Is An Attitude Adjustment Needed in the Vacation Rental Business?

greekhospitality“To the ancient Greeks, hospitality was a divine right. The host was expected to make sure the needs of his guests were seen to. In Greek society a person's ability to abide the laws to hospitality determined nobility and social standing.” Source: Wikipedia

This year clarified a lot for me about the changing nature of the vacation rental business. Travellers are turning more and more to our style of accommodation rather than the traditional options of resorts and hotels, and owners who are prepared to meet and exceed their demands and expectations are going to be successful.  The ones who haven’t clued into the nature of ‘hospitality’ and still see rentals as a method of a little easy money are the ones that will suffer – and that is not a bad thing.  It’s the rotten apples in the barrel that will spoil the cider, and if natural selection takes them out before the damage is done, it’s better for everyone.

In the course of my day job as a vacation rental manager I speak to hundreds of established and potential owners each year.  There is a bit of a died-in-the-wool mentality in my part of the world relating to the way some cottage owners see this business that is still rooted in the seventies and eighties.  I’ve viewed properties where dirt is ingrained in the walls and floors, the shag-pile carpeting is harbouring decades of pet dander, food debris, and sand, and the appliances creak and groan under the weight of years of dried on grease and rust.  When I’ve turned them down for registration onto our rental management programme unless they upgrade, clean and update, they are often horrified that I’m wanting to change the traditional nature of the cottage lifestyle.

Thankfully it’s an attitude we are seeing less of, but the idea that people will pay money to rent a mouse-infested hovel where the vacuum cleaner is as old as the property but used much less, is still prevalent in some places.

This summer I’ve been shocked to hear what some owners and more often, their caretakers/cleaners have had to say about their guests:

‘We just had more stupid renters who can’t even read instructions’

frustrated_lg.gifWe all experience the frustration of guests who haven’t picked up the property book and found an answer to a question, but I’ve also seen my fair share of these books that are reams of text, barely broken up by paragraphs, let alone any form of structure.   If we want our guests to find information, then it is our responsibility to create a readable, attractive method of delivering it.

  • Send the Welcome Book as an indexed pdf file that can be opened on a mobile device.
  • Create an Important Information sheet, laminate it and stick it to the inside of the most used cupboard doors.
  • Put emergency telephone numbers on a 5 x 3 card and place in a Perspex holder beside the telephone.
  • Use a concertina file to hold appliance manuals and essential instructions in alphabetical order
  • Purchase a leather menu cover that can be kept near the TV.  Inside, place clear laminated instructions on how to use each remote control, and operate the entertainment systems.  It may seem easy to you, but to visitors to a strange place with a different system to the one they are used to at home, it

‘The renters fat butts broke the toilet seat’

timeforchange_lg.jpgSeriously!  This was in a note from a cleaner to an owner.  I appreciate the cleaning company are among the best in the area but I could not tolerate this lack of respect from any service provider.  I’ve heard guests described as ‘slobs’ and ‘pigs’ and although this is extreme, it makes me cringe to hear this language used to describe our valued paying customers.  Yes, occasionally there are guests who don’t leave a place in great condition but they are few and far between, and if a group doesn’t meet up to our expectations, surely it is better to move on and simply decide not to rent to that family again.  We don’t have to make judgments on their living habits or behaviours providing our ability to do a changeover in the window of time available is not impacted.

Let’s make a pact to stop using the terms ‘renters’ – they are guests and paying a significant portion of their hard-earned vacation money on the accommodation, so they should be treated with respect.  Yes, even the ones that may not leave the place as clean and tidy as you would like.

OK ….rant over.  I just needed to get that off my chest and wrap up some of the summer angst.

In fact it was an amazingly good season.  We averaged 130 families checking into cottages each of the ten weeks of summer and had only a handful of issues each week.  Some were more complex than others and a few involved refunds and relocation.  A storm and 4-days of power outage in many areas gave us the biggest challenge while the slow start to summer with a blast of last minute bookings delivered quite a punch at a time when we were all flagging a bit towards the end of August.  Am I glad it’s over for another year?  It’s great to have the down time for the next few months to concentrate on the blog and podcast, but still a little odd not to see the constant stream of emails coming into the inbox.

I’m off on vacation next week where I’ll be getting into the next big project – a complete formula for creating a success in this business so watch this space.  There’s more to come!



Well said! Very progressive. This is the way our company has been marketing our homes and we see the difference. We welcome our guests and are all about helping them make memories in our homes.

    Heather Bayer

    For an agency, getting it right just makes our lives easier. How much better to see a string of great reviews than complaints because the reality didn’t match the listing hype. Same with individual owners – those who go out of their way to make their guests stay great will reap the benefits


Its a big and fragmented market isn’t it.  Many guests don’t treat rentals as they would treate their own homes.  On the other hand, neither do some owner managers.  Reputation and trust are hard to gain in this immense world of instant messaging.


Hi Heather,
You nail your colors clearly to the mast in that post. As a keen customer focused lady who appreciates customers can be difficult but understands it is they who pay the wages. I too have seen some real pig sty’s in my time. As we operate mainly in Europe, it tends to be the more ‘traditional’ owners who think they can fill a property with second hand ‘tat’ and call it a vacation rental.

You are 100% correct. It is those that provide service who will win through while others trail in their spruced up dust!

Godd read. Thanks


    Heather Bayer

    Hi Andy

    I remember the first vacation rental I went to in Cornwall as a step up from all the camping we’d done in the past. It was great to have a real roof, running water and a bed off the ground. We really felt we were trading up, so didn’t notice the worn carpets, stained curtains, and ‘non-stick’ frying pans that had long ago lost any semblance of Teflon. I think a lot of my generation did this and accepted and turned a blind eye to the many imperfections. Expectations are different today as you know with guests looking more for the boutique hotel style of accommodation. I hear a lot of owners bemoaning the fact their guests are ‘too demanding, when what they are looking for is simply value for money. Thanks for the comment!


How do you all deal with neighboring people who are not that
thrilled about your rentals?I live on
Long Beach Island, NJ and have a large rental sleeping 16.We live in top portion of home and make sure
everything stays under control so not to upset the neighbors.It seems no matter what I do I have a few
neighbors counting heads, counting cars ( that park in my allotted area), keep
track of comings and goings (if they get home from a bar or whatever).It is a resort in the summer here.It is ok for the neighbors to party, have
company, crying babies, barking dogs etc. I have other homes on street that I
seem to take the blame for when loud. I am getting weary of hearing about every
little thing.Any suggestions?I am in the “You can’t please everyone”
The best part is we live here year long, none of them
do.We are the go to person if there are
issues with weather, repair man babysitting, help me with…I even plan an annual neighborhood dinner for
them all to keep in the loop.I feel
very used and unappreciated due to their comments about our tenants.We have multifamily generations using the
property mostly.I do retreats and
wedding stays in the shoulder months also which I stay on top of if noise.

    Heather Bayer

    That’s a tough one and I’m not sure there’s a good answer for dealing with the curtain twitchers of this world. In a residential situation there will always be people who raise objections to a rental, regardless of how many guests there are. In some cases it’s justified and I can understand why permanent residents could be unhappy, but in this case where your neighbours are vacation home owners themselves, you would hope they would be more tolerant. Are there any other owners who rent in the neighbourhood? Have you heard of The Short Term Rental Advocacy Centre? Primarily focused on regions that are facing short term rental regulations, there is plenty of support for any individual to form a coalition with other owners. There is a case study on the site about Steve Laskarides and his Atlantic City coalition. They seem to have faced a similar situation to yours. Why not contact Steve and see if he can give you some pointers.

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