15 Hacks for the HomeAway Hospitality App

15 Hacks for the HomeAway Hospitality AppBy not making their newest tool optional, HomeAway’s release of the Hospitality app has been met with quite a bit of backlash from vacation rental owners.

I’ve read the comments of disgust from my fellow owners, including conspiracy theories about HomeAway taking over the world (okay, so not the entire world, but taking a bite of every piece of the proverbial pie).

Although an owner cannot opt out of the Hospitality app, there are a few hacks that owners can use to make this tool work for their property.

Note that no one is forcing you to fill in property information or to give explicit directions to your property through this app. And certainly no one is holding you down until you cry “uncle” and give in to using it.

However, as time passes, travelers will continue to become more tech savvy and begin to expect a custom app for nearly everything they interact with. Look at your own smartphone, and you might notice that there is an app for nearly everything around you:

  • bank
  • grocery store
  • pizza
  • coffee
  • radio station
  • pharmacy
  • gym
  • doctor
  • newspaper
  • movie theatre
  • photographer
  • police department
  • accountant
  • as well as many others, especially in the service industry.

As a vacation rental owner, you are in the service industry, whether you like it or not. So why shouldn’t you have your own custom app for your property, one that enhances your guests' experiences?

Better Experience = Warm and Fuzzy Feelings = Happier Guest

Following are fifteen hacks to make the Hospitality app work for you:

1. If you want the app to disintegrate.

If you don’t want to utilize the app for your guests, then don’t.

There are two ways not to use the app:

First, if you don’t use Reservation Manager or input your guests' emails into the calendar on HomeAway/VRBO, then your guests will never receive an invite to the Hospitality app.

Second, if you do use Reservation Manager, then simply let your guests know that you are not using the app for your property.

The original invite email that HomeAway sends out is not editable at this time. However, that doesn’t stop you from telling your guests that an automatic email will arrive shortly, and that they will be receiving your property’s sensitive information by another method.

Then, don’t forget to drop a quick note in each required info block instead of leaving it blank. A simple sentence will suffice: “Please refer to our welcome packet for this information.”

2. Change the font formatting outside the app editor.

You can create your text in a Word doc, changing the font and size to what you want, as well as the color of the font, and then copy and paste the text into the area you want it in the app.

Hospitality Hack - Use your Word doc to control font, size, and color.
Hospitality app Hack - use your Word doc to control font, size, and color.

3. Edit the Welcome message.

Use the Welcome message to remind your guests where they will find property information, whether you are using the app, you have already emailed the info to them, or the info is in a welcome book at the property.

Hospitality app Hack - Edit the Welcome message.
Hospitality app Hack - edit the Welcome message.

4. Give the guest secure information when you decide, not when the app says so.

The Hospitality app will never reveal the top secret info more than 14 days from the arrival date, even if you unlocked it as soon as the balance was paid in full a month earlier.

If you are more comfortable granting access 3 days before arrival, then set a reminder on your calendar and click the red unlock icon on your scheduled day.

Hospitality app Hack - Unlock security info when and if you want.
Hospitality app Hack - unlock security info when and if you want.

5. Deny access to the map and door code.

The app can still be used even without the door code and map unlocked. Fill in only the blocks you want your guests to have information about and relax.

6. Use the portions you want to use.

If you want to utilize some of the app, like recommending grocery stores or restaurants, but there is info that you don’t want to give in the app, then don’t give it.

A simple note stating where the guest will find the information is all that you need. Here is a sample one for the wi-fi:

“The wi-fi access information will be at the property. You will find it posted on the refrigerator as well as in the information book on the kitchen counter.

7. Build your guest email list.

Save the names and emails of additional guests that are invited to the app. Simply add them to your MailChimp list or other email list manager or place in a spreadsheet document for later use.

8. Directions when the guest gets lost.

Be hospitable and remind your guests that the app will work with their smartphone’s map app to give them directions to the property no matter where they currently are, even during their stay.

So if your guests get a little lost after dinner one evening, they can simply access the app, tap the map icon, click the “open in maps” button on the bottom, and let their device take over the navigation.

9. Use the Hospitality app offline.

Tell your guest to access the app while they have wi-fi access or cell phone service, and their phone will automatically download the information when they first open it, making most of the app accessible, even in remote areas.

The offline info does not include the map or any other portion that must access the internet, but your guest can still browse through the app for the door code, the heat and AC controls, the wi-fi code, the check out instructions, and more.

