In the previous blog I talked about how much freedom you really have with a guest house and the importance of your individual experience of freedom. Today I take you behind the scenes at a guest house in Italy. To work that you never think about at first, but is crucial for the success rate of your guesthouse.
When you have plans to start a guest house, a B&B, an apartment complex or camping, you have to realize that you have to be at home in all markets for such work. I sometimes jokingly say that I am both the cleaning lady, the laundry and ironing woman, the marketer, the financial assistant, the web designer and webmaster, photographer, secretary, gardener, painter and pool girl! Which role did I actually forget?
The income from a guesthouse is not such that you can ask someone to do that for you for all those activities. Everything you do yourself is really included.
But what must be done then?
Build a website
When we started our guesthouse in 1990, it was enough to regularly place an advertisement in the newspaper. People would call us to request information and we would send them a letter with information and a photo in the early days. Later that became a slick brochure, which one of our guests who has a marketing agency helped us with. Later again when the internet emerged, I started creating our very first website with a simple HTML book next to it. Ideal! This way people could see exactly what it looks like here and they would send an email if they wanted to know or make a reservation.
Years later when I found that this site was really out of the question, I replaced it with a more modern website. And that is the website as it still stands at the moment. It took me a long time because I really didn't understand WordPress and when it was finally finished I thought I was done!
But then it only started ...
Make sure people come to your website
After all, you want potential guests to actually find your website. So I was not done with the website at all. Actually, it only started then!
Because if you want your website to be found in Google, you will have to regularly add new information to your site and you must always keep optimizing it by putting the right keywords in the right places.
Just a website with the right keywords is not enough to get found and let people book their vacation with us. Most people only book their holiday with you when they feel that they already know you a bit and have the confidence that their holiday will be okay with you because they feel a click with you.
So I also had to become visible in other ways. And that means that I have invested energy in the world of Social Media, writing newsletters and blogs and recording videos.
All very nice to do, but it takes a lot of time!
The whole complex should always look good
This is of course obvious and you have already figured that out yourself. When there are guests here, everything must be in perfect order. The farm where all apartments are located must be well painted. Both inside the apartments and the exterior painting. Everything must be clean and everything must function. The entire inventory must always be checked, cleaned and possibly replaced. All garden furniture ditto. The terraces must be swept regularly. Always stock the planters with fresh plants, mow the grass in the garden and regularly weed the borders with plants and shrubs. The vegetable garden the same story. The pool must be cleaned and the water quality checked every day. The gravel paths are as weed-free as possible and the dirt road that leads to Polmone also needs regular maintenance.
Immediately when we started the rental, we hired a so-called commercialista (tax advisor) who arranges our tax return here. Quite expensive, because we have already lost € 1500 on an annual basis for really simple administration. But it is a necessary evil, because the tax system is very different here and because we did not speak the language from the very beginning, it was completely a must.
Furthermore, we both keep a close eye on our financial situation because every year we have to provide a financial buffer for the quiet period plus that something always breaks that needs to be replaced.
Contact with the guests
People who do not yet know Polmone naturally want to hear experiences from others, so it is very important every year to ask all guests if they would like to write a so-called review. I personally always find it very difficult to ask, because nowadays you are bombarded with questions about your customer satisfaction. To be honest, I hardly ever write it myself. Anyway, if you have received the reviews, it is important to put them on the website.
Every month I also send our customers an extensive newsletter so that they stay informed about us, about Polmone and about the activities in Umbria. In addition, we regularly provide tips in our newsletter. We always receive a lot of responses to our newsletter and that way we keep in touch with each other in a fun way. And of course bookings come through directly or indirectly (your findability in Google).
Finally, we always send all our customers who have been to Polmone in the past 5 years a self-designed Christmas card with a personal handwritten message. I broke that tradition this year and last year by writing a printed text on the back of the card. That was because we wanted to inform everyone about a number of decisions around Polmone that would also affect our guests. So in these two cases it was simply better that everyone got the same information.
Our experience is that our Christmas card also makes a very important contribution to our annual bookings.
Stay informed about the activities in the region and make sure you know the must sees
I'm actually always looking for posts about what to do where or which restaurants to recommend. And we always use the quiet time to visit villages and cities here in Umbria so that we can make our guests enthusiastic again by writing blogs, social media posts or by posting videos on our Youtube channel.
This winter, however, our trips are considerably limited because we are only allowed to travel up to 30 km outside our own municipality due to the corona restrictions. And that is actually quite fun. I went back to look up all kinds of things about the gems that are close by. I wrote about it on Social Media and on our blog, took new photos. In short, we have rediscovered the gems near Polmone and they are still worth a visit!
Don't be put off
If you see it in a row what needs to be done to keep a guesthouse running smoothly and to get enough bookings, it is quite a lot. But I want to tell you not to let that put you off. After all, Aachen and Cologne were not built in one day either!
After all, you have also read in this story that all those jobs do not have to be done at the same time. Most of the work can be spread over the whole year.
And running a guesthouse in Italy is still the best thing that happened to us! We are both people who prefer to do very varied work and in our work we have already met so many special people! And we have already made so many friends for life!
Next week I will tell you why we are going to stop and you can choose a life that makes you happy.
Don't want to wait until next week and do you already have questions? Do not hesitate to contact me.
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