In September 2022, I hosted the second Direct Booking Success Summit, a three-day online summit for hosts, owners and managers in short-term rentals. It was packed with learning from top experts in the field, and today's episode is a recording of a live session I hosted with three of those experts about what hospitality is. They're all so knowledgeable and inspiring, I just had to share the conversation with you.
In this episode, you'll get to hear from Di, Bob, and Tyann. Di runs a business called Wild Harvest that offers group-exclusive teepee rentals and activities in North Yorkshire, UK. Bob is the founder of Green VR events and runs a sustainable holiday department in Italy, as well as a new platform called Enviro Rental. Tyann is the Queen of Guest Experience for Touch Stay Digital Guidebooks and owns two property management companies in the USA. I hope you enjoy the episode!
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Hello and welcome to the Direct Booking Success Podcast. I'm your host Jenn Boyles, and I'm so glad that you are here. Last September, I hosted the second direct Booking Success Summit. It was three days of free online learning from the top experts in our short-term rental field. This episode you're about to hear is from a conversation that I had with three of our great speakers at a special live session dedicated to hospitality.
I found what they said, so inspiring that I thought I would share the conversation with you. Enjoy.
Jenn: Hello everyone. Welcome to the hospitality q and a live session with some of our wonderful speakers. Today we have Di Hammil, we have Bob Garner and Tyann Marcink Hammond, and they're all joining us. Tyann's even gotten outta bed early to join us, but not too bad. Six o'clock. I've done that on the West Coast, so not too bad too.
So for anyone who has been under a rock this week, and, and maybe doesn't know who you are, can we maybe start with a little bit of an introduction? Di, why don't you go first?
Di: Hello, I'm Di and Live roundabout North Yorkshire and I run Wild Harvest, teepe's and Activities. We've been in business for 17 years and we specialize in group exclusive, teepe site hire with bolt on activities.
Bob: And. Yep. I'm Bob Garner. suffering with a, a sore throat from all my talking at least recently, so bear with me. I run Casal dei Fichi sustainable holiday departments in Le Marque, Italy. I'm also the founder of Green VR events, trying to get our events to be greener and more sustainable. And I'm just launching Enviro Rental, which is going to be the home for everything to do with sustainability and vacation rental.
Jenn: It's really exciting, isn't it? It is. Tyann, how about you?
Tyann: Good morning. I'm Tyann Marcink Hammond with Touch Day Digital Guidebook. I am in Missouri in the United States, where I also run two boutique property management companies, one at Table Rock Lake and the other in Missouri Wine Country.
Jenn: it is so lovely to have you with us today. So I wanted to ask first, what does the word hospitality mean to you?
Di: hospitality, I think kind of opening your doors, opening your life and welcoming people in and sharing space. and yeah, just kind of. Sharing space really, and being, being guest orientated. You know, we always try and over-deliver because it's their experience that matters in, I think, to be a host, you can't kind of nitpick.
You can't. You've just got to be quite easygoing. You've gotta enjoy it so they enjoy it
Jenn: and Bob, what about you in hospitality? What does that sort of word mean to you?
Bob: To me, hospitality is meeting the guests with a big heart and taking on board everything that they need, they want and, and hoping, Lee, hoping that you can deliver it. I mean, for me, when we host guests, it's genuinely the fun part of what we do. Cause we work, we are onsite, so we see our guests every day.
We interact with them every day. And that's the most interesting thing that, that we do is when we are working in our. So finding out about them, helping, really, really helping them have a great stay. Which is not just, you know, asking them a few questions, but really trying to get to know them on what they're looking for and really going out of your way to deliver that.
And tho those are easy words to say, but it isn't so always. It's so easy to implement because some of the things they are looking for, but that's what they're there for. And I think that's what we are here for. So, to me, hospitality is really meeting the guests and engaging with them and, and really delivering, you know, a, a brilliant quality.
