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When Elkin Arriero told us the story of Casa de Anny, a part of our hearts stayed with them in Sachica, Colombia:
"My mom lives in an area of Colombia that I like to call 'the real Colombia'. It is stuck in time in a simpler era, with nature at the heart, with people who still work the land for a living."
It wasn't really Elkin's plan to start an Airbnb operation that now spans 7 listings, but he had worked in hospitality before, and so when all siblings flew the nest and his mom stayed on her own in a palatial "casa colonial", he proposed the idea:
"Mom, would you give me permission to put the spare rooms on Airbnb?"
Mom wasn't so sure. "But what would I need to do? It sounds like a lot of work. And I don't even have linens or towels."
Elkin assured his mom that they could figure it out as they went, and if they got a reservation, they could buy the linens with the proceeds. Very bold.
That first reservation came through, and soon many others followed.
It's been five years, and since then they built two more villas in the area, and recently a valley sprinkled with glamping cabins.
Elkin's mom, Anny, now enjoys her role as the main host of the complex, and has used some of her earnings to pursue her passion for orchids.
She now has a garden boasting over 300 species, quite possibly one of the largest orchid collections in the continent, and she is all too happy to share it with her guests.
"At first people can be hesitant about coming here," says Elkin, "the area is a bit away from the nearest big town, Villa de Leyva; it's semi-desertic, and the roads aren't the smoothest either. But once guests read our description, see the pictures and understand the atmosphere, they are shocked by how beautiful and worthy the trip is."
Elkin thinks it's important to show off your properties' strengths, but it's equally important to be honest about the downsides of the area or the facilities: "Answer all questions with sincerity, people have to know exactly what they're arriving to."
Elkin explains that when they started their Airbnb operations, they tried to appeal to all kinds of guests. "Soon we realized that the market was mostly made up of groups and families on the weekends and on the festive seasons. Outside of those times, the audience is, overwhelmingly, couples on romantic getaways."
Accordingly, Elkin customizes the listings and descriptions to cater to those audiences specifically.
He even offers upsells like romantic packages (wine by the jacuzzi, flowers and chocolates, fully-catered breakfasts...) and for groups (attended or fully-stocked bar, barbeque supplies...).
He has found that guests love the extras and are very willing to pay to make their holiday that bit more special.
Elkin acknowledges that his role as a host is bifold: on one hand, it's a vocation of service, knowing how to listen and how to put things right when guests aren't satisfied: "I've worked in hospitality before, I used to work with Marriott. I would say anyone in the business has to have a vocation. Being a host isn't glamorous, there's a lot of work involved."
On the other hand, Elkin has developed another side of his role which he feels is adding huge value to the business:
"I think I work a high-tech job. I'm a self-taught web developer and marketer, and every day I seek to learn more about how to apply that knowledge to Casa de Anny."
And that much is very clear, their website is gorgeous, and their social media presence has an impressive engagement level.
Another high-tech endeavour Elkin takes pride in, is automating the guest journey with Smartbnb.
"Sometimes my mom would see the monthly payments for Smartbnb go out and ask me: 'what's this? Is it worth it?' And my answer was always a resounding yes."
Elkin is abroad, and his mom is retired and isn't interested in making hosting a full-time job (Who'll take care of the orchids?). Automation helps them streamline their communication with guests, and lets them spend their precious time in the interactions that matter most.
"If we were doing things manually, you could blink and miss a question," explained Elkin.
Surprisingly, automation allows Elkin to run Casa de Anny's guest communications and operations almost on his own. That means that his team on the ground have more headspace to take care of the 1:1 interactions in person.
In Elkin's words:
"Smartbnb has been essential to our growth. We wouldn't be where we are without this software. Yes, the automation is good, but what really does it for me is being sure that guests will have an excellent communication experience, reliably, and neither me or my mom have to worry about it."
Learn more about Casa de Anny at https://casadeanny.com/, or follow them on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/casadeanny/ or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/casadeanny/