Last month we started welcoming guests to our house having put it on Airbnb in October. It’s the whole house – we move out when guests move in – and we have left everything as it is except personal photographs, while we lock our wardrobe and office.
It has been an interesting experience to say the least and a huge learning curve but, to date, thoroughly enjoyable. Women have made the vast majority of bookings – for family reunions, get-togethers with friends and hen parties. Earlier this week we hosted an overnight sales meeting, while next week we will house a two-day business brainstorm. We are booked for weekends until the end of September, with two bookings for 2021 next year already. Here’s what we have we learned so far.
Anticipate guests’ needs: We gave a three-year-old guest an activity pack, while business guests received pads, pens and flipcharts. Vinyl left by the record player has been tailored to guests and you can often spot clues to things they would prefer when they book and in follow-up communications.
Provide clear and fast communication: Guests want to book immediately. They have made a decision where and when they want to stay and want to get on with their lives. If they have a question, they want it answered quickly and succinctly – certainly within an hour. Everything has to be instant.
Give guests detailed information: Guests may not need every bit of information in the house pack but they definitely want taxi numbers, takeaway menus and local pubs. We have added something to the house guide every week, usually linked to guests’ questions.
Add value without spending money: A “welcome” note was incredibly well received, as has the ability to extend leaving times by an hour. It has been easy to think of areas where we can exceed guest expectations.
Add value without regard to cost: A homemade cake, freshly baked loaf, tea and coffee all add up. As do free slippers, an emergency box, logs for the fire, hot water bottles, nice shower gel, and flip-flops for the hot tub. It has been easy to think of areas to spend money to exceed guest expectations. Our first PNL may suggest stricter control is required – but I hope not.
Trust your guests: This is still a family home, not an anonymous hotel room or second home with furniture that should have gone to the tip. There’s always a spot of trepidation returning “home” but every guest has shown respect – sometimes it has been hard to tell anyone has been there. However, we removed anything of major value – and fingers remain firmly crossed.
Pay huge attention to detail: I didn’t know I could be so uptight about toilet paper – how much, its position, how it looks, how straight it is. It has been remarkably easy to become obsessed about the way towels are folded, body-wash bottles are labelled, plates stacked, mirrors cleaned. I write checklist after checklist – usually at 2am.
Set values: These were decided early doors and have been useful when it comes to decisions. The house and everything in it has to be useful and beautiful. To paraphrase William Morris: “Have nothing in your house you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful and create lovely memories for guests.” So far we’ve no regrets and lots of joy.