Owners We all want our guests to be self-sufficient in our vacation homes; use them in a respectful manner and leave at the end of their vacation with minimal breakage, damage or untidiness. Often this is a case of guest education, and since many are new to the concept of vacation rental, it’s a great idea to offer as much guidance and help as possible. A comprehensive guest guide can do this, but as most seasoned owners know, getting guests to read it is a big issue. Here’s a few tips to encourage them to take a look. Change the Name Ditch the word, “Rules”. In the same way you want your guests to respect your property, respect them in turn by making them feel welcome. Don’t title your guest guide “ Rules of the Cottage” or similar – this can have a negative effect and it’ll be put in a drawer and forgotten about. After all, your rental guests are on vacation from their regimented work lives and the last thing they want to do is read your bullet-pointed list of do’s and don’ts. Use the word “Welcome” instead. Make it Look Attractive A sheaf of loose coffee-stained notes, or a scrappy plastic binder isn’t very appealing and if it’s the first thing your guests see on arrival, creates a poor first impression. Use a binder with a clear plastic insert on the front where you can slip a colour image of the property and your friendly welcoming title. It’s more likely to be read. Provide Structure Your visitors have just arrived and it’s possible someone in the group will pick up the Welcome Guide to take a look (we hope). Organise it with tab dividers and an index at the front to make it easy to find what they need to know. Create sections for different topics such as “In The Kitchen” where you can include brief instructions on how to use some of the small appliances, and “Entertainment” to offer guidance on which remote to use for which piece of equipment. A “Before You Leave” section is the best place for a pre-departure checklist and instructions on how you want the place to be left. Quick Start Guide I recently bought a new hand-held GPS for geocaching and was pleased to see a Quick Start Guide in addition to the bulkier manual. I wanted to start using it as quickly as possible and not have to search for information to get it up and running. If you follow this format and condense your most important information in a one-page summary, there’s a greater chance of your guests reading it. Consider laminating a copy and put it somewhere it’s likely to be seen, but is not obtrusive – inside the coffee mug cupboard door is good idea. Create a Relationship You can use this document to create a relationship with your guests. Offer a little history on the property and the reason you bought it; what you love about it the most, and why you want to share it. If your guests understand a little about your connection with the property they will be more inclined to respect it, rather than treat it like hotel or resort accommodation Be Friendly The Welcome Guide should be a friendly and informative manual for your property and is not the place to list the charges you will impose if your ‘rules’ are not followed. I saw one recently where the first page was written in red, and underlined all the fines for misdemeanours such as losing the remote control for the TV, or not removing all the garbage from the property at the end of a stay. If you must do this at all, your Terms and Conditions of Rental are the place to put them – not in the Welcome Guide. If you have ever used the well-worn phrase, “Why don’t guests ever read the manual”, it could be that it’s not attractively presented or the text is too dense. Maybe now is the time to give it a facelift.