The “H” in Hosting is HOSPITALITY.
There are a lot of people, investors, and big companies jumping into the Short-term Rental (STR)/Vacation Rental(VR) business. Facebook has groups with 55K worth of people who while away their hours griping an awful lot about guests who did this, and that and oh my, isn’t it awful what they did to my white towels?!
We are not in the renting rooms game, although plenty, including one particularly awful host who doesn’t even provide toilet paper, may disagree.
Hospitality starts with liking people. If that’s not you, then you should probably seriously reconsider this as a way to earn income. I have met wonderful people from all over the world, Australia to Sweden, and in between. Guests are often amazing, and wonderful. They also can be a complete nightmare, as the legions of horror stories from the guest gripers’ will attest.
How do you get more of the good ones, and few, if any of the bad ones? How do you keep your stress levels low, personal satisfaction high, and returns on your investment excellent?
The word “guest” implies someone who is welcome into your space. They’re not the enemy. I was amazed, visiting Bali, how the Balinese treat strangers with such exceptional kindness.
If you start with the idea that offending, or inconveniencing your guests is a sin, and provide them with an exceptional experience, you will be rewarded with standing out from the unfortunate number of “hosts” who treat their “renters” poorly. That leads to better reviews, room rates, and experience for you, and them.
Transactions with guests should not be “transactional.” I can tell you about the makings of a great stay, or a bad stay, as a guest, simply from the interactions that I have with the host during booking. I always ask questions, because I want to understand who is hosting me.
If it starts with a nice tone:
“Hi, Brian! Thanks for the kind words about the place. Yes, we do have a heated pool, in the winter. In the summer here, the pool is over 90°F without doing a thing. Please let me know if there’s anything else that I can answer, prior to your stay. I’m sending you some information, from our guest book, so you’ll know more about the place. I hope to see you this Fall!”
What we often see is either a completely canned response, that’s poorly written, or, I’ve even had this:
“We tell you about that after you book. Thanks.”
Who do I want to stay with?
During the Stay
Greet your guests, when they arrive. Lockboxes should really be a backup, not the first line of welcome. If they come in late, or you have someplace to be, and can’t arrange to connect, then the box will have to do.
Have some small touches, when they walk in, from a welcome chalkboard, with a written welcome, with their names on it, to a couple of little “extras,” like some fresh-baked cookies, or a booklet of discounts to local eateries and/or attractions. We’ve found memory foam bath mats, not expensive, and a bit plusher towel, also make the guest feel good about spending money with you. All of those “free” extras are, in fact, just baked into the cost of the place. While there are value shoppers looking for Uncle Fred’s couch to crash on, more and more people are choosing Airbnb over hotel space because of the privacy, and enhanced experiences.
Some people can charm their way into a booking, but then become totally transactional. At one recent Bay Area booking, after reading the one page, poorly typed “instruction” sheet I texted:
“Hey! We’re checking out tomorrow. Anything that we can do to help you out?”
“No. Read the sheet.”
Better possible answers?
“Thanks! If you could drop the trash in the can at the driveway, on the way out, that would be really appreciated!”
“Thanks, but we’re good. We want you to have a relaxing stay. My cleaning crew will handle it. Just let me know when you’ll be leaving, so I can pop out and wish you safe travels!”
LISTING DESCRIPTIONS - BE CLEAR
The first impression of you, and your place, begins with your listing. 90% of the griping that I see, from hosts, could be stopped by being far clearer, and more transparent, about what is available, and what is requested/required from guests.
If you’re not an ace at staging, and photography, of rooms, GET ONE. Dark interior photos, or photos of the exterior taken at the wrong time of day do not sell your listing for top dollar. Beds look drab without throw pillows. They’re cheap, and they add a lot of pop to the bed. One host even thought it was okay to shoot a room with a stripped bed. Just the mattress.
Be transparent. I know, as a guest, that I dump places where there are no photo of the bathrooms, or minimal ones. Something is not right. Even if the bathroom is tight, you can break down the photos in a way that it can be seen. If you have known problems, fix them, don’t hide them.
Whatever you use in the room, for your shoot, that, or something equivalent, better be in there. No one likes to look at a beautiful photo, to find out that the room is a total let-down when they arrive.
If you have a hyperactive kid, living on the floor over your guests, who sounds like a Dutch Clogging club, pounding the floor, putting “We have a very active eleven-year-old upstairs in the daytime, but he visits his dad on the weekends.”
