Exclusive to I-PRAC:

Part Three of the Trust Trilogy Series 

The final part of I-PRAC’s exclusive Trust Trilogy series makes no attempt to seem understated nor subdued.

After exploring the psychology of guest uncertainty as well as the difference between product marketing and trust marketing (in our first two articles of this series) – we now come to the end of our trilogy with a literary showstopper.

If you’re a short-term rental host, brace yourself for a reading of truths about your guests and their expectations – regardless of the niche you’re operating in. Today’s eye-opening article, in honour of Book Direct Day will outline why the short-term rental industry is still largely untrusted by the majority of travellers, while hotels experience no such issue.

It may seem harsh. It may seem one-sided. But the sooner we realise that a lot more needs to be done to meet guests’ evolving expectations, the sooner we can stand proud as a trustworthy industry – and not continue to get trampled on in a “battle of integrity” against hotel chains.

So, should you wish the world to take short-term rentals more seriously, and for the industry to be void of “what-nots” and “what-ifs”, then dive into today’s piece. You’ll find out what you can do better for your guests – so that they wholly trust you; and repeatedly recommend your direct booking brand to others.


Truth Time: Guests Still Don’t Trust the Short-Term Rental Industry

As much as it pains industry ambassadors like us to admit, the STR scene is still being blanketed by fear, uncertainty, and an overwhelming lack of trust.

Even though short-term rentals were among the most resilient compared to other sectors across the hospitality landscape (according to this article from hospitalityinsights.com) – a simple internet search will tell you that STRs still remain a bit of a “grey area” for the majority of corporate and leisure travellers.

Sadly, there are far too many horror stories to simply disregard, or pretend as though they haven’t happened. These stories shine a light on some of the most stomach-churning STR experiences, that far from meet guest expectations.

And this isn’t limited to just rental fraud either. In recent years, guests have complained about filthy kitchens, broken locks on doors and windows, and amenities that were promised online and just do not exist in real-life. If you put this into perspective and ask yourself how likely you’d be to check-in to an unkept hotel room that hasn’t been cleaned (the answer being: hardly ever), it’ll soon answer the question of why 72% of travellers prefer to book with a hotel rather than a short-term rental – as per a 2021 survey conducted by ValuePenguin.

Put simply, guests simply know what to expect with a hotel – even if that hotel is a two or three star.

Guests confidently booking their next holiday accommodation


While on the other hand, booking with the majority of short-term rental properties feels like an unnerving lottery game, where guests cannot guarantee whether they’re going to be “in luck” or not. This not only puts their money at risk, but their emotional and mental well-being in jeopardy, too (as well as any chance they had of enjoying a relaxing time away).

Of course, OTAs who don’t wholly support The Book Direct Movement like we do will say that the answer to a largely unregulated industry are their own booking channels. Platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com first challenged hotels with alternative accommodation, and presented themselves to travellers as “big brands that could be 100% trusted”.

Unfortunately, a large PR budget can only get you so far, as a recent article from frommers.com proves that even with the OTAs dominating a large part of the market, the short-term rental industry fails to be favoured over hotels, in the same way that it fails to consistently meet guest expectations.

This extract from that same article is particularly eye-opening:


“It was, they say, infested with mosquitoes, smelled of cigarette smoke and had the general appearance of a college dorm room. The bathrooms weren’t stocked with toilet paper, the doors didn’t close all the way and the promised Wi-Fi signal was dead on arrival. “The place was a dump,” says Richard Lacroix, a retired engineering consultant from Arlington, Mass.

Lacroix knew that he was taking a chance by booking a rental apartment online through Airbnb which matches people who need a place to stay with people who have one to rent and which doesn’t operate under the same standards as a hotel. But he thought that making a reservation through a trusted intermediary meant that there’d be a minimum level of service and that he’d have someone to turn to in case the accommodations didn’t live up to their billing. It turns out that this isn’t necessarily the case”. 


Clearly, guests are looking for a “trusted intermediary” and they are failing to find this with OTAs, let alone independent short-term rental companies. While I-PRAC can (and does) successfully step into this role for legitimate STR hosts, we will first focus on another element of the guest experience that our industry is failing to master.

This part of the experience is what we’ll refer to as the “pre-experience, experience” (ie, the moments that lead up to a guest’s stay at an STR property). Essentially, these moments give you an opportunity to meet your guests’ initial expectations and therefore define whether they will trust you in the long-term. For the record, this is something that hotels do – particularly well.


The Pre-Experience, Experience

Human beings need affirmation. This biological “hunger” for confirmation is intelligently described by psychologists as “confirmation bias” – the idea that people favour (or warm towards) information that helps them strengthen their beliefs and values. In most cases, when this confirmation is received, it is difficult to dislodge from the brain.

