Playing host to couchsurfers

Playing host to couchsurfers

Playing host to couchsurfers

Do you play host on Airbnb and couchsurfing often? Would you like your guests to have a good time when visiting? Nisha Ravindranathan discusses how your home can be made perfect for such guests

You know what else got hip, somewhere after yoga pants, cupcakes, food trucks and ironic glasses? That’s right, hosting on Airbnb. And it’s not just about making a few extra bucks either. Sure, it seems like a simple enough way to add to your earnings especially if you have room to spare (no pun intended), but in fact, it has much more to do with making your life that much more exciting and just a wee bit unpredictable. A rather staid, middle class routine suddenly infused with memorable and meaningful encounters with strangers who you might never otherwise meet, let alone befriend.

 But if you are going to play hostess, get it absolutely right from the get-go. It doesn’t take a lot, just some thought, to make and keep your guests comfortable. Here’s a checklist:

Be available

People who choose Airbnb over hotels are the kind of people who usually want in on local experiences. Remember, they’re new to your city, and while the Internet does tell you a lot of things, they’re probably hoping that you will too. And by things I mean where to eat, what to do and where to go. In general, try and find that sweet spot where you’re there for your guests and helpful whenever they need it, but they also have enough privacy and space of their own – exchanging phone numbers is a good way to achieve this, so you’re always only ever a phone call or text message away.

It’s the little things that matter

And here, I don’t mean mints on a pillow. Keep a checklist handy – local maps, numbers that door-deliver late night takeout, transport cards that can be topped up and/or reliable taxi services, airport-shuttle information, numbers for emergency medical services – all very, very useful information for travellers.

Make it convenient as can be

If you can offer your guests their own key, a separate entrance, or both, make sure you do it. Not only does this make life a whole lot simpler for you, but allows them to come and go as they please, and everyone knows this goes a long way in making travel memorable.

Reliability is everything

While there’s no denying the convenience of Couchsurfing, the economy of Airbnb and the expedience of having it all at the touch of your fingertips, there’s also the occasional nightmare story that everyone has heard – rooms being nothing like they were described, stories of assault and extortion, hosts being rude, offensive or plain criminal. So yes, a reputation, and a good word about your space goes a very, very long way.

Make it a point to appreciate every bit of feedback that comes your way; encourage your guests to leave an assessment of their experience, respond as quickly and positively as you can to every review (including the ones that tell you how you can do better), and always be candid and upfront about the facilities you offer – don’t promise what you can’t make good on, and be a stickler when it comes to being as good as your word. These are qualities that go a long way and they will tide you over the roughest of times.

Speaking of the Internet

Make sure you offer solid, stable, preferably high speed Wi-Fi. The world does not function without smartphones, and in all likelihood, neither do your guests. Travellers, especially the international kind, rely even more on fast Internet where they’re staying, since they most likely may not have (or bother with acquiring), phone services while on the road. Keep them connected.

Be clear

If there are rules in the building that your guests should know of, make sure they know right from the get go. This involves delineating spaces as smoking and non-smoking, curfews if any, knowledge about smoke alarms and burglar alarms, knowledge about various locks, how to dispose trash and rules that involve recycling, as well as any other concerns that may have been raised in the past by other residents or your landlord. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of, and don’t find yourself being held responsible for someone else’s actions.

A picture speaks a thousand words

Don’t misrepresent your space, but don’t do it injustice either. Call a room a room, a house a house, a loft a loft and a villa a villa. Back your words up with good quality photographs. This doesn’t mean you have to plan a photoshoot; it simply means that the images shouldn’t be blurry or shot in bad light. And make sure whatever the photograph claims to offer, is part of the package.

Keep it simple

As a rule, offer everything to your guests, that you yourself would be grateful for when travelling. Obviously, clean towels top this list. Toothpaste, disposable
shaving kits and toiletries like shower gel, shampoo and conditioner are a close second.

Bags of green tea and instant coffee, an electric kettle (even if you don’t offer a full-fledged kitchen) and maybe a microwave (nobody likes cold takeout) are other big pluses. A safe, if you can offer it, comes in hugely handy – most travellers will prefer stowing their few valuables, cash and passport carefully at home, than have the additional stress of always carrying them on their person.

Anything else that you can offer is more or less a bonus and is likely to earn you special merit for thoughtfulness – here I’m referring to hair-dryers, an iron and ironing board, detergent so your guests can load and use the machine instead of having to do the dishes by hand, extra glassware in the kitchen should they decide to have a few friends over for drinks instead of going out, and so on and forth.

Keep it clean

Everyone can tell newly laundered sheets apart, from ones that desperately need to see the inside of a washing machine. There’s no bigger turn off than dirty linens. While Airbnb might use the word hosting, don’t forget that people are still paying to temporarily use your space.

Respect that, and know, that you are therefore indebted to ensure it’s clean and habitable. That means fresh sheets, clean bathrooms, and quarters that are free from dust bunnies and clutter in general.

Give, and ye shall receive

It’s alright if you’re new to hosting. Everyone has a beginning, and this is yours. If your page is looking a little bare, remember that life is about give and take. Give your guests an honest review, and you will find more often than not, they reciprocate in kind. Meanwhile, here’s hoping they respond kindly as well.

(The author is founding editor,