This article takes a somewhat irreverent look at cunning, easy to achieve ways to avoid repeat bookings.
Let’s assume that we’re talking about an otherwise perfectly maintained, beautifully cleaned cottage – the apple of an owner’s eye. Just the sort of place that might appeal to visitors again and again. Here’s a tongue-firmly-in-cheek list of ways stop them returning.
Of course, in reality, you would never practise any of these excellent recommendations… would you?
1 Don’t ask
If you’re British, exercise that famous reserve and don’t offer the tiniest hint that a guest might be welcome to return. Stay manifestly silent on the matter. That’s the ticket! Definitely don’t mention the possibility in conversation as they say their fond farewells – or e-mail them afterwards, perhaps on the anniversary of the day they booked to come. After all, if a guest wants to return they surely will. Holiday cottages are full of testimonials left by happy guests exclaiming “We’ll be back!” Thank goodness they forever fail to live up to their intentions because you had the sense not to cultivate those well-meant statements afterwards. In the vacuum created by your silence they found somewhere else to go instead. Their loss!
2 Never say thanks for coming
Clearly all the thanks should be extended to you (smiley face). There’s nothing a guest hates more than their host laughing and smiling with them, helping them out with the luggage and listening to their holiday stories as they leave the premises, just to give them one final and lasting happy memory. You know that they know all such bon homie is just a shallow pretence to snare them into a repeat booking. Anyway, what’s there to be happy about? They’ve had a full week or so in your place, burning your electricity, leaving the immersion on and generally wearing the place thin. When they’ve gone, all you’ve got to look forward to is the thankless task of cleaning, scrubbing and linen changing ahead of your next guest’s arrival. Of course you don’t have time to raise so much as a smile as they finally exit your cottage 15 minutes after the official departure time. Don’t worry about remembering their names. Best just to wait around the corner until the coast is clear, safe in the knowledge that you won’t ever have to see them again.
3. Refrain from offering any kind of incentive
Ooh! That’s bribery surely! And why give money off for weeks you know you could rent at full price if you just upped your advertising budget by a two hundred pounds. Other people who offer guests a 5-10% discount if they rebook at any time are just cheating: cheating themselves and cheating their poor unfortunate guests who might have gone somewhere else if they hadn’t been so blatantly coerced into returning. That’s the last thing you want – guests who don’t want to be there. So, why risk it with an ‘incentive’?
4 Ignore guests once they’ve left
Heaven forbid you should send your departed guests so much as an item of lost property, let alone a Christmas card or Newsletter, a text, email, an invitation or a special winter-break offer. Anyway, you’re probably far too busy trying to get bookings from new guests next year to waste time in ‘developing your relationship’ with existing guests. If some of them have the audacity to scribble some complimentary comment in your guest book, it would be too darned rude to write and ask them if you can use it as a testimonial on your website. And what if they say no? That would be downright embarrassing. Best keep quiet and find somewhere else to advertise.
5 Avoid all Social Media sites that might allow guests to upload photos of themselves having a good time at your place
Well, you know you only ‘do’ social media because everyone else does it. You use it to advertise vacancies – lots of them. Clearly, you don’t want your Facebook pages cluttered with pictures posed by previous guests showing what a lovely time they were having in a cottage you’re trying to rent to someone else. Yuk!
6 If you can’t avoid the above, never reply to any postings to extend the conversation.
Ooh – that would be so embarrassing! It would also be too time consuming having to draft a reply full of enforced jollity. Anyway, I might not remember them. If people really wanted to talk to you they’d phone you up. And doesn’t it risk the chance that they may write something negative? And if it did all go well, where would the conversation end? (With another booking? Ed).
7 Remove any sense of the personal touch (fridge magnet names etc.)
Guests like to feel anonymous rather than feted. It’s not as if they’re celebrities desperate for recognition. Just give everyone the standard treatment – absolutely no favouritism. After all, it works for hotel chains. It has been said (and let me get my hands on whoever did), you could leave a personalised hand-written welcome message alongside a bottle of wine, but what if they don’t drink? Best not risk it and save a fiver. And such things like a named greeting to children in the party spelt in fridge magnets are just meaningless frivolities. They also cost time and money to set up. Having the woodburner aglow as guests arrive for a winter break is pointless, as your guests will clearly decide to arrive late. As for a vase of fresh flowers… need I go on? Who’s going to come back because you gave them flowers?
8 Pay no heed to the importance of first impressions
A place grows on you. So, who would mind if there’s a cobweb or two in the hall or a bulb has blown in the lounge when they arrive? It’s just too much to expect a cleaner to think about, and keeping cleaners happy is more important than imposing extra tasks on them like ensuring all the loo rolls are brand new. I know a half-used loo roll makes it look like someone else has been using the loo, but it’s a matter of priorities. Anyway, after a few days in your idyllic corner of the world, they’ll have forgotten all that. And those welcome packs! Surely they are an unnecessary expense. If people are going to want a glass of wine or tea and toast when they arrive, they’ll bring it with them won’t they…
9 Cease to see a complaint as an opportunity.
When people complain, they’re always after something, aren’t they? My goodness, can’t some people be so pushy. I always promise to get round to it when I can – but I’ve my own life to live as well. Heaven forbid I should just respond immediately and even over compensate by leaving a bottle of wine or some flowers, as well as sorting the problem out. They’d surely take advantage of that!
My neighbour went back to a cottage 4 years in a row because he said that when the oven broke on the first day, the owner had 3 blokes turning up to fix it within the hour and followed it up with a chicken to roast to ‘ensure it was working again’. I reckon he just went back because he was too lazy to find anywhere else. Funny how he always talks about that gesture though!
10 Send them home empty-handed
Wouldn’t it be just too cheesy if I gave them a small farewell gift as they left? After all – what could I give them? A tin of sweets or a cake for their journey home? A mug with a photo of the cottage and my domain name? A similarly adorned tea towel? Gosh – this repeat bookings lark can be just soooo expensive! If they don’t return, could I get my presents back?
Well, there you have it. Follow these guidelines and the chances are you’ll never have to see the same guest twice. Just think of all the fun you’ll have, continually finding new places to advertise in order to reach more and more new visitors.
If you”d like to suggest other things you definitely shouldn’t do to dissuade a guest from returning to an otherwise perfectly maintained and clean holiday cottage, then join in the fun and list them here.