We have come back from a three week trip to Spain and Morocco. There were many fascinating elements of the trip, which I will not focus on here, save to say, after nine years as an innkeeper, it is a useful exercise to put oneself deeply in the role of the traveler, in order to help you remember what the weary guest needs to feel welcome and happy. It is from our experiences in a foreign land, with a different language, new customs, and exotic culture, that we draw these lessons to apply to our work here at the Sully Mansion in New Orleans.
- Our initial greeting makes all the difference when you open the door. A big smile and sincere welcome erases the frustration of getting lost finding the inn, late airplanes, being hot and tired, and generally wondering why you have left the comforts of home.
- Help with suitcases - No matter how well those wheels on the luggage are working, it is nice to have someone else carry your possessions for you, even if for a few feet.
- Read their mood - It is easy to tell from your travelers’ faces if they want to get to their room and take off their shoes and use the bathroom,or if they would prefer a glass of water/iced tea and take in their surrounds. Taking cues from the guest makes the arrival go smoother.
- Show them how everything in their room works - We know where the switch is to the lamp but the newcomers do not, the air conditioner seems self explanatory but maybe not. Wi-Fi can confuse those who are not used to traveling. If they need to just decompress for a little bit, they would rather know how everything works rather than have to come back downstairs to ask you.
- Pace the delivery of information - If your guests have been traveling all day, they may be on overload and cannot take in lots of new information initially. Ask them when they would like to look at a map, get suggestions for shopping or eating or music or whatever. A good host allows the guests to set the pace.
- Be available – If the guests disappear into their room and end up taking an unexpected nap, it is important to be available when they wake up and are full of questions.
- Share your knowledge - In ways large and small, guests want to take advantage of what you know as a local. They may have read about attractions and restaurants but they always want to know what you suggest, (however refer back to #3, read their mood to gauge if they want to know if their plans make sense).
- Keep your hospitality going throughout their stay - Some travelers need a day to get comfortable and get their sea legs. Those who are shy on day one, can be very interactive after a good night’s sleep. The same level of interest, information and assistance is welcomed through their stay.
- Take care of your personal business during your personal time - Waiting for the innkeeper to finish texting, looking on the internet, talking on the phone with a friend (you can tell even if you do not speak the language) is incredibly off-putting. Most people are pretty patient but it is easy to misunderstand the host’s pre-occupation as not wanting to be available or helpful.
- Your interactions influence the guests’ perception of your city - If the guest feels cared for at their accommodations, they see the town as friendly and caring. If they feel ignored at the place where they sleep, they experience the town as callus and uncaring.
As innkeepers, we really have tremendous power to make or break a guest’s vacation, and it is so easy to make their time memorable in a good way.