at the cottage. Most seem to like the idea!

Welcomed guests are happy guests! And happy guests tell others and will return themselves, and that is the cheapest form of marketing!