This is essentially why the first two impressions that we attain from a person, a brand, or an experience are automatically defined as “truths” in our mind – even if that impression is inaccurate.

So, if a guest was to spend a substantial amount of money to book a stay at your short-term rental property, and you fail to follow-up with a confirmation email and any other sort of communication between the date of their transaction and the day of their check-in (ie, during the pre-experience, experience), then they’re likely to think these two things:


1) I cannot trust that my payment has been successfully made (ie, securely and safely) 

2) I cannot trust that this short-term rental brand is concerned about my experience, my peace of mind, nor my arrival in X number of days. 

Sometimes, this will even lead to:

3) I cannot trust that this short-term rental property is professional and/or legitimate. 


So, already, because of a sheer lack of communication, it’s likely that you’ll lose this guest as a second-time visitor – and (at greater detriment to you), the chance of them recommending you to their friends and family.

Also, because of the theory of “confirmation bias” it’s pretty likely that even if you provide a decent service while this guest is staying at your property – these first impressions of your brand will have stuck; and winning their trust will become no less than an uphill struggle.

Karen GrahamMarketing Director of Orana Software recently spoke to I-PRAC’s research team about the importance of managing guest expectations – and her views are particularly relevant for this “pre-experience, experience” that we’re discussing.

Graham aptly states, “Before the physical guest experience even begins, it’s about ensuring guests know where they’re going, as well as what they need. Managing expectations is an excellent way of attaining trust during the early stages of that guest journey”.

Orana Software’s in-house guest experience app called Orana Stay maintains ongoing communication with guests right after they’ve booked accommodation; and to therefore give them ultimate peace of mind. We call this kind of strategic communication (be it via an app or even email) “touch points” in business, and what it does, is build trust between STR hosts and guests, while also leading with the best standards of hospitality.


Keyless check in at corporate accommodation property


Hotels and short-term rental companies who choose to differentiate themselves from the competition will often go the extra mile to keep in touch with their guests after a booking. This usually includes a prompt confirmation email, an email a few days before the guests’ arrival, and perhaps an email 24 hours before the guests’ arrival (or on the day or arrival itself) – this build-up of anticipation basically says to guests “We know you’re coming and we’re excited”.

You therefore immediately go from “managing guest expectations” to exceeding them.

Guests Never “Expect” to Feel Uncertainty at any Point of Their Experience

In the first part of our exclusive Trust Trilogy series, we explored how “uncertainty is the killer of conversion” – and how a failure to present yourself as a credible and legitimate short-term rental company will stop you from attracting more direct bookings – no matter how pretty you’ve made your website look.

This is because when a guest subconsciously feels they cannot trust you over an OTA or a hotel, their defensive mechanisms immediately go up and they do not even consider clicking on the “Book Now” button alongside your property listing.

Guests do not expect to feel a knot in their stomach while booking accommodation. This is not the norm.

In the same way, guests do not expect (nor do they deserve) to experience feelings of uncertainty after they’ve made a booking with you. Unfortunately, a number of short-term rental companies fall short with what’s known as “basic” hotel etiquette here, and disregard the comfort and wellbeing of their guests, once a booking has been made.

The number one factor between you and other STR brands – and even leading hotel chains – , which will differentiate you and make you more trustworthy – is being hospitable. Remember, we are in the business of hospitality – and oftentimes, this key ingredient is forgotten in the bustle of cashing in as many direct bookings as possible.

But in order to generate more trust and more direct bookings, you need to look after the direct bookings that you already have, first.

In a recent article from Travel Daily News, it has been reported that guest expectations have risen and become more “complex” since the peak of the pandemic. The article continues to reinstate how the majority of short-term rental companies are struggling to keep up.

Little yet impactful drawbacks such as not having the correct keyless entry information before checking into a property (or failing to receive it at the right time), or realising that a property doesn’t have a hairdryer in the bedroom as promised on the website – and there’s nobody to contact about this with ease. These things can really erode the overall quality of the guest experience; and make guests feel uncertain throughout their entire stay.

The problem is, by perceiving hotels as “the enemy”, the majority of short-term rental hosts are missing out on the lessons they can learn from them. While it’s true that a short-term rental property should feel more comfortable, flexible, and even more “homely” than a traditional hotel room, it should also offer the basic amenities that a guest would find in a hotel, or any other kind of accommodation that is chargeable.

It’s likely that the reason why a rising number of STR brands are failing to meet guest expectations and therefore build trust with their demographic is because of a “non-existent barrier to entry” in the industry. Hotel operators often have to jump through hoops in order to run a legitimate hospitality company; however, a short-term rental business can be set up by nearly anyone who owns a property (even if they don’t have the faintest idea about hospitality).

