Hospitality is the mantra of modern day bed and breakfast establishments around the world. But, what does it mean to “practice hospitality?” How can you treat the guests in your home as if they just stepped into a five star B&B?
When we opened the Husum Riverside Bed & Breakfast a year ago, many of our friends and family were not surprised. Why? Because we, as a family, have a long history of offering hospitality to those around us. Maybe it was by serving as hosts at an adult foster care facility in a remote region of the Oregon coast. Or, maybe it was opening up our home to troubled teens. Or, maybe our love of hospitality came from being raised in the church where everyone visited everyone else on Sunday afternoon and no one sat at home alone on a Saturday night. Hospitality is a heart action, and in some places it has become a lost art.
The dictionary states that hospitality entails being friendly and generous to guests, visitors or strangers. Offering hospitality is not just a fad of the 20th century lodging industry. Hospitality dates back to ancient Greece when the first guidelines were established to offer lodging and rest to weary travelers.
So, what makes Bed & Breakfast visits unique in today’s culture and how can you tap into the same hospitality methods in your own home.
1. Make it clean. My mom always told me it didn’t matter how small our home was as long as it was clean. Clean sheets. Fresh, clean towels. A space that is welcoming and free of excessive, personal clutter offers a relaxing break from the stress of everyday life. Not spotless – clean!
2. Be prepared. Find a nice artsy basket for your guest room and fill it with little sample products such as soup, toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, shampoo and nice warm socks or slippers. Even if your guests don’t end up using anything from the basket, just the thought that you were thinking of their comfort and needs will make them feel welcome.
3. Wonderful bedding. When you’re traveling, you can forgive almost anything as long as you can climb into a wonderful, clean bed at night. Try to buy the best quality sheets you can afford to make the bed truly inviting and comfortable. Don’t forget to provide some extra pillows and a blanket in case your guests get cold.
4. Towels are a must. You guests will want to wash up either before bed or in the morning (or both). Provide a nice, clean, plush set of towels for their use. At our house, we have a set of towels for our guests that is a totally different color than our personal towels so we can keep them separate. At the B&B, our towels are plush, humungous and white. Many of our B&B guests have commented on the quality of our towels, which shows us that the extra money we paid was worth it. Be sure and wash your guest towels separate from your personal towels and use bleach (as needed) and fabric softener. You want them to be soft, and smell fresh.
5. Books and games. Some guests will travel with books and games of their own, but it’s always nice to provide a small selection of a few of your favorites along with little personal review notes about when you read it and how you liked it. In our house we always liked to have a good puzzle going on a table by the window for sharing those special relaxing days.
6. Flowers are nice. Who doesn’t love flowers? It is such a nice touch in your guest room. But, since many people struggle with allergies, a nice green plant by the window or a beautiful vase filled with dried flowers works well.
7. We love our pets. Our fur babies can become such a huge part of our family, but not everyone feels the same way about your four-legged family member as you do. Always ask about pet allergies and take precautions to keep animal hair and dander out of your guest room. Don’t force your guests to endure an over-friendly dog or cat. Rescue them by removing your animals and giving them a break. This is especially true for older guests that sometimes trip over active dogs or cats.
8. WiFi is a must. Many people use their smart phones or tablets for all aspects of their travel experience. Be sure and provide a Wi-Fi log-in for your guests to allow them to stay in touch with friends and family as well as check road conditions and look for tourist sites.
9. Be a tour guide. Take time to share some of your favorite places with your guests. Give them a few options of places keeping in mind their physical ability and budget constraints if any. A few well selected local travel magazines and brochures placed on a desk in your guest room will give them a chance to “explore” a bit on their own.
10. Feeding guests! The very essence of a bed and breakfast is a great bed and a wonderful breakfast. Keep it simple and if possible homemade. Don’t feel like you have to cook them everything in your recipe book. A good place to start is a hot beverage such as coffee or tea. Then add some fresh seasonal fruit, a muffin or pastry, and a hot protein. Ask ahead to be sure your guest doesn’t have any food allergies or dietary preferences. If they do, google some great recipes and make them feel welcome by providing a tasty breakfast that they can actually enjoy. A few fresh baked cookies and a well-stocked coffee station provide a delightful afternoon break. Keep it simple so that you don’t spend all your time cooking and don’t have time to join them for a nice visit.
The part I love the most about owning and operating a bed and breakfast is having an opportunity to practice hospitality. At the Husum Riverside Bed & Breakfast, our guests come as strangers, but they leave as friends.
That house was a perfect house whether you liked food or sleep or storytelling or singing or reading or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness.
~ J.R. Tolkien