When people are told about wrinkles in the listing, they at least were informed, and rented after knowing it, which greatly reduces the “We had no idea…” complaints in reviews.
“It gets very sunny in the afternoon. The view is beautiful, but best to keep the curtains drawn, if you go out, from 3p-5p, to keep the room nice and cool.”
Another HUGE shortcoming of many, many listing descriptions/house rules, are failing to tell the potential guest about what you expect of them. Guests are not mentalists. They can’t read your mind. So many hosts get bent out of shape about the guests doing this, or that, but they never spelled out, at the rental point, what they want/need, and what guests should expect.
“In respect of our neighbors, with small children whose bedrooms are next to our walkway, we ask that you do not have loud conversations after 9p at night on the walkway, passing their house.”
“Air Conditioning should be set to 75°F/24°c when you leave the property.”
“We ask that you please strip the bed, and put the sheets, and all of the towels, into the tub to help our housekeepers, at checkout.”
“Pool/beach towels are stocked daily in the cabinet by the pool cabana. Please use those outdoors, and kindly return them to the marked hamper next to the cabinet.”
The single biggest beef with guests comes from listings being used for parties. Hosts will shorthand “No parties” in a description, and think that the guests understand your rules. Be clearer:
Let people know, up front, about noise rules that are clear:
Here, on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, hurricanes are an annual issue. Many people hesitate booking, during those months, because of the uncertainty. If you have a Hurricane Policy, that builds on Airbnb’s, it tells the guest what to expect:
“We operate in a wood building, in a hurricane evacuation zone. If we are in the incidence cone, as published by the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS), within seventy-two (72) hours prior to your arrival, for what is projected to be a Category 1, or greater, hurricane, we will close, and cancel your reservation with Airbnb. If you are already on property, we will advise you to make plans to leave within the time window of the NWS. See Airbnb’s policy for partial refund of your stay.”
LEARN TO READ PEOPLE
Hosting is a very rewarding experience. You meet some AWESOME people! With that said, you need to “read” your guest well. One of the reasons that I like to do check-in is so that we can make some basic contact. They know that I’m not an absentee Airbnb owner, that I value their stay, etc. I also get to understand what they want out of their stay.
Some people are very open, chatty, and tell you that they want a lot of interaction. Others are just here to get away for a few days, quietly, and be left alone. I’ve seen guests start quiet, then, when they find out that you’re approachable, open up quite a bit. We’ve also had guests that were very friendly, but then they definitely needed their space. There’s a certain amount of theatre in hosting. Knowing how much to give each guest is an art form of hosting.
Everyone will have, at one point, or another, people who are difficult, unhappy, etc. Rather than become combative, along with them, kill them with kindness. If you don’t have someone coming for two days, does it really kill you to offer a late checkout? If someone lands at the airport early, and wants to check in, if you can’t, you can always offer to hold their luggage, and move it in for them, when their space is ready. I’ve not only suggested cool places to eat, or be, while we’re turning the space, but, for those who don’t drive, I’ve even run them up to a nearby lunch spot, to save them an Uber. Save the few of the few, the die-hard Karen, people tend to balance out the kindness to the thing that aggravated them.
HOW THIS RELATES TO WHAT YOU EARN & HOW YOU ENJOY HOSTING
Some new hosts make the mistake of trying to price competitively by features. We have a pool, and a tree. They have a pool, and a tree. We’re in Neighborhood X. So are they. They get $X. That’s what we charge. When you step up, become a true “host,” and not just a short-term landlord, providing a place with both personality, and magic, and all of the little touches that make a stay truly experiential, you will be rewarded by increased booking rates that it all commands.
Increased rates, and clarifications of the experiences, and expectations, also tend to bring more of the kind of “good” guest that will make your experience with an Airbnb STR far far more rewarding, to both you, and your guests.
The other “H” in hosting is HAPPY. Be happy, and hosting will go well!
Welcome to the Airbnb family!
@Brian1613 , maybe “H” in hosting might be “holistic”. I do agree it’s about hospitality, but the true connection requires a greater 3D inter dimensional approach.
Go the distance, do the hard yards, set expectations in concrete, offer full disclosure in word and image and that does include your hurricane plan. (or any other seasonal climatic issues that are in your area)
At the bottom of my details, I mention that we have a cyclone management plan. I don’t leave a hard copy in the space, only during our cyclone season. This is what will happen at this site. No more, no less. You are part of it by going along with it, or check out, for this is the procedure during an emergency. Clear, concise communication.