10. Save the map for use offline.

To save the map, buy viagra tell the guest to grab a screenshot from their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Instructions on how to take a screenshot for different devices are here.

11. Top secret info for just one guest.

Add any sensitive guest-specific information under the “access my rental” area.

For example, if they paid an additional fee for use of the golf cart, note the access information in the notes section under the door code area. This information is shown only to the guests on the particular reservation.

Hospitality app Hack - Special instructions for just one guest can go in the Notes section below the Door code.
Hospitality app Hack - special instructions for just one guest can go in the Notes section below the Door code.

12. Edit the Thank You message.

This email is usually sent 12:00 pm local time the day your guests depart. You can take advantage of this email to thank them for choosing your property, to ask them if there is anything that would have made their stay better, and to even request a review if you are comfortable doing so at this stage.

Note that the Hospitality app will soon send a push notification requesting the guest rate your property and leave a review. The notification will be unobtrusive and pop up the evening before the guest is scheduled to depart.

Owners that were in the first release of the Hospitality app should note that the app no longer sends a review request email with the owner’s name in the sender field.

13. Tweak the app.

If you think the app needs a tweak, or you want an information widget added (i.e. hot tub, zip lines, guided tours, farmer’s market, local shortcuts), simply tell HomeAway by using the feedback button on your Hospitality dashboard.

The app team reads every single email and notes each enhancement request. If enough owners request the same enhancement, the app team will eventually make it happen and then email the group that requested the tweak that it is available.

Keep in mind that the app team is unable to respond to every single email, but they do read all of them. I have been promised this.

Hospitality app Hack - send requests to the product team through the feedback tab.
Hospitality app Hack - send requests to the product team through the feedback tab.

14. Deny a guest access to the app.

Delete a reservation from your Hospitality dashboard if you no longer want a guest to have access to the app.

15. Use your email instead of a guest email.

I know owners who do this so they can filter the emails that the app sends before forwarding the emails to their guests.

Personally, I would not use this hack. My primary reason is that I really don’t want the extra work of forwarding emails to my guests.

I first started using the app (when it was Glad to Have You – read my original review of it here and then follow up review here) to speed up my workflow, to cut down on manually sending emails that could be automated, and to give my guests warm fuzzies.

But the primary reason for not using this hack is that if you do it, you will end up with an app that doesn’t work correctly. Then, you have the pleasure of spending time on the phone with HomeAway Customer Service, trying to figure out what went wrong.

The Hospitality app dashboard is a sleek machine that will deliver warm fuzzies to your guests daily, but you have to use it properly.

Your guests should receive only five emails from the Hospitality app:
- the Invite (a few hours after you accept the reservation or manually enter your guest’s information)
- the Reminder (6:00 pm local time, 2 days before arrival)
- the Welcome (4:00 pm local time on the day of arrival)
- the Check Out (4:00 pm local time the day before departure)
- the Thank You (12:00 pm local time the day of departure)

HomeAway knows that many owners have been using this hack to circumvent the few app emails being sent to guests. So I asked Ryan Turner, Senior Product Manager at HomeAway, if there are any consequences from owners tricking the system.

Ryan told me that using the same email address for every reservation will hinder an owner from using new features that the team plans to roll out soon.

So my advice? Don't use the same email address for every single reservation.

Should you create a reservation with your own email address to test the app and see what a guest sees? Yes, absolutely!

Which, brings me to two little features you may not have noticed...the reinvite button and the preview button. You can easily send another invite to a guest in case they mistakenly deleted the original one.

And then you can click on the preview button to see exactly what your guest will see in the Hospitality app at different stages of their stay at your property.

Hospitality app Hack - see what your guests will see in the preview and resend an invite.
Hospitality app Hack - see what your guests will see in the preview and resend an invite.

Share these hacks with your vacation rental owner friends. I’ve got the handy shortcut widgets to your favorite social media sites on the left and below this post.

Do you have another hack that you like to use to make the Hospitality app work for you? Or maybe one of the above hacks made you feel as giddy as a schoolgirl.

Please tell me about it in the comments below.

#vacationrentalmarketing #marketingtips #hacks #creativesolutions #homeaway #hospitalityapp

By the way, the best way to stay on top of all the good stuff is to get on my vacation rental marketing email list.

