by | Apr 19, 2022 | STR Management, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Help your guests understand your vacation rental is not a hotel and why it matters.

What are the differences between an STR and a hotel your guests need to understand?

A short term rental is NOT a hotel.  Let me repeat–NOT A HOTEL!  I am passionate about getting this idea through to owners because it sets unrealistic expectations for guests who in turn are not happy with their stay.  

My friend and former pastor’s wife, Nicole, told me that the source of almost all conflict is unmet expectations.  I see this play out over and over in the short term rental world.  Over-accommodating hosts suffer from people pleasing (I am a fellow sufferer!) and give in to guests’ silly requests.  In turn, every Airbnb this guest proceeds to visit, is met with their expectation bar lifted a notch. It’s a vicious pattern

I know you are incredibly intelligent and realize STRs and hotels are different. The goal is to explain how expectations are to be managed differently! 

Some differences between hotels and short term rentals: 

Arrival and departure

Arrival and departure can get messy with a VRBO or Airbnb versus a hotel setting. Make it clear to guests that early/late check in and luggage storage are not to be expected.

 Early/late check ins are much more difficult to accommodate. Remember, a hotel houses a staff who are stationary at the hotel until their shift is over.  Not so with the team turning your property. It is critical to have guests out by check out time. Also, you incur fees for when guests depart beyond check out time. My company will charge a fee because we have staff on the clock just waiting for the guests to leave. A hotel will just go clean another room (while still fining the guest). Late check outs are not devastating to their operations if just a couple guests partake.

When guests arrive early or have a late flight but have a gap between their check out and flight take off, many times they will request to have somewhere to store their luggage. With most STRs, this just isn’t possible. Under no circumstances should a guest enter a property before it has been properly cleaned and prepared for their arrival. A hotel generally has a room they can keep luggage securely locked away in. (A hotel would never allow a guest into a dirty room either). Please don’t ask your cleaning team to let the guests in before they completed the unit. It is incredibly awkward for the cleaners and opens up a can of worms for you the owner.


Your unit may not always be perfect. How you react and manage these expectations can save you much headache with a guest.

Short term rentals are not built nor designed for speed cleaning unlike hotels. Hotels are designed specifically for efficiency in cleaning and maintenance. Much thought goes into the type of furniture, surfaces, etc. all to provide a better turn over process. In no offense to any STR owner, most do not consider such things. STR cleaners are dealing with an immense variety in surfaces, decor, full scale kitchens, major appliance, outdoor furniture or grills and other unique needs of the units they visit. Hotels are a well-oiled machine. In the business world, the number one detriment to productivity is variety. Welp, let’s face it. There is endless variety among vacation rentals. Varity is also what makes STRs so wonderful.

In a hotel, housekeeping is available almost all hours of the normal working day. When a housekeeper is at the hotel, they are on the clock. A vacation rental, on the other hand, has one to three cleaners (depending on size, maybe more) who drive to the location. Their pay doesn’t start until they do in most cases.  The STR cleaners more than likely have another job following the first clean they must also commute to. This team is at the mercy of a well-stocked owner’s closet and, fingers crossed, a decent guest. Any glitch in the day can be disastrous for an STR cleaner.

You must be willing to stand up to a guest who nitpicks your unit for tiny, harmless infractions. Example, if a beach property has a tiny amount of sand on the floor (a few loose grains left behind) and the guest can feel it when walking barefoot. Maybe a cup has some spots left on it from the dishwasher or a few crumbs landed in the silver ware drawer? Was there a singular hair found on the bathroom floor?

Cleaners are not perfect. They are literally performing hundreds of tiny tasks at a rental. In my cleaning company, Blue Jay Cleaning, I ask our owners to provide us of photographic evidence of any cleaning complaint to see if it merits action on our end. Many times, the guests have unrealistic expectations or are coming into the rental looking for problems.

Unlimited linens

No, your guests don’t need extra towels.

The hotel has industrial laundry capability or outsourced laundry to a facility that does so. The hotel has an ample supply of linens and amenities.  STRs have a set number of linens in which guests can access. Laundry is also a much more complicated process for STR cleaners–especially if linens are taken off site. When linens are ruined, hotels can charge the guests credit card left on file. For reasons that I know are complicated, STR owners tend to not hold their guests accountable for linen damages. Many times, my company has had to go buy towels and sheets for owner’s units because guests ruined so many.

Be mindful of how many extra blankets you leave out for guests. Hotels can easily replace blankets but it’s a feat to wash multiple blankets each clean and costly. Make sure your guests know they do not get unlimitied linens.

Special accommodations

Hotels generally being a large corporation are required to have accommodations for guests with special needs. Many STR owners do not have the same requirements nor are their properties outfitted to host someone with a needed accommodation such as those who require the use of a wheelchair, walker, etc. Some units are not fitting for younger children either. Be clear in your description to prevent an unhappy guest when they arrival realize they cannot access your property due to a limitation or are greatly inconvenienced. One complaint I’ve seen recently at a beach rental is a family with a baby, toddler and another small child had no idea the 3rd story property had no elevator. It was quite the hassle for them to carry all of the beach items plus maneuver the children up and down the stairs during their stay.

When things go wrong and complaints

Hotels have created structured practices around how to handle a guest complaint. Worst case scenarios may end in a discount or refund. The hotel isn’t too concerned with a bad review (they care, just not as much as an STR owner) and pacifying a situation with a discount isn’t too painful for the hotel since they are generally a larger corporation. STR owners, on the other hand, may not have the financial means to always offer money back. For an STR owner, a bad review can be devastating. If there is an issue with the unit itself, a hotel can often put the guest in another room. Unless the STR owner owns multiple properties in the area that happen to be vacant, vacation rentals do not have this option. Problems have to be dealt with as the guest is staying there which is tricky! It is now up to you the owner to use your impeccable communication skills and solve that problem as fast as possible.


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