Jenn: And Tyann, what about you? What does hospitality mean to you? , I mean, all
Tyann: of the above. Can I just get away with that? Yeah. . But , I do wanna add that it's okay if hospitality does not run in your blood. It is something that can be learned.
the other thing is, is I host remotely, so I don't, I don't have the, the privilege of being right there with my guests. So I have to, I've had to learn how to impart hospitality remotely, so rarely ever seen. . And I think that's one of the reasons I excel, with my 20 points of guest communications and why folks can feel the hospitality even remotely no matter where I am physically, all over the world, they feel that cared for, feeling.
Jenn: I think that's a great point. Yes. Yes, because, you know, Bob's on site and on site, you know, I'm not on site. You're not on site. It's, it is different, isn't it, when you're not able to, even though in our business we do greet everyone, face-to-face, it's not always me. Because I can't, you know, I'm one person.
I can't do everything. Unfortunately, I've tried. I need to clone myself.
Di: so hospital hospitality is opening the door at 10 30 at night when your guests can't get the pizza oven going with a smile on your face. , right? .
Tyann: Or when they call at 1:00 AM after a wedding reception and they can't find their house because they didn't follow the instructions, they gave you , and you have to wake up and walk 'em through it until they get.
Jenn: Yeah. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Yes. I th sure everyone, we all have stories about how it's, it's not quite gone. So, so Right. great. , so Di. Let's come back to you. cuz your accommodation business, the glamping grew out of your events business. , you know? So can you tell us a bit about how that happened?
Because I think hospitality is a huge factor in why and how that happened.
yeah, I guess, yeah, actually I think you're right. ac when you call it events, we were very similar to, to Bob, is it, we were sustainable education fundamentally. and the events were day courses, wild food, foraging, walks, and it got to the point where, cause I'd been teaching for 30 years and running Wild harvest.
Di: For 17. So I was just doing the day courses and people were actually camping in my garden to do my courses. You know, they were asking where locally they could stay for to do say two day courses back to back. So being hospitable, like you say, you know, I was kind of, well, you can camp in the garden if you want.
We've got a farm loo outside and . And then it just started, like I'd open my blinds and there'd be people camping in the garden for my courses. So in the end I thought, well, Why don't I put some kind of structure up for them, , because they're getting wet. So, you know, we put the first teepe up and then added more, and then, yeah, now we've got the kind of two teepe sites, so 26 beds and the place in France as well.
So yeah, you're absolutely right. It grew because I was hospitable and I couldn't say no. I had to kind of see to their needs, you know, even though it wasn't my responsibility, you're still kind of, as a host, you try to do a bit, don't you? And make sure they're all right. .
Jenn: Definitely. Definitely. And I think, and now it's sort of a win-win for you because you've got people who are coming for the courses, but do you also have people that are coming to stay and not do the courses?
Like do you have two sort of streams of people coming in.
Di: Yes, we do. We've very, we've really built up a name for group glamping because we were, I was probably the first nutcase actually to say, to open my tea, my, my accommodation up and say, Hey groups, you know, not only, hey groups come and hang in my venue to party in, but hey, he parties and stuck dos and why not do single night bookings and all the things that nobody else was doing, you know, and it wasn't a strategy, it was just a kind of, In the spotted that these needs weren't being met.
so yeah, we absolutely kind of have the glamping as a standalone, strong standalone side as well. Mm-hmm. . But, but the groups that we suggest, they take two of our nature inspired activities so that archery, foraging, fire lighting or natural crafts, we can't make them, but we kind of imply that it's part of it.
Jenn: Yeah. Well that's a, that's a good way of doing it. And I know, I, I, I know when I first met you or heard of you, you know, and I hear that you were actively taking on hen parties, you know, and for those outside of the uk it's, it's a bachelorette party basically. It's the same kind of thing. But I think the Brits, and I'm probably gonna get slapped on my wrist here, but I think the Brits really excel in the hen party.
Like it is almost a. Passage . Yes, it really is. And they can get a bit wild. so yeah, so I remember hearing that you were actively taking them on and thinking, this girl's crazy, but it's working for you. You know, you saw a need there.
Di: Yeah, well I was already doing the activities for hen parties at other people's glamping sites, so I just decided to, you know, add accommodation to my, my offerings
Tyann: as well.
