Hotels VS Guesthouses

Beach Palm Trees Riviera Maya

Some people are still unsure as to the differences between a Guesthouse and a Hotel when selecting accommodation. I researched it too and did not find much information, certainly not in the form of a blog or article, mainly as question and answer forums, and so I thought I’d clarify this for you today.

A hotel has many rooms, (even hundreds) where as a Guesthouse has only a few but have to both provide the essentials to satisfy the travellers needs. A guesthouse is more homely, as it is usually operated by a proprietor who may even live on the premises. Therefore, there is more personal interaction with each guest.

However, according to today’s grading systems around the world, most Guesthouses have en-suite bathrooms (or at least offer a private bathroom) to qualify for a higher grading in the same way as Hotels. In fact the general rule of grading is 1-5 and have the same requirements for both Hotels and Guesthouses. That is to say they both should supply adequate facilities to qualify.

For example, for an establishment to obtain 4 Stars, they have to provide the following basics:

  • Daily Room Cleaning
  • En-suite Bathroom
  • High quality Beds and  Furnishings
  • Quality Linen and Towels
  • A Digital Safe
  • TV and Satellite
  • Personal Hairdryer
  • Wooden Coat Hangers
  • Full Length Mirror
  • Internet Access
  • Provide basic Toiletries- Soap, Toilet-Paper & Amenities
  • Fresh produce for a choice-filled Breakfast

Small hotels have about 20 rooms and can be more intimate than the chain hotels with hundreds of rooms. A guesthouse can also have between 4 and 16 rooms, but I would like to note the main differences in a table for easy reading.

DIFFERENCES

 Hotels

Guesthouses

  Many rooms and large public areas,  and parking spaces   A few rooms and smaller public  areas and parking spaces
 24 hour Service  14-16 hour Service
 Bigger facilities, like Bars,  Restaurants, Spa, Gym, Swimming  Pools, Shops  Smaller facilities: Not usually a Bar  or Spa or Restaurants, although  some do have these as well as  swimming Pools.
  Fully licensed to sell alcohol   Not all fully licensed to sell alcohol
  Little interaction with other Guests  More interaction with other Guests  and the  Owners/ Managers
  More impersonal   Intimate and cosy
  Usually more expensive   Usually more affordable
  Sometimes pay for breakfast   Breakfast included
 Sometimes pay for Concierge    services   Concierge services usually  included.
  Usually pay per item for the mini  bar and for in-house movies   In-house movies are usually free  and in some guesthouses the mini  bar is included
  No Personal Attention  More Personal Attention
  Some have evening meals included  Not many have evening meals  included
 Room Service and Wine menus  Room Service not usual
  Most accept Children and offer  facilities for youngsters   Do not always accept Children and  offer less facilities for youngsters


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Choosing Accommodation Right For You

Room at Ritz-Carlton, Doha

Image by eszter via Flickr

Travellers are faced with quite a daunting task when choosing where to stay. Firstly because there is a plethora of possibilities from which to choose, and secondly because when you’re visiting an unknown area or country you don’t want any unpleasant surprises, especially when you’ve paid a non-refundable deposit (or in full sometimes). Lastly, while we all take advantage of the ease of the Internet, we are also aware of the scammers out there. Booking perfect accommodation to meet your needs is where the adventure begins, and can be safe and fun!

To simplify the process, I suggest you assess the following:

  1. Decide whether you prefer a Hotel, a Guesthouse/ B&B or would you like Self-catering accommodation?
  2. Ascertain which area you most want to stay in. Do you necessarily need to be close to all the Tourist Attractions/ Conference Centre or Sport’s Stadium?
  3. What is your budget? Do you want a 3, 4 or 5 star establishment?
  4. Have you got children and need a place that accepts youngsters?
  5. Do you smoke or have special dietary requirements?
  6. Do you need an establishment that would make your trip extra memorable, such as if the reason for the journey is a special occasion, such as a Honeymoon, or anniversary?