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Tyann Marcink
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18 thoughts on “15 Hacks for the HomeAway Hospitality App

  1. Hollyq

    As akways, amazing information! Thank you for taking the time to research and put this together for us>

  2. Marco

    Thanks for your tips. After all the fury about the Hospitality App in the HomeAway forum, we have been holding off. We have been very happy using the Glad To Have You App and do control when we choose to make passcodes and other details available to our guests. It looks like we won't be able to avoid moving to it by Nov 1 based on an email we got from HomeAway today. We don't want Guests getting emails about two different Apps.

    I haven't been able to tell if HomeAway made some significant steps backward with the Hospitality App or if the same people would have complained just as much about GTHY.

    Since we're used to GTHY, will we see any significant positives or negatives with the Hospitality App compared to GTHY?


    1. Post author

      Thanks for your questions, Marco. I think the fury in the forums would have been much less if the app had been made optional. HomeAway requiring this app to be automatically sent to guests without the approval of the owners really pushed many owners' button.

      Comparing GTHY to this - it is nearly identical. HomeAway even brought over one of the creators of GTHY to run the app for them (Ryan Turner). There are many new features that they will be releasing shortly, including grocery delivery and an integration with Uber.

      As for moving from GTHY to the Hospitality app, GTHY has an export button that downloads a file that you then simply upload to your Hospitality dashboard, making the process about 30 seconds to get all your info over to the new app. Super easy.

      I still have guests on GTHY, but any reservations I made after the original release of the Hospitality app, I put the new guests over on HA. So currently, I have guests on either one, but haven't had to move a guest from GTHY to HA - I will have to do that as soon as they let us know when GTHY will be shut down.

      1. Marco

        Thanks Tyann. The export capability will be very helpful! I was not looking forward to re-entering all that data. We had basically put our whole Guest Book content into GTHY and then some. It has worked extremely well but I was dreading putting it all in again to essentially the same app under a different name. It seemed like a colossal waste of time and the 'forced' nature of it from HomeAway wasn't helping!! At least we can bypass the data entry.

        Thanks again.

  3. Hi Tyann, really interesting discussion, and I've also followed your prior articles on GTHY. As a guest I welcome solutions like this, and I like to think I'm a reasonably representative demographic - husband, father of 2, always with gadget in hand, chief planner of the family alway looking for an easy life on vacation! As an owner, well I can see some of the pain but, whatever your view is on HA's motives, this is something of value to the guest, your customer! Just my 2c. Thanks. Andy

  4. Hi Tyann -

    I appreciate the information provided about HM. It has been a time of great frustration for me; I did not have GTHY and the VRBO/HA customer support people are so woefully un-prepared to field questions, it is useless to call them.

    Do you or anyone else have a hack to this problem? When I type in all of the Suggestions for a property in VRBO, how do I have those Suggestions copy over to another property just one mile down the road? In the other sections of HM, an orange button at the page bottom allows for the same information to post to another property. However, the Suggesstions, which so happen to take the most time to input, must be retyped for every property.



    1. Post author

      Great question, Rick. And, I have an answer. :) Ryan told us at the Summit in San Diego that they are currently working on this feature, and it should be ready in a few weeks. If you can hold off for a bit, you will soon be able to copy all the suggestions from one property to another as easy as the other information.

  5. Carol Livingstone

    Nice summary, Tyann. I've thought of one more tip. When you add suggestions to the app (either by selecting from the Google choices or by typing in a new one), they will appear in the order entered. So, be sure to enter the most important one first. For example, if there are two hospitals nearby, be sure to enter the nearest one first. Your favorite restaurant or "things to do" should be the first one entered.

    If you change your mind about the order later, you'll need to delete what is there and then add them back in the new order.

    1. Carol Livingstone

      Upon further testing, I must take back my comment above. Regardless of the order in which the items appear in the dashboard, in the mobile app, they will appear in order based on distance, closest ones first. So, if you carefully order them so that your favorite restaurant is on top, it will be shuffled down into the rest of the pack and that lunch counter around the corner will be first on the list.

      And distance is "as the crow flies", not driving or walking distance, so this could be a problem.

  6. Thanks so much for these hacks. I may be looking right at it and not seeing it, but I can't find the buttons you mentioned for preview and resend. Can you help? Thanks!

    1. Post author

      Hi Martha,

      Here are the steps:

      1. Log into your HA/VRBO dashboard.
      2. Click the Hospitality link in the left side navigation to log into that dashboard.
      3. Click on My Guests are the top.
      4. The current guest will show, with the previews to the right of the different parts of their stay.
      5. To see a different guest, find them on the left side and click on their box.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Hazel Thompson

    I'd like to disable the 'Checkout reminder notification'. As we live on the premises this notification is embarrassing

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