Digital Guidebooks: The Definitive Guide For Vacation Rentals

Bed in a shortterm rental property with a laptop and coffee on the bedside table

As the host of a short-term rental, you’ll at least be familiar with digital guidebooks and some of the arguments in favor of using them, but you may still be wondering about what real difference they can make to your guests and business.

If you’re considering sticking with your current guides and house manuals, would guests even notice? In this article, we’ll talk about the answer to that question. 

We’ll also discuss why using traditional guidebooks could be making you uncompetitive, and why going digital is so important for your brand and occupancy rates.

So, to learn about what digital guidebooks are, why they’re so different from traditional guides, and how easy they are to create and maintain, keep reading.

Want to deliver a seamless welcome to your Airbnb guests?

Operto Guest provides your guests with a seamless digital guidebook right on their phones, without having to download an app.

What is a digital guidebook?

Digital guidebooks are an online resource for your guests, where they can find all the information they need about your property and how to get there, check-in and check-out procedures, and the local area along with your recommendations on how to get the most out of it.

Where traditional guidebooks and house manuals are limited in scope, time-consuming, and static, digital guidebooks are infinitely customizable, fast to update, and your first chance to enhance the guest experience.

The new must-have for professional hosts

In recent years, travelers researching where to vacation increasingly go to the same online platforms to consider and compare both short-term rentals and hotels on price, location, and quality. 

As a result, there has been a blurring of expectations—guests demand the personalized experience of an apartment when staying at a hotel, and the luxury of a hotel when staying at a vacation rental.

So, as an operator wishing to meet these evolving guest expectations on health and safety, quality of service, and technology, remaining analog makes you look out of date. Which means you have to professionalize your business and go smart.

And smart branding isn’t just about any one aspect of what you offer, it’s about the entire guest experience—so an intuitive booking process, in-app communications, contactless check-in, smart homes, and, yes, digital guidebooks.

Benefits of a digital guidebook

It’s time to move away from traditional welcome books and house manuals—digital guestbooks make you more competitive and guests love them.

Let’s look at why digital guidebooks are better for your guests and business.

Why do guests love digital guidebooks?

A thoughtfully constructed guidebook answers guests’ questions about the property, local area, and more. 

But where traditional guestbooks are overtime handled by dozens of individuals and can quickly become damaged or contain obsolete information, digital guidebooks are pristine, accessible, and easy to edit.

Here are some of the things guests enjoy most about digital guidebooks:

  • Accessibility

  • Guests can plan their arrival and start exploring local recommendations and activities online as soon as they’ve made a booking. They can then continue to consult your insights and suggestions throughout their stay from wherever they are.

  • Fantastic communication

  • Whether they’re consulting your directions, how to use the coffee machine, or where to eat, guests hear your voice through your guestbooks. So by making them informative, personable, and relevant, you give guests confidence they’re being well cared for.

  • Simplicity

  • Too often, vacations begin with a stressful experience. Guests don’t know where to go or what to expect, they have to wait to check in, and they’re confused about who to speak to. Digital guestbooks give guests back their time, control, and independence.

    Why should hosts create digital guidebooks?

    Your welcome books shouldn’t be a burden, hard to maintain, or difficult to replace. They should be immediate, practical, and insightful. They should also be a driver of new business and the first obvious indication that your service is exceptional.

    Here are some of the benefits of digital guestbooks for hosts:

    • Time-saving

    • With a well-formatted digital guestbook, guests can quickly answer their own questions at any time, from anywhere—from property basics to check-out details. And with fast and simple editing, you’ll get back hours of your time.

    • Smart branding

    • It’s easy to update digital guestbooks with the latest imagery and information—unlike with a traditional house manual, which is limited and even unhygienic. Digital guidebooks associate your brand with what’s smart, contemporary, and clean.

    • Offer the best guest experience

    • The biggest driver of new business is fantastic vacation experiences, and your digital guestbooks will minimize travel stress, streamline check-in, and give guests insights into your property and the local area.

    How to create a digital guidebook

    Using tools like Operto Guest, you can build your very own branded hospitality app, including all the information your guests could wish for in a guidebook and more. 

