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7 Ways To Lose 5 Star Reviews On Arrival

We all want 5 star reviews. And it’s in that first 30 minutes of arrival, the overall tone of your 5 star review will be set.

They say first impressions count, this also rings true for 5 star reviews for your vacation rental, holiday home or luxury villa. Which is why, we are going to outline 7 ways that can have you lose 5 star reviews in the first 30 minutes of your guests arriving at your home.

This is why we want to highlight exactly why your guests first 30 minutes on arrival is so important, to the overall enjoyment of their vacation and to the 5 star reviews they subsequently may write.

Pent Up Anticipation & Excitement

There is a magic that accompanies arrival at your holiday accommodation whether it be a hotel or a vacation rental.  The day has finally come and it is the culmination of months – sometimes years of planning. For all that time all you and your family or guests have had to go by to keep the holiday time alive is the 20 – 30 photos on a listing, the text of the listing that attracted them to the property in the first place and anything extra you as the agency has sent to them in the meantime.

5 Star Review Expectations

All their expectations have been simmering for months and are now set. The anticipation and excitement is huge. The guest who has booked the accommodation will be forever asking themselves, have I done the right thing? With only photos and a listing to go on, questions will continue, is it the right property for the family/group? Having paid they will have started to see so many other awesome properties and have started second guessing themselves. Will we all be happy? Will it be a 5 star review holiday?

Everyone Is Ready

Yet, now, the day is here! It’s all done. Too late to change anything now! Everyone is ready and everything should go according to plan (if we were living in a perfect world) and so often it doesn’t. All it takes is one thing to take the whole family or group down from their euphoric happy place – 5 star review mindset) into another completely opposite state of mind (3-4 star review).

What Can Go Wrong?

In this blog we explore what can go wrong in that first 30 minutes of arriving and how attention to detail and a few little adjustments can make the difference between an amazingly successful vacation with a 5 star review, and one that is coloured by memories of a poor first impression and a mediocre 3-4 star review.

7 Sure Fire Ways To Lose 5 Star Reviews

These seven grave errors have come from guests feedback, our own experience, what we’ve learnt from friends and colleagues who have had their own experiences and those we have simply asked when returning home from holidays, did you enjoy your stay and what was your first impression?

Here’s 7 sure fire ways you can upset your guests at check in and lose your 5 star reviews.

1. First Impressions

Paving slabs broken and cracked. Overgrown driveway. Yes, the inside of your holiday home may be 5 star review material. It may be immaculate and yet, how far does “immaculate” venture down your driveway along the pathway your guests will take to your home?

It’s these first impressions that stay. Which means you have to give the same attention to outside as well as inside. Ruin guests anticipation on arrival, burst their bubble right from that “first sight” when they arrive, when they are looking for their accommodation and disappointment, doubt and lack of trust starts to set in. It can take a lot to get that back.

Any impression of neglect is going to contribute to a negative review, definitely not a 5 star review. Follow the pathway to your holiday home and look around your entrance area. Outside, dirty front door, unpolished door nob, peeling paint and the like, all contribute to that feeling for your guest “OMG I think Ive made a big mistake” What have we got into”!

2. Accessibility

How about the example of a guest arriving to be told she would find the key to the home under a stone frog at the front door. Sounds easy. Sounds simple. And take a moment to imagine the scene. 4 adults arriving after an 8 hour flight with a baby in tow, tired and light is fading in the early evening. The stone frog should have been exactly where she was told it would be in the instructions received, at the front door!

Panic set in, when the frog wasn’t there, and any excitement of holiday plans coming together fast disappeared. Doubt took its place. How will we get in? Who do we go to for help? Yes husband saved the day, the stone frog was at the bottom of the stairs in the grass – disaster averted and the instructions didn’t say look at the bottom of the stairs did they?

