Editors Note: Many of you may know Dhruv – our long term editor. Dhruv and his better half have been pursuing their dream and have opened up a lovely homestay called Katies Abode – in Hartola where they live with their lovely dog. Please make sure you patronise them when you visit the region. Their website is www.katiesabode.in
It’s been just 5 months since we started our homestay and we have already learned a lot! First of all, we had a very hectic yearend. Well, I should not be complaining actually because we exceeded our expectations, but it no doubt, brought to the fore many issues we had to face because we were new to the game.
Let me start by thanking our caretaker because his experience helped us as me and my wife are both greenhorns. In fact, he gave us some valuable tips on handling guests. Then again please don’t misunderstand us. We are both very hospitable; rather, on more occasions than one, our hospitality crossed all rationale of business sense.
So, let me tell you the top five issues we faced and how you, as a new homestay owner, can use our experience to minimize them when you take that first step towards opening up your home to guests.
Payment terms: Our first booking was for 2 weeks so we offered our guests a tariff based on their long stay. The payment terms being 50 percent to confirm the booking and the rest on arrival. The 50 percent booking amount was duly paid and the guests arrived at our homestay. They were very appreciative of our property and accommodating, but we eased on collecting the balance agreed-upon 50 percent tariff payment. A day before the week was over, their stay was curtailed and they decided to check into a property at a different and distant location. No hard feelings though!
And if a guest tells you that their ‘kid’ is travelling with them, don’t forget to ask the kid’s age. For parents, even their 15-year-old is a kid, but for a homestay owner, a 15-year-old would mean an extra person and an extra bed/room!
Strict house rules: If you don’t have strict house rules, you will find yourself in a rather awkward position running after guests requesting them to have their dinner well past the stipulated time and getting up in the morning to rearrange the furniture and picking up cigarette stubs from every corner of the house. Although we don’t allow smoking inside the rooms, with no strict house rules, we had to bear with guests happily smoking not only inside the individual rooms but also in the common areas. And however much you try, the smell lingers on for quite some time.
Water storage: We learned this the hard way. Being in mountainous terrain, the public water supply is very unreliable and for days at length, we don’t get water. We had a storage capacity of 5000 liters and every morning water was pumped from an alternate offsite source. But we didn’t take into consideration the weather conditions and one fine morning the source pipe was jammed with ice and even after a lot of effort, nothing could be done. So we had to buy water from a vendor. This ate into our profits considerably. So before everything else, make sure that you have ample water storage. At least 10,000 liters to start with.
Extra linen: If you are starting your homestay business, make sure that you have at least four extra sets of all linen – towels, bedsheets, bed-covers, top-sheets, quilt covers, blankets, etc. for each room. We had three back-to-back bookings and despite having enough linen we still found ourselves running short. Additionally, with a shortage of water, a quick wash of the linen was out of the question. Thankfully for us, we had anticipated that before the arrival of the third set of guests and a quick tour to the market made things easier for us to serve our guests better.
Caretaker’s assistant: Our caretaker is a good cook. He cooks simple but delicious food. But to do so he requires time. So when there is a full occupancy he hardly gets time to step out of the kitchen. So during these days you require a person who can do the other chores like cleaning the common areas, complying with guests’ requests if any, etc. Additionally, guests like to chat with the caretaker about things like places of interest nearby, anecdotes about the location, etc. But that eats into his valuable time which he should be spending in the kitchen. So his assistant can play a vital role in taking on the responsibilities in the kitchen during these moments. We found it best to employ the assistant on a need-based arrangement rather than having him on the payroll. Make an hourly or daily payment.
Hope my experience as a newbie homestay owner will help you too. If you have already been running a homestay, do share your experiences, and don’t forget to pray for the success of our new venture. After all, the next best thing followed by regular bookings is prayers to help us live up to the expectations of every guest that knocks on our door!