Thursday, December 29, 2016

The joys of hosting an AirBnB place

It's now just on two years that we have been on AirBnB, where we host the Aloe Cottage, our one bedroom garden apartment. At last count, visitors from 26 countries have stayed with us.

Now, let me say up front, running an AirBnB place is hard work.

That's if you're serious about it, which most AirBnB hosts aren't. A while ago we had to relocate a guest after we had an unexpected power outage. We contact five or six AirBnB hosts in the area, and only two bothered to reply, the one only two days later. In the end we booked them into a guest house, because we simply weren't sure of the quality we'd get at the available AirBnB places.

A few weeks ago Adeline spent a weekend in Cape Town and stayed at an AirBnB place. She should have known it was going to be less than ideal when most of the online reviews complained about the intermittent wi-fi. But she didn't expect to open the door one morning and see the host's husband prancing around in his boxers! The same host approached Adeline afterwards, asking for tips on how to improve her rating. Start by dressing your husband properly in the morning, and then invest in an uncapped ADSL line, Adeline said.

Spring cleaning the cottage after each guest, doing laundry, and being on point when they arrive - sometimes hours later than they said they'd pitch up - is hard work. To be sure, we spoil our guests, which adds to the chores. There's juice on arrival, flowers, a bottle of wine, a bowl of fruit and a jar of cookies, and that's only a partial list of extras. Recently guests of ours who were traveling the world asked about hairdressers and dentists, and we booked their appointments. We've run many guests to Gautrain station a few kilometers away, just to save them the Uber ride.

With the number of AirBnB places growing in double digits, you have to go the extra mile to be on top.

But the work that one has to put in is far outstripped  by the sheer pleasure derived from seeing guests enjoying their stay. How do you know  your guests are having fun? Here's a clue: If a young couple checks in after a long flight and don't show up for three days, you know they're happy :). If you see a guests sitting under a tree in the garden with a laptop, catching up on their blogging, you know they're content. I mean, they could also be sitting in a coffee shop, but they choose not to.

Here are a few of the things we find guests are most appreciative of, and will help ensure a glowing review after they've left.

- The one thing most guests mention is our garden. We don't have a large, expansive garden, but there are five water features, which I think are the things that attract attention.

- A well-equipped kitchen. It's really just a small nook with a plate stove, fridge and microwave, but we can see the utensils, pots and pans are well-used, especially by those staying for more than a few days. (Which is also why we went to Mr Price Home this weekend and replaced the worn utensils!)

- The informal lecture on what to see, where eat, and what to do. We have a full range of brochures, but find that the 'knowledge sharing' we do is much appreciated. We've even worked out a country-wide road trip for a German couple who wanted to tour SA.

- Reliable Internet. This is really a given, but nothing makes a guest turn nasty like dodgy or no Internet access.

- A largish table. We have a six seater table in the kitchen/dining room, and we see guests with their laptops all the time. Basically, they appreciate work space.

- Safe, off-street parking. Especially in Joburg!

- Flexible check-in. From experience we know how much it means when you arrive on a 6am flight in a foreign city with the knowledge that you can check into an AirBnB place straight away. We've had guests arrive at all hours, and seeing the relief on their faces when we open the door shows they appreciate that flexibility.

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