Yeah. Yeah. And let's move over to Bob,
Jenn: okay. Because we know your passion is sustainability, and you've grown your own business. You know, this, this passion has grown through your business, in Italy, and you've got six apartments, isn't it onsite with you? Yes, that's right. So what do you do from a hospitality standpoint that gets people to return?
Bob: Well, obviously there's the environmental side, which I, I'll just part for a moment, but I, I guess the, the, the biggest thing for us and the thing that we really enjoy and I, I hope we excel at it, we, we get, the feedback that we do is that we host the weekly pizza party. So we're in Italy. We bought an old farmhouse.
We, it's been empty for 35 years. We converted it into six luxury environmentally sustainable apartments. But in the garden is an original. Big, big, big brick bread oven, which we repaired and we use every week now to create these, these pizza parties. So in essence, what we do is we make the dough, we bring all the ingreDints, we lay them all out with, with wine and beer.
on the lawn next to the pizza oven and at the beginning of each week, we invite all the guests, and that might be 10 guests. It might be 25 guests. Cause in the summer it gets really, really busy here with lots of kids. And then basically we take it in turns to rollout pizza. Put it on the toppings, put it in the oven, and then bring it out, cut it up and share it.
Bob: And among everybody, and then the next person who wants to have a go has a go. So most people like pizza, so it's, and it's a really easy thing to do. a few thi times they go wrong and there's a bit of a laugh about it, but really, most people like pizza and it's just a way of bringing everybody together.
Getting to know the guests a little bit. And importantly, the guests getting to know each other. So for many people, they, when they leave a review, they say it's been one of the highlights of the week. And we've done over 300 of these pizza parties now over the years. So I don't, I dunno, any tens of thousands of pizzas I've made.
But, it's a really nice experience and, and people get to gel and, and what we really notice is that, The atmosphere has changed from, you know, around the pool from the day before the pizza party to the day after when everyone's chatting and the, the ice has been broken and people know each other and their, their swapping stories and planning to go off to a restaurant together or do something else together.
And we even have guests who come back year after year and they coordinate their dates so they can meet again in the same week or the same period, and do the same again. So it's really low,low cost for us. We, we put it down to cost of sales. It's just a very small thing. We really enjoy it because it's a great interaction with the guests and, and the guests love it.
And, and of course that that's perfect, isn't it? And, , they, they go home happy and, and, and we are happy that they've had a great time. So I think for us, that's part of the hospitality is, is getting to know the guests and, and helping them have a great stay. So around the pizza party, it's always a good conversation about which best beach to go to, or, you know, what's good in the mountains or the local festival, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So, it just breaks down barriers and gets people talking.
Jenn: Yeah, I think it would be fabulous. I really do. Do you have anyone who ever doesn't come to the
Bob: party? Very, very, very occasionally. There's somebody who, who says, and I really just don't like pizza. I mean, I mean, obviously we'll cater for people with different, different needs, you know, and vegan, anybody who's allergic to to various things will create a different pizza for them.
So we'll accommodate all the sort of people that we can, but occasionally, very occasionally we will get somebody who doesn't come. But what we also get is we get some really. Things happening, at the pizza party. You know, like people getting down on bended knee and proposing to their girlfriend. No , that's happened twice at pizza party
and we get, we get other things that I actually can't repeat on the, on this interview cuz it's a little bit too rude, but, so things do happen at pizza party. Yeah. But we always. What happens at pizza parse stays at pizza party. Cuz sometimes they go until the early morning. So, yeah. Yeah. But they always
Jenn: good fun.
Yeah. And I think, but you think for something like that, you really have to be, a hospitable person and like people, you know, and o obviously it goes out saying you have to be on site to be able to do something like that, but you have to be a real people person to do something
Bob: like, Yeah, yeah, you do.
And, and one of the rules that we apply to ourselves at Pizza Party and throughout the week, which we've done since the beginning, is we never, ever ask somebody what they do for a living. And there were two reasons we do that. One is because once you know what somebody does, whether they're a brain surgeon or a road sweeper, you, you start to treat them slightly differently and you make assumptions about them.
so it's good not to know what somebody does, although often obviously it will come up in conversation and that's fine. And then the other thing we think of is, well, they're on holiday, they're on vacation. They might not, they probably don't wanna be thinking about their work. So like, why bring it up?