Next, you will go to a Search Engine and look for the websites with accommodation listings. The next step in the process is to eliminate your options from the vast list you’ll encounter and find the right one for your needs, to make an availability enquiry and ultimately a reservation.

To do this you can:

  1. Ascertain each facility which accords to ALL your requirements and bookmark them until you have made some further research.
  2. If possible, visit the website of each of these establishments to get a better look and feel of the place, read up about the owners and everything they offer. Some of these Accommodation portals do not list the hotel’s website or even their real name to enable you to find them online, as they are afraid you’ll book directly and they won’t get their commission.
  3. Take note of the ratings voted by the public on each of these establishments. These portals often have an in-house grading or poling system which is also a good benchmark to assist your choices.
  4. Read reviews from other guests who have actually stayed at the establishment. These impartial comments could assist your decision in knowing what the value for money is at any given place, how clean it really is, what services they enjoyed and details about their experience in general. A good one is Tripadvisor.com. This works well because word-of-mouth is one of the most successful marketing tools for both establishment owners and the holiday-makers.
  5. Call the establishment yourself (if it’s a Guesthouse or B&B) and speak to the Owner in person or email them and ask what it is you’d like to know about the area or the venue. This will give you a chance to evaluate their professionalism and friendliness.

You can relax once you have selected your perfect venue with calculated estimations and await your departure date with ease and excitement, knowing that you’re not in for some nasty surprises. Bon Voyage!

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More Than Just A Bed For The Night!

12apostles-04Ever wondered what it is that makes guests return to the same Guesthouse or Hotel year after year? There are a few pointers that one can inculcate into your establishment that don’t necessarily cost you a fortune, but are well worth the effort and the outlay as not only does it ensure return business, or even no complaints, but brings excellent reviews and guests recommending you to their friends, family and work colleagues. I am noting a few special touches to make for a memorable stay:

  • A Welcome Letter – a simple personalized letter  with your guests’ names, placed on their bed or on a table in their room for their arrival is a nice touch. You can use this opportunity to also mention your in-house rules, e.g. smoking is permitted on the premises but outside, or no clothes and towels are to be hung over the balcony etc. Include that you are there at their disposal and you wish them a great stay.
  • A Welcome Hamper – a few packets of snacks; savoury and sweet, like crisps, peanuts, biscuits and chocolates, with a couple of items of fruit is also a touch much appreciated by guests, especially after a long journey or to enjoy with their sundowners.
  • Turndowns – to freshen up the room, turn back the bedcovers and place a chocolate or a small candy on the guest’s pillow at night always wins a special place in anyone’s heart. You can even go as far as leaving a print-out of the next day’s weather forecast if you want to really impress!
  • A Plentiful Breakfast – Everybody appreciates variety on a choice-filled buffet or platter, especially if they are staying any length of time, and it’s not the same thing day after day. One can include, fruits, preserves, hams and other cold meats or fish, a selection of cheeses, pastries and breads.
  • Laundry Service – whether you opt to offer this as a complimentary service or to charge your guests, it is always a comfort knowing their laundry is taken care of. It’s extra special when it arrives wrapped in tissue paper or folded nicely in a basket with a flower or a sprig of lavender on top.
  • Free Internet Access – these days everyone needs the Internet, and even though many on vacation don’t bother too much corresponding online, they do sometimes need to confirm air tickets and the likes. They always appreciate Internet access, whether wireless or ethernet, or a computer at their disposal if they didn’t bring a laptop.
  • Providing Gowns for their use during their stay is always appreciated.
  • Luxurious AmenitiesShower Gel, Shampoo, Hair Conditioner, body Lotion and Bath Foam is always handy for travellers. You don’t need to go to the expense of buying small individuals, but can buy large dispensers which you refill after each check-out.
  • A Pastry or Biscuit with coffee or tea on arrival is also a nice touch.
  • Advice on Tourist Attractions and Restaurants in your area is also very helpful to guests.
  • Offer your services at assisting with Reservations for your guests, like Taxis, Restaurants, Tours or Activities.
  • The Thank You Note – a personalized letter e-mailed to the guests once they have left makes them feel validated and they remember their stay fondly as they know you care. Write something memorable pertaining to them and their stay with you; conversations or events, and wish them well for the future. You can use this opportunity also to request  they write a review on Tripadvisor.