Operto-Digital guidebooks-Operto digital guidebooks

To create a digital guidebook, just follow these four very simple steps:

  • Edit your global settings, adding your logo and brand colors

  • These will now be used across all your guest-facing guides, messages, and services.

  • Create different guides with a click

  • These can be for different regions, units, or seasons, and can be divided by their type of information, for example: Welcome Guides, Amenities, Room Service.

  • Add categories and pages for each guide

  • For example, you could create these pages: Check-In Information, About Your Room, WiFi and Entertainment, Booking a Return.

  • Edit page templates

  • Every time you create a new page, it creates a template you can edit with an image, title, supporting text, and “Learn More” or “Order Now” button.

Now, your guests can use their Guest Portal to access your guides and see directions to where they’re staying, check-in and check-out details, the house manual, and vacation rental amenities, or to find out about the local area, and order additional services.

What should go in your digital guidebook?

The digital guestbook is where your guest’s vacation begins, so as you’re creating your guides, consider their vacation journey from arrival to departure, the difficulties they might encounter, and what they’ll be excited to experience.

Use these category ideas to help you develop a fantastic digital guidebook for an amazing guest experience:

  • Arrival information

    • Directions and transport options including timetables and interactive maps

    • Check-in time and unique access codes

    • Local amenities and quick snack/breakfast/lunch options

  • Departure information

    • Check-out details including time and any information on how to leave the property

    • Directions and transport information

  • The house manual

    • WiFi access

    • How-tos for smart devices, like the thermostat or kitchen appliances

    • How-tos for other home appliances, including video instructions

    • Information on the pool, barbecue, or other house features

    • House rules, including on parties, noise levels, and maximum visitors

  • Where to go

    • Local restaurants, bars, and cafes, including dish and cocktail recommendations

    • Where to watch the game

    • Museums, squares, parks, and other sites

    • Famous landmarks with notes on how to get there

    • Neighborhoods to explore for food, clothes, nightlife, and more

  • What to do

    • Local beach recommendations, water sports, and boat trips, including where to hire gear

    • Hikes, bike rides, and other local excursions

    • Shopping arcades, including notes on further dining options

    • Shows and concerts

  • Summer and winter guides

    • Make your information and recommendations seasonally specific with separate guides for summer and winter (note that with Operto Guides, you can switch between this with a click)

  • Branding

    • With Operto Guest, it’s easy to add your logo and brand colors to all your digital guides

Operto-Digital guidebooks-Your logo global settings

Why digital guidebooks are great for guests and business 

Digital guidebooks can form a crucial part of your branding as you compete with hotels and introduce new guests to your property, local area, and vacation possibilities.

By creating a comprehensive digital guestbook, you can offer guests the vacation experience they’re looking for—smart, immediate, clean, and flexible—giving them the independence to plan ahead and start getting excited about their stay from the moment they book.

And as well as enhancing the guest experience, digital guidebooks give you time. Unlike traditional manuals and instructions, they’re easy to update, unlimited in scope, and you never have to worry about them getting lost or damaged.

Want to deliver a seamless welcome to your Airbnb guests?

Operto Guest provides your guests with a seamless digital guidebook right on their phones, without having to download an app.


How long does it take to create a digital guidebook?

With automated recommendations and formatting at a click, digital guestbooks are very fast to create. Since you can continue to update them over time, you can add basic information initially, and continue to edit and supplement them later. Also, once you’ve created your first digital guidebook, creating new versions is incredibly easy.

What are digital guidebooks used for?

Digital guidebooks are used to introduce your guests to the property, provide them with all the essential information they need—such as entrance codes, passwords, and check-procedures—and any other useful information you’d like to provide. For example, you can give local recommendations on where to eat, what to see, and what to do.

What’s the difference between a guidebook and a handbook?

A traditional handbook of information provided by the host for guests normally contains some house rules and information on how to use certain appliances. Essentially, the scope of a handbook is limited to the size of the book, and the time you have available when creating it. 

With a digital guidebook, though, you can set up as many categories as you wish and give key arrival and departure information, cool ideas on where to visit, and up-to-the-minute suggestions on what to do. Digital guidebooks are easy to keep up-to-date, and guests can start using them to plan ahead from the time of their booking.