Are You Adding Value by Providing Linens for Your Guests?

corbett-cove-bedroomI’ve been in lively discussion with a fellow cottage owner about providing bed linens for guests. From my knowledge of the rental market here in Ontario, I would guess around 20% of owners supply sheets and towels, while the rest provide comforters, blankets and pillows and ask their renters to bring their own linens. 

Our domestic rental clients expect to bring their own, and are generally happy to comply – in fact some have told me they are more comfortable doing this. However for international or out of province guests, I don’t expect them to be packing piles of sheets and towels to take on a long haul flight. Nor do I expect them to have to pay extra either, and this is where the argument began with my colleague. He feels the additional work involved in providing linens – including wear and tear, and laundry costs –  should be met by the renters. In his view, these clients are getting an additional service at no charge and that is unfair on those who are required to bring their own. To some extent I see his point – there is a cost involved, but there is also a choice which seems simple. Don’t accept international and out of province guests unless you are prepared to give some value added service. 

My opinion probably stems from being one of those international guests for many years. Travelling with a husband and four children would have meant very heavy luggage if we’d had to take bed linens along with us. We always sought the properties that came fully equipped so we didn’t have to carry anything other than clothes. At a pinch I would have been prepared to pay an additional fee, but the place would have had to be very special in order for that to happen. 

We now travel extensively in the US and invariably sheets and towels are supplied at no additional cost. It is a service I really appreciate, so much so that in my own cottage I provide linens for all guests regardless of where they travel from. When I have clients arriving, sometimes late at night, after a long drive, I don’t want their first impression to be marred by having to make the beds before their children can settle for the night. It’s a service issue to me and I enjoy selecting attractive linens and making the bedrooms look inviting and cosy. 

Whatever your decision about linens, having a comfortable bed is right on the top of renters’ must-have lists so please give priority to this. Satisfied renters will not only come back but will tell their friends which will result in more rentals. Sounds like a no-brainer to me!

 

The Cottage Guy

CottageGuru- As you can appreciate, there is a considerable cost involved in providing the linens and towels for a cottage that might possibly sleeps 6 or 7 guests or more as an example. Not all cottage owners would be willing to incur the extra cost involved and would not be willing to provide the linens and towels to any of their guests, regardless of those guests being from within province, outside of the province or from outside the country. However, there might be some cottage owners that would be willing to provide this extra service and provide the linens and towels for all their guests regardless of where their guests are from for an additional fee. Some cottage owners might be prepared to provide this additional service for free. Some cottage owners might be willing to provide this service one season, but for whatever reason, not the next. Different cottage owners might apply a different dollar amount to the extra fee, possibly depending on the total number of people that a cottage can accommodate.

Given all of these variables, it would seem to me that a client focussed cottage rental agency should try to first determine whether a cottage owner is prepared to provide the linens and towels. If so, is there an extra fee involved? This information could be gathered from the cottage owner during discussions that take place during the agency’s pre-rental inspection of the property. The question could be asked in an email or possibly in a questionnaire that could be sent to all cottage owners seeking their input regarding any number of topics before the rental season begins for a new year.

Once this information is gathered from the cottage owner, a renter interested in renting a particular cottage could be given a choice of whether they wanted the towels and linens provided. The cottage renter could be told whether there is an extra fee applied and what that extra amount is. The cottage renter could then determine whether they wanted to avail themselves of this service or not.

I think a cottage rental agencies that want to build long term success should always be looking to provide some flexibility in their business practices. Flexibility will help them to meet the continued needs of its clients, the cottage owner and the cottage renter. A one size fits all solution to some problems will not always be the best approach and might cause some clients to look elsewhere for a cottage rental agency that will better meet their needs.

Heather Bayer

Cottage Guy – Thank you for your input and comprehensive comment. I would expect that any agency would consider how to be flexible for both their renter and owner clients and apply the best solutions that meet their business needs and bottom line.

Individual owners may wish to consider that the market is becoming much more competitive. With all the choice a renter now has, selecting a cottage that supplies linens at no additional cost, over one that makes a charge, may become a simple decision when there are so many similar properties offered. This may not be as important in the high season when occupancy is higher, but in the low and shoulder seasons, added value and additional services offered may make the difference between capturing the elusive renters or not.

The Cottage Guy

CottageGuru- As you put it, business needs and the bottom line are certainly important.

The cottage owner also has to have his business needs and bottom line considered as well. To the cottage owner, providing towels and linens has a cost and labour component that needs to be considered when they sets their rates, whether that be during the high season or the low season. The cottage owner has certain expenses that must be covered if his business is to remain profitable and worth while going forward.

The cottage owner can set a rate that is higher and hides these added costs within his price structure and in essence have all the cottage renters pay for a service that is only being enjoyed by some. Or he can set an initial rate that is lower, more attractive to more cottage renters and have the extra fees applied to those that utilize the service. To me, the second alternative is more reasonable.

It’s true that it this is becoming a more competitive market and all cottage owners have to ensure that their business needs are being met, their rates remain competitive, their bottom line is being met and they are dealing with a cottage rental agency that understands the pressures that come to bear.

A cottage rental agency that applies subtle pressures to a cottage owner to accept a take it or leave it approach to this business and prevents them from charging extra for these services will find they represent less and less cottage owners. This competitive market place has more and more cottage rental agencies being created and it will become easier for a cottage owner to find an agency that is better prepared to work with them.

Flexibility is the key!

Julie Nelson

As a renter of vacation property, I do not really care if linens are provided. What I really care about are the quality of those linens. Do not go to Walmart and buy polyblend. Better off to let people bring their own.

If you’re going to provide linens don’t skimp. Buy 100% cotton and provide nice clean crisp compforters or nice blankets. Nothing detracts from a rental experience than crappy bedding – this includes overstuffed pillows.

Remember, people are going to spend 56 hours in a week sleeping on those linens. It’s this attention to detail that can enhance a renter’s experience.

Cheers,
Julie
http://www.cottagedaily.com

Heather Bayer

Jules – you are so right. It bothers me when I see cottages where the comforters have clearly not been laundered in quite some time, lumpy and overstuffed pillows, and badly matched bed linens. The other thing I don’t like is really thin comforters in winter. I would rather have the heating down and a nice fluffy duvet!

Jen

I found this discussion very interesting. I decided to provide all linens and kitchen/bath towels in my rental cottage (at no additional charge) because I was concerned that some people might have chosen to sleep directly on the mattresses and pillows without covering them for the sake of not having to pack them. I also leave a drawer filled with old towels for the dogs to use. I only ask my renters to bring beach towels.

I make the beds up in each room so that when people arrive, they are all ready to begin their holiday. I provided a laundry basket and ask them to strip the beds when they leave so that I can launder the sheets.

I was not able to afford 100% cotton sheets for each room but I did buy a good quality percale blend. I did buy the best mattress and pillow protection covers I could and made sure that each mattress and pillow was covered as most of the mattresses there are brand new.

While the comforters are not top of the line either, they are new and washable. I bought lightweight acrylic blankets which store nicely in a blanket box and are there if needed.

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