    Image representing TripAdvisor as depicted in ...

    Image via CrunchBas

Remember that good reviews and recommendations definitely bring business, along with word of mouth, and if your guests leave happy and pampered they will talk about it. Those who haven’t travelled to your part of the globe before are unsure what to expect and it comforts them to read positive comments from others like themselves who have been. This will inspire them to make a reservation at a place other people enjoyed, so it is the Guesthouse or Hotel Owners responsibility to be consistent in their service.

As always, it’s the little things that make the difference and  more than just a bed for the night!

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Ways to Promote your B&B on a Shoestring Budget

newspapers

Image by Gary Thomson via Flickr

Small businesses in the Hospitality Industry, such as Guesthouses and B&B’s, do not have the rollout budgets of Hotels and can get lost in the myriad of other establishments in the vast world of the Internet, like a lonely star in the galaxy. So what to do? With none or such a small budget, how do I get my business noticed?

These difficult times and the seasonal nature of any Guesthouse and B&B (Hotels too for that matter) is enough concern for any entrepreneur, and forces them to become extremely creative when it comes to promoting their business.

The traditional ways of marketing products, like placing advertisements in printed magazines and newspapers is not top of the list for companies with a small budget; their small ad would get lost in the multitude of others, or the circulation is too small, or advertising in a daily newspaper is too costly, etc. so, today, we are going to have a look at some creative and different ways we can promote our establishments, for free or with very little outlay.

  1. Free Classifieds: There are numerous businesses online these days offering free classified adverts. If you type “free classifieds” in Google search or another Search Engine, you will see them pop up for your local area and abroad. Although, I have to admit that after a few days, or even less sometimes, your advert drops down a page or more as other posts get added to the category in which you placed yours. However, they do still get noticed – and the more places your company name appears, the more credible your business. On some sites like Gumtree, you can opt to pay a small fee to keep your listing prominent for a limited time.
  2. Free Listings: Guesthouses and B&B’s are represented on many web portals offering booking services. (Google keywords like “accommodation”, “B&B”, or “Guesthouse” and your area or country and see how many come up). Some of these request a yearly fee but don’t take a commission on any bookings. Others offer free listings but take a commission on confirmed reservations, although they handle the bookings for you. When you are on a tight budget it is useful to take this option as you only pay when you actually have a reservation. There are also websites offering a free listing,  with no commission, providing that you display their logo on your website.
  3. Articles: You can submit articles – NOT adverts, (most platforms would not accept a blatent promotional piece on your company alone – unless of course it had won an award and had been featured in an editorial somewhere else, whereby one could post this). Articles can be submitted to many online magazines, e-zines and blogs online. Choose a website pertaining to Tourism, such as Tripadvisor.
  4. Newsletters & Blogs: Create a monthly Newsletter to email to your existing clients, telling them about the up and coming events in your area, interesting news, new wines or other information you can research on the Internet or your city Tourist Office. You could create a blog doing the same thing. You can get a free blog on Blogger or on WordPress (which I use and can highly recommend), where you can share this information with millions of potential viewers by clicking on the Twitter, Facebook, Google, Reddit, Linkedin, Stumbleupon and other sites share buttons and ‘pinging’ your posts. By doing this you expand your reach to a far wider audience for your blog and this also brings a lot more traffic to your company website too as a result when you start to build a  following.
  5. Create a Special: Everyone is looking for where they can save money. To advertise a special offer is a good way of attracting customers. Companies like Groupon or City Slickers (in South Africa) promote these specials for you, or else you can put a signboard outside your own establishment, free online adverts, email your existing clientele informing them of your discounts and update this information on all the portals where you are already listed.
  6. Create a Package: What is unique about your position? Is it close to tourist attractions, or are there services offered nearby for adventure, golf, bird watching, etc? You could create a package where you offer the accommodation, one or more of these activities and a meal at a Restaurant, (which you can negotiate with the owner in return for bringing the custom) or a meal prepared by your Guesthouse if you have a chef . You can also offer a specific holiday with a difference if you have, or know a person with a particular skill, and able to impart like teaching guests to dance or cook or paint or surf etc.
  7. Social Networking: We meet people we never would have through places like Twitter and Linked-in and it is well worth the effort of joining and extending your presence online. Facebook of course is indispensable in business these days and it is recommended to create a business page as well as your own personal one. People you went to school with and haven’t seen since may very well be visiting your area and choose to support your business instead of going somewhere else. Word of Mouth is the best advertising any business can get and is absolutely gratis!
  8. Adwords: Google offer an advertising service where you set the amount you pay per click according to your advertising campaign budget. You’ll find this at the top of the Google home page or if you type the word “Adwords” keyword into your search.
  9. Facebook paid adverts: You can also pay for an advert to run on the sidebar on Facebook. This reaches a very large audience and is well worth the money. Statistics show that companies have a recorded a 23% increase in sales in the first month of taking out such an advertisement.

