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When a guest finally arrives on your doorstep, everyone is excited! First impressions are made in a split second. In most cases, this will be the first in-personal interaction you have with your guests, even if you have been emailing back and forth everyday for the last month-- the initial greeting can set the tone for the duration of the stay.
When I first greet my guests I am sporting the biggest smile and I try to make them feel quickly comfortable. I usher them into the house and let them know they are very welcome in the space. Often people are just excited to set down their backpacks and take off their shoes. Offer your guests some refreshing water and a chance to use the restroom. Accomplishing these small tasks may help your guests feel refreshed and help them feel more focused during your tour.
We have many guests that have traveled long distances, all they want to do is start enjoying their holiday. This is when it's very important to feel out the situation- as the host you usually need to impart certain important information, such as where the towels are, how to use the locks and where their room is, etc. Read your guests mood. Give a great tour of your home, but if they seem really haggard keep it short and sweet.
You will find some guests are eager to pick your brain about your city. They ask for restaurant and entertainment suggestions. They really take advantage of your local knowledge, often in the end saving themselves time and stress trying to figure logistics on their own. I like sharing these goodies; I love my city and want to share that excitement with my guests. Also, this inside knowledge is of great value to your guests.
I've had a couple of check-ins that went too well! One that specifically comes to mind, was a family I loved; we had a great time talking about our different cultures and homes: they were from India and I the US. We reached a certain point where I really needed to leave because we had reservations for a ferry. They knew everything they needed about the house, they had the house guide and keys-- so I sweetly excused myself and went on holiday myself! After they left we exchanged personal email addresses, I hope to reach out to them when I get to visiting India.
Having a stand-alone house guide is one of my strongest tools. It contains all the information from the tour, but with photos to illustrate my points. I also add additional information about local points of interest and phone numbers for taxi companies. No matter how much information your guest retained from the house tour, they will most likely remember the guide, and refer back to it if they have a question during their stay. I also like to give them a quick walkthrough of the guide. I point out important sections, such as emergency contact numbers, how to use appliances and the wifi password.
I think it's a great idea to practice your tour ahead of time! Go through all the motions: turn on the gas stove, open the drawer to show more trash bags, etc. This may seem silly, and stuff you do everyday, but-- especially when you first start-- giving a tour of your space is not normal. You may feel nervous or stressed out. Once you nail it on your own, give a friend or partner the same tour. They may have suggestions on how to impove.
Also as you walk through your space, try to view it as a guest who has just arrived. This can be a bit of a challenge. Guests are unfamiliar with it's nooks and crannies, so they will see things differently. I suggest this because, you may notice something that you didn't before.
To keep the tour interesting, ask your guests questions. I wouldn't ask anything too personal, but as about their stay. What do they have planned? Where will they travel next? Have they been to the area before? I feel these questions often come up natuaraly anyways, but it's always nice to keep a few good ones in your back pocket to ask when the conversation starts to lull. Also, it's a great way to get a feel for your guest. If you are staying in the house as well, you will get an idea if your guests will be coming back late at night, etc. This is a great opportunity to make suggestions. If they mention relaxing with a margarita, suggest a place you think serves a killer cocktail.
We primarily rent out our whole space at a time, during that time my partner and I go on a mini-holiday. We make sure to have everything we need for that time packed and ready to go by the time our guests arrive. We tuck our bags in an out of the way place and grab them as we're waving and sending well wishes to our guests.
Of course, if you are staying in your space and only renting out a room, you don't to worry about that. But you do still need to think about timing and be ready for when your guests arrive.
You want to avoid making your guests feel rushed. You want them to feel welcomed and help integrate them to their new "home." I have had moments-- especially when the group arrived significally later than they said-- when all I wanted to do was toss our extra set of keys at them and run out the door. I exaggerate a bit with that senerio. ;-) I enjoy welcoming new people to our space.
You also what to avoid dragging out the check-in process. If you notice your guests starting to get significantly bored and antsy, I would jump to the remaining important points in the tour and make sure they know there is additional information in the guide. My feeling is they are paying for the space for a specific duration-- they probably want to use it.
As you part ways from your guests, they have the keys and guide in hand, make sure they know how to contact you in case of emergency. I ask guests to freely email me, but only call me for emergencies. This is something that is important to me. I always have my phone available, incase something happens, but I do not want to be woken in middle of the night because they are looking for the hairdyer. This in itself keeps me from feeling like a stress case. But feel this out for yourself and choose whatever feels right.
The check-in is more than just handing over keys and the guide; your guests are finally putting a face to the emails. Be thoughtful and have fun with it, your guests will be sure to have an enjoyable time!
Ashley Parent is an AirBnB host and instigates the magic at http://blissylife.com
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