How to Guarantee that Guest Expectations are Met (and Surpassed)

With all the above in mind, and how it serves as a clear indication that the short-term rental industry is still akin to “Wild West territory”, imagine how powerful it would be if you guaranteed exceptional standards of hospitality to your guests, from the get-go.

Happy family arrive at well-maintained short-term rental property


This article from Boston.com which was published less than 48 hours before Book Direct Day states that at present, a growing number of guests are opting for hotels, over short-term rental properties, with one of the guests’ reasons being:

“If the options are there, I will always pick a hotel. I like the experience better — room service, cleaning, and concierge,” said Keri from Maine. “The only thing is that they are often harder with small children.”

Let this be a clear reminder that the way a short-term rental experience is managed has got to evolve, in order to keep up with the growing demands of the market. This begins with promising guests from the very moment they consider booking with your property, that you do everything you can to provide them with a seamless experience.

  • Strategic touch points: Email guests with a confirmation immediately after they have booked with your property to cement trust and peace of mind. Continue building up their anticipation by sending them more personalised emails (within reason) with important check-in information. You might also choose to do this via a Guest App, such as Orana Stay. Ensure that you communicate with your guests after their stay as well to say thank you. The hospitality does not end after they’ve checked out of your property.


  • Personalisation & Differentiation: Think “hotels”. Perhaps you could leave a handwritten welcome note for your guests, for them to read when they check in. Some short-term rental companies invest in welcome hampers or keep a bottle of wine/ non-alcoholic alternative in the fridge, along with some basic essentials so that guests don’t have to worry about going shopping as soon as they check in. You could also consider leaving a mindfulness book on a guests’ bedside table, or something as simple as a sleep mask. These little gestures reaffirm to guests that you care.


  • Do What You Say You’re Going to Do: Unfortunately, a number of STR brands are guilty of making generous promises on their direct booking websites and failing to deliver in person. If you claim to have specific amenities available at your property such as a coffee machine, a hairdryer, or an iron – ensure that they’re there (and in good condition) for your guests to use during their stay. Not doing what you clearly state you’re going to do is a sure-fire way to erode trust between you and your guests; and this will impact their decision to recommend your brand to others.


  • Make it Clear to Your Guests that You Guarantee an Excellent Hospitality Experience Using I-PRAC: There is nothing more powerful than actually telling your guests from the moment they consider booking with you, that you guarantee exceptional standards of hospitality and will meet their expectations. In a world where short-term rental brands are falling short of this, you will immediately differentiate yourself by making this promise clear. Something as simple as “We understand that booking a short-term rental property can feel a bit hit-and-miss and sometimes you’re unsure of whether the service at an alternative accommodation will meet your expectations. This is why we’re I-PRAC Approved, meaning we can guarantee the highest standards of hospitality, from check-in to check-out, or your money back.” on the Trust Page of your website will make a huge difference in terms of conversions.


For the latter, you’ll require I-PRAC accreditation; but this small investment will make it crystal-clear to your guests that you will meet each of their expectations – something that is clearly a big concern at present.

We continue to see a higher rise in direct bookings from our I-PRAC Approved members, who take the initiative to create a Trust Page for their website and communicate to their audience what I-PRAC Approval actually means. (To learn more about creating a Trust Page for your direct bookings website, read Part One of this series).

Remember, I-PRAC Approval doesn’t only guarantee 100% protection against rental fraud, it also guarantees a seamless hospitality experience to guests. So, if for instance, a guest is unhappy with their experience at an I-PRAC Approved property, they have the option to contact I-PRAC directly (and avoid the awkward and biased argument from the short-term rental property host); and explain their concerns to our friendly team.

By stepping in as the “third-party trusted intermediary” that short-term rental guests are clearly looking for, we’ll then assess the situation and compensate as necessary. We’ll even take action and revoke a member’s I-PRAC accreditation if we feel that they are continuing to fall short against our standards. Just imagine, if you can repeatedly get this point across to your target guests (as an I-PRAC Approved member), you will immediately guarantee that their expectations will be met – and they will no longer feel any uncertainty when booking with you.

We expect that short-term rental companies who do not provide this guarantee to guests will begin to see a huge decline in their direct bookings over the course of the next three years, as the travel landscape continues to evolve. More people than ever have the desire to “see the world” right now; and while the STR industry has enormous potential for even greater growth, there’s a lot of work to be done to “flip those statistics” and make them work in favour of us, rather than hotels.

Make no mistake, guest expectations will only become more complex as the market continues to crowd with competition. Only those who can guarantee a seamless hospitality experience from the get-go will rise to the top.

The rest are likely to lose themselves in a pool of guest uncertainty, and unanswered concerns.

Be sure to bookmark the entire Trust Trilogy Series, (starting from Part 1) exclusive to I-PRAC; and continue to stay updated with our industry reports and guidance.