Having narrowly missed out on hotel accommodation in a small town for a big wedding, I turned to my only other option – the sharing economy.
Industry professionals have all kinds of gripes with sharing economy companies such as Airbnb, with a lack of governing rules no doubt near the top of the list. Approaching the experience purely as a guest, my biggest concern was for privacy – and yet upon leaving at the end of a lovely weekend, I couldn’t help but feel that privacy was exactly what was wrong with my experience – though not in the way you might expect.
My experience was so preposterously private that I’m not sure if anyone even knew that I’d been and gone.
Here are three of the services hotels should (and often do) get right, and that sharing economy companies simply cannot guarantee:
Check in. When I arrived at the property after a long drive, no one was waiting for me. A rusty old gate was left unlocked and I drove through it to see a property that vaguely resembled the blurred image I’d seen online. While I was greeted by a friendly horse and the pleasant sounds of the countryside, my host was nowhere to be seen.
The lesson: One of the most basic, yet undervalued services a hotel can offer is a friendly and simple check in. Don’t underestimate the power of human interaction!
Communication. Having booked a few weeks in advance, I received an email from Airbnb the day before my stay. While the email helpfully recited the property’s address and the names of my hosts, it provided no information about how I should obtain a key or access the property. The responsibility of providing this information falls with the host, making clear communication key to the success of a stay. In my case, there was no communication whatsoever. The hosts didn’t pick up their phones, they didn’t reply to my messages, and the closer I got to the property, the less phone signal I had.
The lesson: Being available to answer your guests’ questions is an invaluable service. Whether it’s providing helpful directions to your property, handy information on local attractions, or simply advising them of where they can park their car, it’s important to know your stuff and be forthcoming with relevant information.
Security. Upon arriving at the unlocked gate and approaching the property, I looked around for a key box. I looked under a few plant pots, under the door mat, and eventually tried to open the door without any key at all. To my surprise, I was able to walk straight in. The key was nowhere to be found inside the house, and I figured the hosts would eventually turn up, introduce themselves and hand over the key – but that didn’t happen either. In fact, I never received a key at all, meaning that a) I had to sleep in an unlocked house, and b) I had to leave my personal belongings in the unlocked house throughout the day.
The lesson: Visitors value security. One huge benefit of an establishment such as a hotel is its inbuilt security. Make sure guests are aware of any requirement for room access (such as cleaning services), and ensure that a safe can be accessed for any valuable personal belongings the guest would like to hand over or store for safe keeping. If a guest feels unsafe for any reason, they’re unlikely to return.
While I generally value privacy over pleasantries, I would have given anything for a conversation with a property owner or manager. While no sharing economy experience is a guarantee, my key concerns could have very easily been addressed by spending the night in a hotel.
At least then I could have been guaranteed a key.