I am sure there are many other ways – one just has to get creative, think out of the box and do some research for what’s available, but the objective is to save as much money as possible to keep afloat until the summer months or when the economy improves.

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Interesting Facts on South Africa

Hello Readers,

The coat of arms of South Africa adopted on Ap...

Image via Wikipedia

I had fun this weekend researching some interesting facts about South Africa for your perusal, including top rankings, firsts and other unusual facts of this extraordinary country.

A Country of Firsts:

  1. The world’s 1st heart transplant – the operation was performed in 1967 by South African, Dr Christiaan Barnard.
  2. The world’s 1st (and largest) Oil from Coal Refinery –  SASOL.
  3. Diamonds – The world’s largest diamond was the Cullinan, discovered in South Africa in 1905, (weighing 3,106.75 carats uncut.) It was cut into the “Great Star of Africa”, weighing 530.2 carats, the “Lesser Star of Africa”, (weighing 317.40 carats), and 104 other diamonds of nearly flawless colour and clarity. These now form part of the British Crown Jewels.
  4. Plants – South Africa is home to the world’s smallest succulent plants (less than 10 mm) and the largest (the Baobab). South Africa is ranked number one in the world for its Floral Kingdom.
  5. The world’s Largest Theme Park  – The Lost City Resort Hotel at Sun City .
  6. Ancient Rocks – The rocks around Barberton in Mpumalanga are some of the most ancient in the world – over three billion years old. Because they are also accessible formations, NASA scientists come here to gain an idea of how life might form on distant planets.
  7. South Africa has the longest wine route in the world, the R62 wine route.
  8. South Africa is the only country in the world to voluntarily abandon its nuclear weapons programme.
  9. Antioxident Tea – Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss): an indigenous herb tea from the Southwestern Cape region of South Africa. This red tea is the only other tea in the world that undergoes a fermentation process like black tea. Rooibos, unlike black and green tea is completely caffeine-free.
  10.  Gold – South Africa is the top ranked gold producing country, having 80% of the world’s platinum reserves.
  11. Tourist Destination – South Africa was the world’s best performing tourist destination in 2002.
  12. South Africa has 11 official languages,  –  Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
  13. The only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace prize-winners is in Soweto near Johannesburg. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses in Vilakazi Street in Soweto.
  14. Meteor Scar– South Africa has the oldest scar in the world. The mete
    Desmond Tutu 2007 at the Deutscher Evangelisch...

    Image via Wikipedia

    or plummeted to Earth nearly two billion years ago. The Vredefort Dome was recently declared a World Heritage Site.

