Holiday Home Versus Hotel – Part 1: Reception

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Dear holiday home owner,

Have you ever been on a hotel holiday?

It goes a bit like this, doesn’t it:

Tired, you approach the hotel by car, have to park temporarily at the drop-off point, unload everything and then one of you has to drive the car to a cramped underground car park somewhere – either that or find a space on the street and wonder if the car will be there in the morning!

“All you want to do is sit down
with a relaxing drink and
start your effing holiday!”


Then, once you have managed to find your way back to reception you have to go through the little ritual of paperwork, keys and being nice to someone when all you want to do is sit down with a relaxing drink and start your effing holiday!

As for the hotel receptionist – let’s say a young man earning a little over the minimum wage, aware that if it doesn’t work out, he can probably get a similar job without too much trouble. Does he REALLY care about his guests’ happiness? Well, in my experience, he may well do – there are a lot of excellent hotel receptionists who give far more than their employers deserve, because basically they love what they do. It’s not that he doesn’t care. It’s just that you’re TIRED. You don’t WANT to be at that desk at that time, talking to ANYONE let alone filling in forms and answering an endless list of questions.

“You may encounter a receptionist
who doesn’t care. At all.”


And there are of course exceptions. You may encounter a receptionist who doesn’t care. At all. Then there’s a problem, they catch you at your worst, and all hell breaks loose. A two-minute disagreement with a hotel receptionist on arrival can cast a surprisingly big shadow over your holiday. I know, I’ve been there.

Anyway, you finally make it through the reception ritual, so, backing away from the desk, even more tired, you wheel your cases to the lift, lurch 10 floors into the sky and trundle all the way down a dim corridor only to discover that the plastic card has not been programmed to open the door of your room and you have to begin the reception ritual all over again.

Then, when you finally get into your room you discover two beds instead of one, or one bed instead of two, and it’s off to your friend at the desk yet again.

Now, as holiday home owner, you have a great opportunity here – a chance to shine – a chance to win several important plus-points when potential holidaymakers are thinking “holiday home versus hotel”, where they’re reaching that crucial decision on whether to stay in YOUR holiday cottage or book that boring but predictable hotel room.
Think about that hotel reception ritual for a moment. Please remember that many of your guests will be very familiar with all of this. Keep it all in mind as we turn to your OWN reception; those vital experiences that your guests feel during the first few seconds after arrival.

Here’s a great way of making sure your “reception” is spot-on:

Why not role-play your guests’ arrival? You arrive after a long and tiring journey. You walk up to that door as if for the first time. How do you feel as you approach your accommodation for the week? Imagine it’s dark and you’re trundling cases behind you. Do the wheels get stuck in a rut? Does your foot unexpectedly sink into a flowerbed or your toe stub on an unexpected plant pot?

“like the Bisto advert,
you want your guests to go
‘aaaaahhhh’”


Imagine the rain pouring down (this can happen in the UK). It’s running down your back and into your holiday shoes. Can you get under cover while wrestling with that unfamiliar door lock?

And what about your “reception”? When your guests walk through that door, you need a great reaction. Not “eeeeeuuww!” Not “uuuurgh”. Not “aaaargh”. Not “pooeeey”. Not “Oh.” These things are not what you want at all. Rather, like the Bisto advert, you want your guests to go “aaaaahhhh”.

Role-play a little further now. Visualise it as a guest would, turning that key and pushing open that door for the first time. What can you see, hear, smell? On opening the door, are you hit forcefully by what seems like a century’s build-up of musty dampness? Do you stumble into a pitch-black hallway? Might you leave the warm cocoon of your car, dash inside the house only to sit for the first time on a chair that’s so cold you actually shiver? How does it make you FEEL, being treated like that?

If you were a guest, what would you think about the owner of such a place, that person who is supposed to be making a truly special holiday experience for you? How could they DO this to you? Do they even CARE now that they have your money? Unfair? Maybe. But that’s how your guests will THINK when they get a miserable reception. And that’s not all. They will also then go on to think about the plush, warm, airy feel of a four star hotel reception. You’re losing them, and they’ve only been in the house for 30 seconds!

Worse still, if your guests get off to a bad start, they’re far more likely to complain. They’ve taken against the house and they will go out of their way to find any fault they can.

It needn’t be that way. As a holiday home owner, you have many advantages. You can make your holiday home “reception” so much better than any hotel.

“mattresses as lumpy as my mother-in-law
do NOT make for a good first impression”


Remember that your guests may be tired when they arrive. Make everything EASY. Easy to find the place. Easy to park. Easy to get in. Easy to find the kettle, tea, milk, sugar. Easy to get hot water.
Drop the attitude. How would YOU feel in their shoes if the first thing you saw was a series of signs or labels beginning with the word “DON’T”? It is supposed to be their HOME! Your place may not be a hotel, but your guests expect EXCELLENT SERVICE all the same. If you MUST have signs or instructions, here’s a great tip:

Imagine you are standing in front of your guests – a bit like the hotel receptionist. Would you DARE to SAY to your guests exactly what’s on that sign, word-for-word? No? Well, perhaps you need to think along the lines of “We would be really grateful if you didn’t…” rather than “DON’T move/open/stand on/sit on/use this…” whatever.

Finally, make sure your “slump zones” are as good as they can be. You know, the places where, on arrival, your tired guests will plonk their weary bodies – BEDS and SOFAS. Sofa cushions as thin as toast and mattresses as lumpy as my mother-in-law do NOT make for a good first impression.

Get your reception right, and you are, for certain, less likely to get a complaint about something else later in the holiday, because a good first impression means that your guests are on your side, forgiving, sympathetic, HAPPY HOLIDAYMAKERS!

Join me next time for part 2 of “Holiday Home Versus Hotel”.

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