Ever stayed in a B&B or self-catering unit where there were a couple of things you knew would just make the place sing, but did not have the courage to write it in the guest book? I have … more than once.
I’ve travelled a great deal around South Africa, staying mostly in modest self-catering accommodation and in B&Bs, some of them delightfully quirky, others bordering on objectionable (particularly as there seems to be a regular rate, regardless of standard).
Some have wowed me while others have left me feeling resentful at having to pay hard-earned cash for an uncomfortable night. And I’m not difficult to please…
I’ve come up with a few suggestions that make a B&B, or any accommodation, pleasing for guests. Here are 10 things accommodation owners MUST do to keep us coming back for more:
1. INVEST IN A COMFORTABLE MATTRESS
I’ve put this one right at the top of the list. Because you won’t believe how many accommodation offerings in which I’ve stayed have had what I call a ‘sad’ mattress. One that must have come from the spare room, or was bought on a sale somewhere. It is not true that non star-rated accommodation need not provide a quality mattress. Take it from me: a comfortable mattress equals a happy guest. A semi-firm mattress will satisfy most people.
2. SLEEP IN YOUR OWN B&B FOR AT LEAST ONE NIGHT
If you actually sleep in your guest bed then you will know that having a duvet inner that is too small for the duvet cover is distressing. Or that not providing a blanket to pull up during the night leaves you cold in the morning, or that bedside tables, or a chair next to the bed, for water and bedside reading, and a rack on which to hang clothes (even if it’s tiny) makes life easier all round.
3. MAKE IT A QUEEN SIZE, IF YOU CAN
Doubles are okay. But Queens are so much more comfortable.
4. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE WHITE, BUT IT MUST BE QUALITY
I know that the standard in the travel industry is quality, luxury white cotton linen. And I agree that quality linen is a must (I’ve slept under enough poly-cotton, hand-me-down bed coverings to object to quality bedding). But the best places I have stayed in veer away from the conventional and go for something a little different, a little more exciting in terms of colour and character. And quality does not have to be 400 thread count percale either. As long as it is 100% cotton, we’ll be perfectly happy.
5. THE VALUE OF LITTLE FLOURISHES
Everyone loves romance. And it does not have to cost much. A little loaf of home-made bread left on the bread board as your guests arrive covered with a chequered kitchen cloth, a loose flower arrangement of blooms from your garden, a hammock on the stoep, a comfortable place in which to read for a few hours – like an armchair, deckchair or continental pillows on the bed, a jar of cookies, a black board on which you have written a poem, friends’ art on your walls (even if it’s for sale).
6. PLEASE DON’T LIMIT THE DISHWASHING LIQUID
And the same goes for soap, towels, and toilet paper. I end up feeling both anxious and annoyed when my hostess has left just enough liquid to wash dishes for the designated night(s) (and then only if I stand the jar on its head for a minute or two). I can only imagine that most guests overindulge in dishwashing liquid? And those extra couple of towels go a long way to feeling indulged, as does a bedside light with more than a 40 watt bulb.
7. UHT MILK, KETTLE LEADS THAT DON’T REACH, WATER PRESSURE & A DEARTH OF PLUG POINTS
If you choose to provide milk, please leave your guests fresh milk, preferably from the neighbouring dairy farm (if you have such a luxury). If you are worried about it going off, then leave only a little in a jug and keep refilling it across their stay. And I hardly need mention the frustration of low water pressure (particularly if guests have not been warned ahead of booking), or being without a two-prong plug point…
8. DON’T WRITE YOUR OWN WEBSITE DESCRIPTION
When you write your own account of your accommodation, you mention what is important to you, and this often erroneously omits what guest need to know most – like how many beds there are, what size they are, how far apart the bedrooms, if they are en-suite, or if there is a safety net on the swimming pool (for small children) etc.
9. PLEASE PROVIDE PICTURES OF ALL THE BEDROOMS AND BATHROOMS
I have so often visited a website where there is one picture of a bedroom and all the rest are of the surrounding gardens, mountains, seascape and bird life. Whilst this is important to give guests an idea of the area in which you stay, they want to know, above all, what the bedrooms and beds look like.
10. QUIRKINESS AND WONDERFUL OWNERS (forget the manual)
Above all, I have enjoyed staying in those places where the owner has felt free to play and reveal their own distinctive style (this is totally contrary to B&B manuals where they will tell you to keep your guest rooms clutter free and to never force your taste in art on your guests!). Whether the owner was an artist and had her art displayed on the walls, or had a garden that was heaven to walk through, or had combined eclectic pieces of furniture with flamboyant linen, colour and décor.
Even some minimalistic, ‘rustic’ spaces in which I’ve stayed (for those who think that quirkiness needs to cost you) managed to evoke something characterful. And, of course, owners who are soulful, thoughtful and responsive are wonderful to stay with.
All views expressed above are those of the writer entirely, and not of SA-Venues.com