There was no photo provided to actually identify the stone frog. So, what may seem simple to you as the owner/agent is not always so clear cut to guests. And as she said, the panic she felt never went away and it is something she retells to others about the property. As you can imagine not a 5 star review.

There are many horror stories of access issues, codes that don’t work, keys not where they should be, wrong keys left, keys being left with neighbours. Think about the access to your property and think about your guests, not you. They are excited and want access quickly. They don’t want any fuss or drama. The minute there is any sort of obstacle between getting in the house or standing on the doorstep the enjoyment of arrival is diminished from the start and your chances of a 5 star review diminished yet again!

3. Smells

Okay this is a biggie for me. I have a keen sense of smell, to me smell matters. It really really matters. If I walk into a home with cooking smells, it’s an issue. Air fresheners, so strong one of the first thing most people do is remove them, and while the smell of disinfectant says everything has been cleaned it shouldn’t overpower the entire house. Maybe there’s a fine line between fresh and clean and smelling like a hospital hallway or public wash room.

With many older homes here in Croatia, there will be an odour. And musty smells can be a problem. People associate musty smells with mildew and they will complain. The key is to make your property as odour free as possible. Open windows, use dehumidifiers, keep things super clean. Guests want no odour. They want everything to smell 5 star fresh and clean for that 5 star review.

VIlla Eros, Dubrovnik

4. Temperature

When someone goes into a home in winter, they want to be enveloped in warmth. They will not want to be keeping there coats on for an hour while the heating heats up.

In summer, it is the same, while guests don’t necessarily want to walk into a fridge, they want to feel cool and comfortable after travelling. They will be hot and sticky when they arrive and the last thing they want to be worried about is sorting out the air conditioner while everyone bakes.

This is why we believe it is important that someone has been into the home just before guests arrive to make sure the heat is up in winter or the air con is working or the fans are going in summer. Either summer or winter the home should feel welcome.

We will add to this one lighting, make sure a light is on if guests are arriving in the evening to make theme feel more welcome.

Studio Zavala, Hvar

5. Welcome

You cannot expect a guest to arrive and know immediately where everything is. You want them to feel welcome and provide them with details which they can peruse at their own time and in their own manner. Remember, even in a hotel room you get a compendium to tell me where everything is so with holiday accommodation your need more than that.

Yes we know, people say they don’t read any welcome note and to that I say guess what, many do! At the very least people want to know they were expected and are welcome. A hand written welcome note makes people actually feel welcomed, especially if you refer to something personal about them that you have gleaned from previous communication. This simple step will have them feel genuinely welcome. No welcome, less likely a 5 star review.

Villa Pallas, Vinišće, Trogir

6. Introduction

Picture this, you are on vacation, you have arrived tired and hot, someone has meet you at the door, everything is running smoothly then 20-30 minutes later the person is still there insisting on showing you everything there is to see, do, learn about – total overkill!

Be honest this is your holiday time, do you really want to spend time with this person. Make sure everything they need is included in your welcome pack and instructions and leave guests alone. We beat all they want to do is sit down and open that first beer, chat about the trip and not be spending time with a stranger. Don’t hang around.


This is a sign of the times. Most guests like to stay connected and the first thing they care about is logging on to the internet. Make sure internet is easily accessible, that internet is working and all passwords are available.

What Are Your Experiences

We want everyone to arrive at their selected accommodation, have everything meet their expectations right from the start and have all that anticipation rewarded by the amazing reality of the holiday accommodation they have been looking forward to leading to amazing 5 star reviews.

Remember too, its not just one person that might be disappointed, it’s a whole family, a whole group of disappointed people who will share reviews, comments with others about your property.

This means that the onus is on the manager|owner|agency to make that reality, make the guests arrival go really really smoothly and be on track for those amazing 5 star reviews.

Other ideas: 10 Things Vacation Rentals Can Learn from Hotels About 5-Star Experiences

Love to hear guests experiences. What upsets you? Whats not been just quite right? Tell us in the comments.

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