When Elkin Arriero told us the story of Casa de Anny, a part of our hearts stayed with them in Sachica, Colombia:
It wasn’t really Elkin’s plan to start an Airbnb operation that now spans seven 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.
How did they do it?
Know your properties and understand your strengths
“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.”
Go for specific audiences
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 the 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:
And that much is very clear, their website is gorgeous, and their social media presence has an impressive engagement level.
How Smartbnb helped
Another high-tech endeavor Elkin takes pride in, is automating the guest journey with Smartbnb.
Smartbnb is happy to help
So does the 14-day free trial.
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:
So in late 2018, I turned one of my 17 properties into a full-time Airbnb and Booking.com unit, bookable by guests all year round.
But as with any new business, you quickly discover what the repetitive processes are, and you look to streamline and automate as many as you can.
I want to tell you about my experience with short-term rental automation, and give you some insight into my Serviced Accommodation business, as well as my take on using Smartbnb for the better part of the last year.
The more bookings you get, the less free time you have.
You’re stuck in the old ‘time-for-money’ paradigm…
…and it sucks.
Luckily, however, there are ways (many in fact) that you can run a successful Airbnb business and even scale it up to multiple listings in a way that doesn’t impact your free time.
Right, Smartbnb was originally made as a communications tool, but the data visualizations are extremely intuitive. The data is digestible and allows anyone to review key metrics at a very high level and then quickly identify areas that might deserve more attention.