“You’re not shopping for your own home, you’re a hotelier now.” I’m having a phone conversation with Lynne Arbuthnot, founder of VR Supplies®, and when she said this I wanted to give her a high five through the phone. It’s an important conversation we should be having. What is the distinction between a vacation rental’s bedroom and a hotel room?
OneRooftop has written about the differences on numerous occasions. However, when it comes to your vacation rental’s amenities, taking a leaf from the hotelier’s book every now and then has its advantages for management, efficiency, and style!
Any modern hotel you step foot in is going to have these crisp, pressed white sheets, pillowcases, and duvets. Getting hotel-quality amenities in your vacation rental can be pretty tricky though, as Arbuthnot found. “Companies that sell these sheets though don’t sell to homeowners.” To make hospitality supplies available to everyone in the vacation rental industry, Arbuthnot started to distribute items like bed linens and towels, but also things like bulk orders of toiletry kits — travel size shampoos, conditioners, and body lotions — all from one warehouse.
Arbuthnot, also a vacation rental owner in Kelowna, British Columbia, is incredibly savvy, witty, and as a thoughtful entrepreneur had several hospitality insights to share with me.
Beyond Free Wi-Fi, What You Buy Matters
Vacation rental marketers know they need to give guests free wi-fi. It’s an amenity VR professionals generally are on board with. But at the cost of most vacation rentals, should guests need to bring their own shampoos? “If you paid for a vacation rental home and you saw a half-filled bottle of shampoo in the shower, that would be gross, right?”
But Lynne isn’t just telling owners of vacation rental homes to spend more on their guests. Not at all. “It’s about evaluating price points, seeing what you have in your home, and conducting an annual review,” said Arbuthnot. “The products I sell are things I’ve tried and know work.”
In the hospitality industry, where things like pillow cases and sheets need to be reused over and over, what you buy matters. The flip side of this is that what you throw away matters too. One of the most fun parts of my conversation with Lynne was hearing about the nightmare of make-up.
“Remember in Cast Away, with Tom Hanks? He has the volleyball with the face painted on it? That often happens to face cloths and towels.” To take preventative measures, Lynne now leaves out make up remover wipes on top of the towels left out. The alternative would be throwing away a face towel. “I think I’d rather they throw away something that costs 29 cents.”
Price Points, Planning, and Preventing Icky
When Walt Disney designed his Disneyland Park, he discovered that if you set trash cans 30 feet apart, people wouldn’t litter. And if people don’t see others littering, they’re less likely to litter themselves.
Lynne applies this same logic to her vacation rental business. If you encourage good behavior, people will respect that. The reason hotels use white sheets that are freshly pressed? With nicer bedding, people will be more careful.
There are several ways to think about this and plan for your vacation rental home. Consider the suit case.
A suit case is pulled out of storage and the dust is brushed off. It’s wheeled through the airport and x-rayed on the conveyer belt scanner. It’s stowed in an overhead bin, thrown in a taxi, wheeled up your driveway, and where does it go next? Right on your bed.
Arbuthnot fills her home with preventative measures such as a folding luggage rack right there in the bedroom.
I asked Lynne if there were pricing advantages to better amenities. A recent article in Quartz quoted Nathan Blecharczyk, the CTO and co-founder of Airbnb, who said hosts could earn $10 more per night just for having a hair dryer. She said to look at it this way: review your price points. Go around your home and figure out what your home has and what it doesn’t. It could be a hair dryer. Don’t have one, subtract 10 bucks. The same goes for a hot tub, a new crib, or other amenities.
Once you’ve done this, figure how much it would cost to buy these things and how long it would take to pay for it. If it’s worth it, go for it!
The Bottom Line
If renting out a vacation home was as simple as just handing over the keys, this whole business would be a breeze. We all strive to keep our industry interesting, innovative, and more professional. Strategic thinking about your vacation rental’s amenities, what you buy and the cycle of replacing items, leads you to making better business decisions.
Want to see more of Lynne’s store? Visit vrsupplies.ca. Although based in Canada, Lynn also ships to VR professionals in the United States!
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