South African Inventions:

  1. Retinal Cyroprobe – invented by South Africa’s Dr Percy Amolis. It was used on former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to successfully repair a detached retina. He also removed a cataract from Nelson Mandela’s eye that enabled the former President to read a speech without glasses, for the first time.
  2. South Africans invented the breakwater Dolosse and the Automatic Pool Cleaner.
  3. A South African physicist co-developed the CAT-scan.

Manufacturing:

  1. General Motors South Africa will be the only manufacturing site outside of the United States to build the Hummer H3 vehicle.
  2. South Africa is the sole producer of the Mercedes Benz, C Class, (right-hand drive vehicles).
  3. South Africa manufactured the seats for Concorde, as well as designing and creating flight control technology for Britain’s fighter jets.

Other Interesting & Unusual Facts:

  1. South Africa is 5 times the size of Japan and three times the size of Texas.
  2.  South Africa is one of only 12 countries in the world that supply tap water that is fit to drink. South African tap water quality is 3rd best overall in the world.
  3. South Africa is the second largest exporter of fruit in the world.
  4. South Africa has deserts, mountains, escarpments, plateaus, grasslands, bush, wetlands and subtropical forests.
  5. South African Wild Flowers (Erica)
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14 Motives Why Cape Town is a “Must See” City

Although I live and work in Cape Town, I have travelled extensively throughout the world, but can honestly say, it is one of the most beautiful Cities on the globe. There is so much to do and see here, unusual and different from anywhere else, which is why it attracts millions of visitors every year coming for Fun, Business or Romance – even a perfect Honeymoon destination. Here are some of the reasons you should definitely add Cape Town to your dream destination list. 14 Motives to justify why you need at least a two-week stay.

  1. The Extraordinary Scenery – Cape Town’s natural beauty is truly exquisite! A City flanked by a majestic mountain and yet on the coast.
  2. A place where two great Oceans meet (the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.)
  3. The favourable Exchange rate against the USA, UK and European Currencies.
  4. The great Homegrown Wines! A visit to the Winelands and the Winefarms in Franschoek and Stellenbosch is also exhilarating, with wonderful Restaurants and quaint old buildings in the Dutch and French heritage villages.
  5. The majestic Table Mountain– see the notorious flat-topped mountain and the host of flora on its summit.

    The classic front view!

    The classic front view! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  6. Game Reserves where one can view the Big 5 are only a couple of hours drive away.
  7. Unusual Activities such as diving with Great White Sharks, swimming with Penguins at Boulders Beach, Surfing, Mountain Climbing, Paragliding, and much more, and now Painting Holidays offered at AfriCabana Guesthouse for Art lovers.
  8. Beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens with all the indigenous species of Protea, surrounded by the back of the table Mountain.
  9. Great Art and Culture to discover.
  10. History of South Africa’s torn past with Township tours and a boat ride to the Prison on Robben Island, where our hero Nelson Mandela spent 27 years.
  11. Encounter Animals such as Kudu, Eland, Springbok and Baboons at Cap
    Nelson Mandela 2005, 2004 & the 20th century (...

    Image via Wikipedia

    e Point or Seals near the beaches and on Seal Island, a short boat ride away.

  12. Great Whales and Dolphins visit our shores regularly and are able to be seen all over the Peninsula. The town of Hermanus is renowned for Whale Watching and even has a Whale Crier announcing their arrival. We can sometimes see as many as 90 at a time in the bay there.
  13. Wonderful Restaurants and great Hotels and Guesthouses offering quality accommodation.
  14. The Fabulous People! – Capetonians are extremely friendly and helpful.
So go on! Why wait? Come and savour it for yourself. You may never want to leave…
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Cape Town says Hello world!

Welcome to our Accommodation & Tour Business Blog! We look forward to posting information about interesting things that are happening in Cape Town, exciting events we ourselves are hosting, whats’ creating a Buzz in our City and surrounds and much more.

We live and work in a truly beautiful part of the world and hope to share the sheer joy of it with all. We look forward to your following our posts and to meeting you at AfriCabana if we haven’t already!