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    Obsess On Hospitality This Summer and Turn First-Timers into Loyal Repeat Guests

    In speaking with Kennedy Training Network’s (KTN’s) vacation rental management clients recently, the vast majority are experiencing a surprisingly strong return of demand, especially for last-minute summer vacations. Most spent the months of April and May wondering if there would be any demand this summer at all, then saw a tidal wave of bookings coming through. Of course there are exceptions, such as our clients in states like Hawaii and Maine that still have 14-day quarantine protocols in place, but most other VR companies seem to be at or near capacity.

    Those who take time to engage guests in authentic conversations will discover that so many guests are visiting for the first time. They are experiencing what I call a displacement of vacation traditions. So many of us are finding our usual summer vacation plans disrupted. Those who typically go to Europe, set sail on a cruise or visit a theme park are now exploring destinations they would never have even considered previously.

    At the same time, many VR companies are also missing many of their own “regulars” this summer, as inbound international travel is disrupted and so many previous guests who arrived by air are themselves looking elsewhere.

    "As in any industry, massive disruption creates massive opportunities."

    As in any industry, massive disruption creates massive opportunities. Smart operations and marketing leaders will capitalize on this chance to win the loyalty of first-timers, turning them into this year’s social media promoters and next year’s repeat guests. Here are a few training tips:

    • Train your entire hospitality staff to truly engage guests at every opportunity, whether in phone calls, emails or in person, and find out “the story” behind their vacation plans.
    • Empower staff to do little extras for guests who are experiencing particularly momentous occasions this summer, whether they are joyful or solemn. I’m already hearing about hosting families holding memorial services for those who passed away when funerals were not possible, while other families are meeting-up on vacation to celebrate graduations and coming-of-age celebrations that were held virtually.
    • Pro-actively offer local insider tips. Conduct “know your product” training for your staff so that they can not only answer common questions, but also encourage them to proactively offer suggestions and recommendations for “off the beaten path” attractions, local dining “gems,” the best times to visit and the name of a special food server to ask for.
    • Obtain guest contact information, especially for those who booked via a third party for future direct marketing efforts. Consider other creative ways to get guests to sign-up for email marketing such as holding a photo contest or providing a coupon or special amenity for those who post with a specific hashtag.
    • Create a “selfie station” in the welcome office or another prominent location. Label it “selfie station” and post your logo and a fun, locally-branded message; a generic version “Greetings from Brand X Vacations – Wish You Were Here Too!”

    Above all, remind all hospitality staff that the true heart of hospitality is kindness, especially to the strangers we call our guests. Remind them that those on the other side of the doors of our vacation homes are experiencing what is probably the single most important event of their calendar year, which is their vacation with friends, family and/or loved ones.

    "Above all, remind all hospitality staff that the true heart of hospitality is kindness, especially to the strangers we call our guests."
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