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I feel one of the strongest tools I have as a host is the house guidebook-- honestly I think it preserves my sanity. I have constructed my guide to be a stand-alone reference for the house and beyond the front door. I give my guests a thorough walkthrough of the house with ample time to ask questions, but often I feel much I share goes in one ear and out the other. I certainly can't blame my guests, many have traveled long distances-- they are probably just waiting for me to leave so they can use the bathroom and take a nap. I get that. I've also been there.
During the walkthrough, I point this and that out-- such as where more towels can be found or how to use the stove. I give ample time for questions. Usually people first ask what the wifi password is. I find myself repeating "there's more information in the guide." I may sound like a broken record, but my intention is when they have a question during their stay they first think "there's more information in the guide," and look there.
Topics to cover are:
- Emergency contact information
- Arrival information
- Check in and check out times
- House Rules
- Wifi password
- How to use the television/DVD player
- What to do with trash and recycling
- How to use the kitchen appliances
- Where to find more towels
- Where to find the first aid kit
- Parking information
- Information on local markets
- Suggested taxi company
- Suggested local restaurants and bars
- Suggested restaurants that deliver
- Great attractions
- What to do at check-out
Use simple, straight forward language. I received many bookings from international guests in one location, in which English was not their first language. Therefore I made sure everything was understandable with a rudimentary understanding of English. Also guests don't wish to read a novel to find out what to do with their smelly trash. They want a quick and succinct answer.
Introduce yourself and the space at the beginning before you start taking about business. It doesn't need to be anything long or too detailed, but it's a great way to welcome your guest again and express how excited you are to host them. I also like to include a small personal snapshot to give a face to the voice.
It's true that a picture is worth 1000 words! Include a color photo of the stove knobs, television remotes, and anything else to help illustrate your simply written directions. Photos can also help decrease the potential of miscommunication. Use a photo editing program such as Canva or Skitch to add arrows and words to the photos. The simpler the better. Photos also help to break up your guide, to make it more visually interesting.
The guide is also a great way to showcase you insider knowledge of the area. You are essentially the unofficial local ambassador! You can recommend fabulous restaurants, fun events and great local markets. People who are unfamiliar to your area will greatly appreciate any and all advise you give. They already trust you to a certain degree (otherwise they would not be staying in your space), so to share knowledge that would save them time doing research on Google is usually extremely appreciated. You can do so much with this, with very little effort on your part; a lot of this is information you already know. These inside tips are adding incredible value to your guests experience with very little cost to you!
Email a digital copy to every guest a week before they arrive. Do this to give them a chance to look it over and ask any questions, also include your address and additional arrival details. I once lived in a gated community; each visitor would be stopped by the security guard at the gate and asked where they are going. This could be a little intimidating to a guest, so in the emailed guide I explained what to expect and advised how to respond to the guard. Easy-peasy!
Then print the document in color and slip the pages into clear plastic sheets in a binder. The pages will wear well with use if they are protected with pastic, otherwise you will quickly find your guide looking wrinkled and grubby-- especially the wifi page!
I use Pages to write my guidebooks. I'm a huge fan of the program! It has easy to use templates that create a great looking document. You are then able to easily share the document as a PDF. You could also use Word or Google Docs, whichever is most enjoyable to you!
Be prepared to modify your beautiful guide to make it more beautiful and helpful! If guests keep asking for specific advise, add this information to the guide. It may feel like a hassle to update the document, but it will save you so much more time and stress in the future if you are forthcoming with the answers. "There's more information in the guide!"
You could also include a local map that your guests can take with them while exploring the area. It's great to have already marked where you are located on the map. The map could be a high quality copy or a full color fold-out deal. I have been in some cities where I was able to take a handful from the local tourist information offic. Think about including menus from your favorite restaurants and flyers for fun tours.
So far, so good! I've found guests to be really proactive, by looking in the guide first and then emailing me as a last resort. It's important to make it very clear that you are available if they have any questions or concerns. Although I've found, in general, if you are not there in person (renting out your whole place), they will only contact you if there's an emergency. That being said, some guests may feel if they can't find the hairdryer they are experiencing an emergency. ;-)
Having a clear and well detailed guidebook is an invaluable tool that is often not used to its full potential. Don't make that mistake! Keep your sanity!
What programs do you use?
What fun local attractions do you suggest to your guests?
Ashley Parent is an AirBnB host and instigates the magic at http://blissylife.com
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