Bob: Let's talk about other things that are really, nice for them to talk about. So, that's one of our little rules that we try to follow.
Jenn: Well, that's really great. It's just thinking that one step. You know, deeper into that experience because what you do for a living is something that we automatically just ask people, don't we?
Yeah. So I think that's, yeah, that's a really great thing to think of when you're being, hosp hospitable for someone is just sort of leave those things out and just, you know, focus on the enjoyment of the moment. Yeah. Well, great. Well, I am definitely coming for one, one day. I definitely, it's on my list.
You're welcome. , now, Tyann. Okay. I don't know if this, is this an official nickname, queen of Guest experience or Yeah. Is it official or is it,
Tyann: yeah, it's my official title. It's your official title. .
Jenn: I just love that. I just absolutely love it. Queen of Guest experience. Now you talk about having 20,touchpoints between one of guest books and, and their stay.
And you know, we've touched on it a few minutes ago about how you were saying cuz you're not, local to your properties and how you've had to use your communication to get that hospitality across. Can you maybe tell us a bit more about that?
Tyann: Sure. So we live three and a half hours from one of our brands of properties and those, that's the brand with, large homes.
So four to 10 bedrooms and sizes. And, three gen, three to four generation families is our target guest that comes in. And they also book, you know, one to two years in advance at times. So there's quite a bit of space. That, you know, we wanna stay connected with them. I mean, the worst feeling as a guest is to book a place and then they completely ghost you.
And you keep wondering, do I have a booking? What's going on? When am I gonna get more information? Who knows? So, I've very much choreographed an entire communication flow. Now that's not 20. Absolutely not. it is a mix of emails, text messages, phone call, and even a greeting card that arrives in their mailbox.
If there's, if they've booked far enough out. this way they have those touchpoints from us. And I also think about, what stage in the journey they're at. So what type of communication that they're open to. Receiv. For instance, I don't like sending emails while they're at the house or right before that.
They come, because people are focused on traveling. They're not focused on, oh, what emails have just come in, on vacation. You know, I'm meeting with a family. So at that point, definitely it switches over to text messaging now, and even a phone call and it's just amazing how. You know, our, our goal is open that communication right away, just like Bob does with his pizza parties.
It's the same thing. We're just not there physically in person that as soon as they arrive, you know, we non creepily watch the locks so we know exactly when they arrive and time it about an hour later, you know, with a phone call or even a text message if they're not answering and just saying, Hey, we're so glad you're here.
Let us know if you need anything. That way it brings our phone number right there at the. Not having to go search for it. and then of course, safety-wise, it's other places in the houses as well. but yeah, that's, that's the main thing with the 20 points. You know, and I encourage everybody to look over what your communication flow is.
It's not gonna always be 20 points like mine. Yeah, you definitely wanna look at, your booking window and your type of guest, because I, if you've. You know, more of a business guest who just doesn't wanna be bothered with things. Your choreograph flow is gonna be completely different than mine when we're talking large families coming together and they need a lot of information because they're also coordinating with the rest of the group.
So making them feel welcomed, making them feel like they've got all the information at their fingertips. And my goal is also to answer questions before they even ask them. So it's quite wonderful when our, me, my, our messages all automatically go out, but with that human touch, that personalization and the guests actually reply to 'em.
Mm-hmm. and they say, thank you so much. Oh my gosh, yes. We're gonna pass this on to everybody else. Or, This flow of communication has been so wonderful. We're ready to leave you guys five stars right now and they haven't even arrived yet. Yeah. So yeah, so everybody who is especially remote, you know, it, it's a world of difference being, staying right ahead of your guests with the communications, and they love it.
Jenn: Yeah. And when we also think about, that an anticipation that a guest has before their stay, you know, I had cousins this summer who went to New York and they were going to New York for two weeks in July. And in my mind I'm thinking, are you crazy? But, they were so excited they were going from Scotland to New York for two weeks and New York, and this is gonna be amazing.
