What’s it really like?
So what’s it really like running a Gîte business in France? Well, in short – it beats working for a living! So forget what you think it’s like and give 5 minutes to reading a real life account of setting up and running gîtes in France.
If you’ve ever been on a self catering holiday, you will know what you like and don’t like about accommodation, location, the hosts etc. Well, this is what we’d thought before setting up a Gîte business here in Frayssinet Le Gélat. In truth, getting it “right” is probably the biggest challenge a gîte owner will face – and it may take many months or even years to get it all right! Take any help and advice you can get from others already established in the business. One piece of excellent advice was that any gîte must have good beds – a more truthful piece of advice you couldn’t wish for and when your guests tell you they “slept the best nights sleep in months” then you know you are getting it right.
What Does It Take?
So your accommodation has to be good – no question there then – but a gîte business is so much more than bricks and bed linen. It’s about being housekeeper, gardener, pool maintainer, decorator, handyman (knowing the working end of a screwdriver is invaluable) laundry person, tour guide, business person, internet guru, accountant, map reader and font of all local knowledge. Oh and a healthy constitution helps as we found our guests regularly invited us to share a bottle of wine with them in the evenings!
One of the biggest challenges we found was knowing where the line between “being available” to our guests and “being intrusive” was. So clear advice on when we would be available to them worked very well and allowed both us and our guests the right levels of privacy.
Getting It Right
The “getting it right” piece does of course carry a lot of your own personal tastes and style as well as ideas – but no guest will ever think as you do so catering for a very wide selection of possibles or considerations must also rank high on any to-do list. As it’s said, you can please some of the people all of the time…..
But pleasing all of your guests really does start with the moment they decide to book their longed for summer holiday in one of your gîtes. Having a quick and easy to use bookings list helped us see available dates and prices at a glance so enabling us to respond quickly to all enquiries and bookings. An easy to use payment system too is invaluable – having sterling and euro accounts as well as options to pay by credit card really helped our guests pay deposits and balances with the minimum of fuss.
How To Find Us
The next challenge to pleasing your guests is knowing you have given them clear and easy to use directions to their holiday destination. (It’s amazing how many villages have the same or very similar names that aren’t always available on every electronic navigation device!)
And number 2 on the top 10 hit list of running a gîte business is the meet and greet part. That’s when then next stage of the “how to have happy guests” kicks in. Your gîte – your pride and joy – is now theirs for the next however many days. And believe me if they want to eat jam on toast in bed then they will. (liquorice stuck to the bedside table was quite interesting and it’s best not to ask what some guests put in the oven)
The gîte cleaning and preparation process is hard work – especially when you have more than one gîte on changeover days. However there’s fun in the hard work too – I remember finding a pair of ladies knickers behind the toilet and I just had this wonderful image of the lovely English lady flinging them off one night in gay abandon. Or the lovely young couple (on their first holiday together) leaving us a very special bottle of champagne in the ‘fridge as a way of saying thank you. Such a lovely generous thought.
Running a gîte business may not get you onto the Times “Rich List” – but it will make you rich in memories, experiences and many new found friends who you know will return to “their” gîte again and again.
It’s Worth It!
A final thought on running a gîte business. When you’re expecting guests on arrivals day and they are running late, it’s a warm evening with not a cloud in the sky. You’re sitting in the garden with a small glass of something cool, watching shooting stars over your house and listening to the only sounds around – that of the owls in the nearby forests practicing for the coming evenings hooting contest. There really is no other place we would rather be.
I have to end this short tale on running a gîte business with some sad news. Due to a serious family illness we have to sell our beautiful house and lovely gîtes – A heartbreaking decision we have no choice in, as running a gîte business is or can be everything and anything you want it to be. We leave this place with heavy hearts but hope whoever buys what was our dream can live and grow their own dreams here. Le Rêve du Lot – It really was our dream of the Lot and of running a gîte business come true – perhaps it can now be yours.
© Elissa McDonald MBA
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