Get more bookings by updating your information, photos and availability
So… you have gone through the registration process; you have met with the assessor and answered his numerous questions about what you offer and the kind of students you would like, and now you are even reading this blog. So why not maximise the number of booking offers you receive?
Many hosts feel the best way to receive offers of bookings is by keeping themselves fresh in the minds of the booking team. They do this by calling two or three times a week, giving their availability and asking about upcoming bookings. While it is a good idea to keep the booking team aware of your availability, there is an easier and more efficient way of doing it than picking up the phone.
The bookings team work hard to match the requests for accommodation to the hosts they know are available and feel the best matched to the request. However, the number of bookings they are able to offer you is dependent on a number of things. The two main criteria being the request from the school or agent (including the area requested and price they are willing to pay), and the information we send to the school or agent i.e. your host profile.
Your ‘host profile’ is in many ways your shop window for receiving offers of bookings. It includes information on your accommodation, location, room type etc, and also photos of the accommodation including the bedroom(s) offered to students. The ‘standard’ photos used are the ones taken when the assessor originally visited. It is however worth bearing in mind the condition of the room when they visited, e.g. did you have a student staying with you at that time; how tidy was that student, and also that this was the first time the assessor had seen the room(s). Although they try their best to take the best image they can, they are no David Bailey or Steve McCurry (for our younger readers). It is therefore well worth spending five minutes to take some photos that show the room and your home in its best light.
You can update your information (who lives in your house, your pets, rooms offered to students etc) and upload or delete photos by following this link: http://londonhomestays.com/login. If you have forgotten or lost your login details, please drop us a quick email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help.
Ensure the arrival goes well
As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is true for both the host and the guest. Let’s be honest, when a guest first arrives to stay with you, even if you are trying not to, deep down you are making judgments on them. “Are they friendly?” “Will we get along?” “Can I see this person living with me for X number of weeks?”. Well, guess what? The student will be thinking exactly the same things as you. However, they will be doing this after a long journey and will be taking the room and entire environment they will be staying in into consideration as well. Please don’t let this put you off hosting. It is completely natural to feel this way, and if any of us had just travelled thousands of miles to a foreign country (perhaps for the first time) many of us would be doing the same.
The best way to create a good impression is by making an effort. It is important to make the same effort you make for the hundredth student who is coming to stay with you as you did with the first. Small things often go a long way. A clean room that has just been vacuumed and has fresh bedsheets says “we have been expecting you and are looking forward to you staying with us”; while a bin with the last guests rubbish in and a half tidy room says “you are just the next in a long line of students that I have had stay with me”.
Go through the check-in procedure (for more information on this check an earlier blog: Host tips #1: The benefits of doing a proper check in and out), give them 5 or 10 minutes alone to let them settle in, and then introduce them to your family. A good start to the relationship often results in the entire stay going well from both the guest and host’s perspective.
Make the first move to interact with guests
As an experienced host, you are used to interacting with people from all around the world. We are not trying to teach you how to have a conversation with a guest or how to ‘make friends’ with them. However, it is important to remember that no two people are the same. It is easy to fall into the trap of expecting your next student to be the same as your last one, or one you hosted several months ago, especially if they are from the same country. You might have hosted Student A from Brazil last summer and found them really outgoing and friendly. Therefore when you are offered Student B also from Brazil, it is easy to expect them to be similar to Student A. However when Student B arrives, they spend a lot of time in their room; they seem a little withdrawn, maybe even aloof. So what do you do? Leave them in their room? Let them get on with it? Or do you make the first move and try to bring them into the fold?
We would always hope that the host would be the one to ‘lead the way’ and to try and involve the student in the household activities and conversation. Remember the guest might be shy and nervous about speaking in a language that is not their own. Shy and nervousness might come across as being withdrawn and aloof. Do not be deterred if after joining the household for a while, they then return to their room again. I can speak from personal experience having lived in another country where the rest of the house spoke in another language. Even though I was able to understand the conversation and interact; it was tiring. What is just a normal, regular chat in your own language being part of day to day life; takes concentration and thought when it is in another language. Sometimes after a chat, a person just needs to go to their room for a bit of downtime. 🙂
Learn about their culture
Ever wanted to travel the world? Meet people from different countries? Learn about their cultures and their cooking etc? That is exactly why the students have come to the UK and chosen to stay in a homestay over the other accommodation options out there. Even if it does not seem like it (see above), deep down they are here to experience a new culture and to interact with people from a different country – meaning you! Another way of looking at it is that the students are paying money to stay with a host to learn about British culture; whereas being a host you get all of the benefits of cultural exchange – but for free!
You might feel the students just want to talk about things to do or see in London; but actually asking them questions about their country, their favourite foods at home, their family etc is something they would love to talk to you about. Take full advantage of hosting students. Ask the right questions and soon you’ll be trying new foods and learning new words, all from countries you might never have dreamed of visiting. Over the years we have heard so many lovely stories from a number of hosts, who have created lifelong friendships with people they might never have crossed paths with, had it not been for hosting students through London Homestays.
Avoid potential complaints by providing what is promised
You know what to provide, you have been hosting for years. Everyone has seemed happy with what you have provided them with. However, it is always worth checking what is listed and you have agreed to in the contract, as this information is replicated in the offer that is sent to the student. If you can imagine for example that your child was going to Italy to study and you did not pack towels as you believed they would be provided, only for them not to be provided, you might feel you have grounds to complain.
Common items that should be provided to students but are sometimes forgotten:
- A front door key
- Swapping mobile numbers
- Toilet roll and hand soap
- Having dinner with the host (if the booking is Half Board)
- A weekly linen change
Finally – if you have any questions about any aspect of hosting, we are here to help! Simply drop us an email or give us a call. Our team has years of experience and will be able to guide you, and ensure you have a mutually wonderful experience hosting your students!