And they were so pumped up about it. Yes. It ended up being maybe a bit too long and a bit too hot and and that. So by the end of the holiday they were tired, you know, but beforehand, I just know how pumped they were about that trip and how, you know, so I know that. If a place that they had been staying had been feeding them, you know, the information and maybe, you know, reservation, ideas for restaurants and things like that, it would've made a world of difference from when they were there, you know, when they arrived and they're like, oh, New York City, we didn't quite expect this.
Tyann: so I knew. Yeah, I mean, I talk to some people and, and they're like, well, they can, guests can Google, they can look at TripAdvisor, they can look at what's around here. You know, they don't need me to provide that thing, what to do and where to eat. But the way I look at it is, especially as me as a guest, yeah, I can do that, but when the host someone I've already trusted with time and money, and I've already created those touchpoints, when they say something is great, that's where I wanna go.
And that. Cuts through all the noise in the area, and then you go directly to that point. And it doesn't matter that there are a hundred bazillion different ones, especially in New York City. but you just, you wanna cut through to the best ones that your host recommends. And, Being hospitable is sharing those little bits of tips and things like that.
of course I would highly recommend a touch day digital guidebook to help you with that. And then with your communications flow, to point them back to that digital guidebook every single time, no matter what type of information you're giving them, just to also train them to look there for the information.
Tyann: And that really cuts down on any questions. Mm-hmm. that might come back. but yeah, yeah. Proactive communication. Great.
Jenn: And Dye wanted to say something there too. Did. I
Di: wanted to ask Tyann something actually. Oh, okay. Is that okay? Of course. Find this 20 points thing, fab. And, you know how you've described it, I just wondered, do you have, what particular system do you use so that you don't get, you know, because obviously you've got lots of guests and there'll be at different stages.
So do you use one bit of software that says, oh, we need to. Postcard to this person now in their, their 20 step flow. And then at this person is at the point where we need to send them a text. Is that your software then?
Tyann: Yeah. So the, the card is the one thing that is manual. and I do that once a month.
So I, from my system, I download, I, I do a search, a filter down to, okay, which guests have books since I last sent the card, and they're not arriving until X date because I need time for the card to arrive. And so I download that. Upload it to the software. The software sends it all out. I've got a templated card, with design, and then it drops in their name, address, everything like that.
I wish I could hand write everything, but I don't have the No, but this
Jenn: is music to dye's ears. I can already see her going, yes, I'm gonna be doing this. I
Di: love a bit like you Tyann. We've got, we've got guests that book a long way ahead, so you know, we do have the usual communications but mm-hmm. , there's still questions and I just think I could add more touchpoints and have it in different ways.
Yes. And I love that one of them being the card.
Tyann: Yeah. Especially, and the card is, The card is our favorite hiking trail in the area. So it has a map and then a little bit of information about it. and it's one of those hidden gems in the area that a lot of people don't realize and it's free. So to me, it's like I'm not asking them to spend any more money, but they are getting some, a little bit of an insider tip, and then all the emails and text messages, those are all completely automated.
they go out, from my property management software and then also touch. Cut touch day, just rolled out memo, this past spring and it's just incredible cuz you can schedule the messages according to arrival and departure dates. So it specifically says 14 days before arrival, do this three days before arrival.
Tyann: Send this the night before departure, send this. Those types of things. Yeah. Thank you. Oh, that's good.
Jenn: You're welcome.
Now wasn't that inspiring? I love how Tyann said that hospitality can be taught. It doesn't have to be running through your veins from birth, but I will add that you need to be aware of the fact that you are in the hospitality industry, and if you don't have those expertise, you need to search them out.uccess Summit will be back in:
I'm looking for you. I want to know what that one thing is that you have done in your marketing or business in your quest for more direct bookings that has made a difference. That could be hosting weekly pizza parties like what Bob does, or something as simple as starting an email newsletter, which is starting to bring in return bookings.
I would love to hear from you head to the Direct booking success website, so direct booking success.com/one thing. That's o n e one thing to let me know about the one thing that you've done. I'll put a link to that and I'll also put a link to the experts you have heard today, their social links and their website links on the show notes.
Thanks for listening.