After all, common sense powers are never the same for any two people. 💐🐊💨💧
🌺 Above all, be the host you want to meet. Be the space you would want to spend time in…..🌺
The only reason that I leave it in, all of the time, is because we get bookings months out. One thing that I didn’t mention, is that when you post your policies, it also helps Airbnb Customer Support ground and backstop them. If they’re only up intermittently, I don’t think that they can hold the guest to account for something that they may not have seen…
Just a thought 🙂
I agree @Brian1613. My basic info is in the listing, but the whole documented plan, which lists who does what, isn’t in the space during the Dry season. With being a friendly family place, it can scare the middle year aged kids.
Heres my wording which is the least entry in my listing’s house rules:
(Severe weather event also known as a hurricane/typhoon)
The Cyclone Season in the Southern Hemisphere, can be considered to occur when there is an active monsoon between November and April. Although “extremely rare”, if there was to be a severe weather event that was deemed dangerous during your stay; as your host I can assist you in decisions for evacuation from the city or information regarding external cyclone shelters. However, if you were to stay in Darwin, you will be responsible for your own first aid kit, survival kit, including mandatory Covid19 PPE (minimum of masks, sanitiser etc) and all personal safety outside the property, and within the property.
During such an event, if you choose to leave the homestay space without communication to the host, it will be deemed that you have “checked out” of the Homestay space. Public cyclone shelters are made available for the general community. However, as the emergency controller of the homestay property, the standard house rules would take on additional extraordinary emergency preparations. The second room and breezeway of the Airbnb Homestay, would be commandeered - as it is the designated evacuation shelter for our family, and only registered guests on the property, to use. The space would no longer be private for your personal use. You would be required to follow all instructions and requests for safety by the hosts, the site’s emergency controllers. If instructions are not followed, then your stay will be cancelled. Once again this is not something that happens quickly. The NT government and emergency authorities give notice and it is an event that is extremely rare.
@Brian1613 I would be careful sharing the word for word conversations as an example of "what not to do" just in the off chance that some frequent the forums. I am sure you can get your point across without potentially embarrassing others 🙂 I am sure that is not your intent.
Its definitely the case that some hosts are short with their communication, and some expect that guests will read their guides and manuals and do not want to repeat them via text or email. I have stayed with hosts who never checked in with me or communicated at all. Personally I don't mind that. My goal in traveling rarely involves becoming intimate friends with the person providing my accommodation. Others may want that relationship. It honestly depends on individual personalities and expectations for the listing. If a guest wants contact with a host, a shared stay would be optimal. For a full house or remote host listing, the rules may be different. I think its incumbent on the host to let the guest know what to expect. But guests should also be mindful when booking that they choose spaces that are aligned with what they prefer or need.
A two way street allows the best flow of traffic. I would say your H should stand for Harmony, which is compatibility in opinion and action. Ideally a guest and host are aligned with what can be offered and what is expected. Many of the complaints on both sides are entirely preventable if there had been some discussion about expectations prior to the stay. Its no wonder hosts are frustrated when a guest doesn't partake of the information provided in the listing and desires something totally different than what is on offer. And its not any secret that guests who book a place expecting to have a particular amenity or style of interaction, only to find that its not available, will leave a poor review.
Understood. The names have been changed to protect the less than innocent. The quotes are reasonable approximations.
As I mentioned in the article, learning to read your guest is a skillset. People who want their privacy get it. Those who want more? Get that too. So, when you come to visit, I’ll be sure to welcome you, and leave you to your devices. 😉
Better communication, and clearer communication always makes for great stays.
Aloha! We agree! The H should stand for hospitality and not people that are just into making a quick buck! We recently went to Puerto Rico and out of 6 places that we had booked on Airbnb we ended up having to leave five out of six. We were just looking for clean places that were well maintained. Not asking too much! What we got were really dirty, and holes in the walls and everything broken. They were $300.00 a night plus cleaning and taxes. The one that we had a fabulous time at, was a host that hospitality was the focus. Treating people like you would like to be treated. All the rest were either Property Managers that were really bad at their jobs and others who were individuals just looking to make a quick buck. Airbnb needs to focus on quality and quantity in our opinion. We love hosting!
Great topic. It’s amazing how you can get to know people you will never meet in person with a little hospitality. My last guest left me flowers wine and chocolate. She put the H in hospitality for guests. ( see photo: it’s so pretty I may use it in my listing)