So, you have bought your French gite, finished decorating, and prepared for your first guest. Now that your first booking has arrived, it’s important to make a good impression. Here are our top tips for welcoming your first guest to your gite business in France.
1. First Rule of Giting? Never Break Your Own rules!
Be your polite, chatty selves and take the opportunity to get to know your booker via email, text message or over the telephone but do be clear. Now is the time to manage expectations and make sure your Contract and your Terms and Conditions are signed. Do your guests understand what is expected of them?
No gite owner wants surprise extra guests or a menagerie of animals arriving out of the blue.
Payment deposits (different from a security deposit) are, in most cases, used to secure requested holiday dates, with most owners only blocking off calendars (remember to do all of them!) once money has been exchanged.
Owners often charge a security deposit in case of damages, and now is the time to give details as to how and when this will be refunded. It is always good to check that people have actually read and understood the important parts of their contract with you as it saves misunderstandings later.
If working with some of the larger companies, ensure your policies are in place with adequate deposits.
Do give yourselves enough time for changeovers. A 4pm or later check-in for new arrivals should give you sufficient cleaning time depending on the number of properties you have and what time you expect outgoing guests to leave. Only be flexible if you know you truly can be. A 10am check-out is 10am for a reason.
2. Cleaning Your French Gite
Even a modest three bedroomed farmhouse can take up to as long as five hours or more to clean thoroughly and/or deal with any breakages and repairs. A store of standby toilet seats, glasses and crockery may prove handy. Our resident ‘caretaker’ is on hand to problem-solve when required! As lovely as the vast majority of guests are, accidents do happen.
Standards are everything. If you do not fancy pulling somebody else’s bodily hair out of a shower trap on a regular basis, then find a professional whose standards you trust. You will, of course, need to factor this additional cost into your prices. Remember, there’s cleaning and there is cleaning! If you entrust this job to someone else, make sure they share your standards. Attention to detail is particularly important – even more so nowadays. Clean first, then disinfect.
Many customers like to be reassured regarding cleaning standards and you may wish to have a checklist that you share with your guests.
If you provide cleaning products in your gite, is it not more likely that your guests will use them?
The eco-tourist is on the increase along with our planet’s undeniable need for ecologically responsible practices. You may wish to give some thought to environmentally friendly products and reusable resources rather than throwaway non-recyclables. Second-hand shops have some beautiful glassware and crockery too, often at bargain prices.
3. Prepare Your Gite Welcome Pack
There is much debate over what goes into a welcome pack or whether you should even provide one at all. Some owners ‘reward’ guests who have booked directly with their business rather than using an online travel agent.
So you could produce welcome pack to thank those direct bookers, or you could provide a little something for every guest to say, ‘Welcome’.
The welcome basket really goes back to the first point when you establish a relationship with your guest – what might they like as a welcome gift? After all, it is no good leaving wine for someone who is tee-total or a baguette for someone with a gluten intolerance.
As a rule of thumb, if you wish to do this; keep local and support small businesses and local producers. Something typically ‘of the region’ always seems to be appreciated.
Decide how much you can afford to spend and stick to it.
4. Stay in Touch With Your Guests
Touch base the week before and even the night before with your clients to make sure plans are running smoothly. Check postcodes are correctly programmed into satellite navigation systems especially if there are multiple locations bearing the same name. For example, Mons in Belgium and Mons across in Department 17, are certainly not Mons where La Grue Gites is located in the Charente – as some have discovered!
Try to gain an estimated time of arrival as this can help you plan your day.
5. Meet and Greet Your Gite Guests
If you live on-site, guests seem to really appreciate the personal contact on arrival. In a nutshell, you are your business.
It is the ideal opportunity to explain the basics and unveil their welcome gift.
Do remember though, people are usually really tired after their journey and they generally want to unwind. It may be best to pop back in the morning with some croissants before reminding them again that your septic tank needs a little respect!
6. Make Yourself Available
Most (but not all) holidaymakers want to know someone is there if they have a problem. Even if it is at the end of a telephone.
However, guests do not want someone to regularly intrude on their hard-earned holiday break. It is a fine line that is often judged on an individual basis and can differ from guest to guest. Some people are keen to invite you over for aperos and to have your children play together. Others, you will never see!
Most Importantly, Enjoy it!
To see guests relax, unwind and enjoy their holiday is a real privilege. The hospitality business is all about the happiness of others. Generally speaking, people work hard for their annual summer holiday and deserve to have a fantastic time. Do what you can to make their holiday memorable for the right reasons and your business will grow.
By Carol Paylor
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