I do not advertise any product. Never did, never will. However, I am occasionally impressed with the way certain people do things, especially as compared to the way other people do it.
I have been a fan of Airbnb, Home Away and VRBO. They have a great concept, great software and, for the most part, are customer friendly. One thing they usually fail to do, however, is make the tourist feel “safe” and “comfortable”. What I mean by safe is not the difference between life and death, but simply feel at home in an unfamiliar place.
That is why I am such a big fan of The Plum Guide. Reading The Plum Guide of London (especially if you are in love with London, as I am) is getting more than a vague description of the home you may end up renting. With carefully curated glossy photos. You also get the good, the bad and the ugly: technical info is thorough in terms of location, transportation, access to public spaces…etc. Wifi and other technical gadgets. But what you also get is: “What we love about this space” as well as a detailed map indicating what is located “less than 10 min walk.” That includes a wide (or not so wide, depending on location) selection of restaurants, pubs and other eating and drinking places, in addition to cultural and fun destinations. But we all know that everything is not always honky dory in life (not even in perfidious London) and therefore The Plum Guide also provides “The Lows” for each rental property: it could be noise level, it could slightly delicate plumbing issues calling for careful handling. It could also be your location next to an all-night bakery whose owner loves opera.
Now is when I want to speak with London restaurateurs and make them realize the incredible source of potential additional revenue they can derive from The Plum Guide: every rental makes its own restaurant, bar and pub recommendations. Be sure to be one of them. Keep in mind that a foreign traveler derives great pride in making recommendations on special places in faraway places “the barmaid’s name is Fiona. Tell her Jack from Chicago sent you.” Actually The Plum Guide could be even more user friendly by being intimate (meaning on a first name basis, nothing more) with the restaurants and pubs in its neighborhood). Get into the coupon game. Everyone wins.
Another thing: what differentiates rentals such as those listed in The Plum Guide from staying in a traditional hotel (especially a luxury or top luxury one) is not the price you are saving on the room rate (as some rentals can be on par with hotel rates) but the high amount of tipping you have to do on top of it (before you know it you spend 40 to 50 pounds a day for the privilege of having room service delivered, the doorman open a taxicab door for you, or a bellman delivering shaving cream to the room. Not to mention the 3 to 5 pounds per night you should leave for the maid. Suppose you are staying 10 days, that becomes mucho dinero I’d rather spend having breakfast at the Wolseley every single day of my stay.)
How about the little book shop around the corner (as in the happy ending “Notting Hill”) they could use a recommendation. Likewise for the toy store down the street and the shoe repairman across the way (London is a city to walk, and has many a cobbled street.)
I do not have to stay at the Connaught, but I will gladly hit their bar for a very special drink mixed at the table. I might also imbibe at the Ritz, that special drink invented for the hotel’s 100th year anniversary, that contains actual gold leaf.
Whenever my wife and I are in London we have to hit Scott’s in Mayfair for flat oysters and the most fabulous sole meunière: that is what I enjoy spending my hard-earned money on.
PS: When in London, watch for traffic: it comes from the wrong direction…