We have just driven 10,000 kilometres and stayed in 15 separate campgrounds on an amazing vacation in the US south west. Every campground was chosen from a terrific web site called RV Park Reviews which allows RVers to comment on the places they have stayed and provides an open forum for both positive and negative comment. Most reviewers gave balanced and helpful feedback that informed our choice of site and proved a valuable guide to the best parks to suit our needs.
On the few occasions we went out for a meal we looked up restaurant reviews for the local area, and once again we were delighted with the choices we made based on those testimonials.
So, would this type of review site work for the vacation rental market? Some of the larger listing sites have a feedback function so that guests can make comments on their stay at a rental property. This does leave owners wide open to negative reviews from guests who had an axe to grind about an issue they were in dispute over. Some have an area for an owner to respond which is fair but the responses I have seen tend towards a defensive rebuttal rather than a pragmatic and thoughtful reply.
Vacation Rental Watchdog operated by vacation rental specialist John Romano, is a site for renters to make complaints about a property and gives the owner the opportunity to respond appropriately. Looking through a few of the complaints listed, they seem to be valid and mostly cover issues where a property is ‘not as described', or has been overstated by the owner on a listing.
I think as vacation rental owners, we should be transparent about the features and facilities of our ‘product' since we are expecting clients to make a leap of faith when they make a booking based simply on a few photographs on a listing. Providing there is nothing hidden; renters expectations are established through thorough communication before the rental, and the responsibilities of each party are made clear, we shouldn't be afraid of an honest review.
Unfortunately, we'll never get away from the bad weather phenomena where a renters view of a property is unfairly clouded by a week of rain, which they then spend nitpicking around the cottage. But that aside, a spotlessly clean, comfortably furnished property that gives guests value for their vacation dollars is far less likely to generate negative comment.
Whether we like it or not, social networking is here to stay, and no doubt, more review sites will surface and become popular over time. We may have to accept that on occasion an unfair review will be posted, regardless of our attempts at creating the perfect vacation rental location. Let me have your comments.