The picture above is from our cozy AIRBNB in Athens.
It’s Panos here! Today I reflected on my experiences of hosting incredible people from all over the world. Here are 4 big Lessons that I learned from hosting over three thousand people at my Airbnb’s in Athens, Greece.
Buckle up and get ready for some deep stuff!
1. Most communication happens without words
In June 2018, I started hosting my first Airbnb experience, a paparazzi walking tour in Athens. My first guests were a beautiful Polish family with two daughters. Communication was the challenge I faced as their host given that we spoke different languages. Once I became aware of this issue, I decided to break the ice and buy everyone ice cream as a welcoming gesture. It worked. I bonded with the daughters over the course of the walking tour. Instead of verbal communication, I used body language and kind gestures.
Visit my Airbnb experience here.
The girls became curious about my Apple Airpods. Since I couldn’t explain it to them, I showed them how the Airpods worked. We bonded over this experience and laughed a lot. The walking tour went well, they invited me to join them the next day at the beach, and we were able to bond even more.
2. Laughter heals
Last month, I hosted the Airbnb paparazzi walking tour where I had a group of six people that initially lacked chemistry and had a difficult time connecting. One of my guests was from Zimbabwe. She did not speak English well and was rather shy. She stood out from the group because she changed her outfit every twenty minutes. When I say she changed her outfit, I mean her clothes, jewelry, and hair. It was impressive. She changed very fast and had clearly prepared for her photoshoot.
Initially, the group just explored Monastraki Square of Athens, but then people noticed that she kept her changing her entire outfit. As you can guess, everyone started talking about this. I then jumped on this momentum and I utilized this as a bonding moment for the group. She then became the popular person of the group, as everyone saw her as being fun. It helped her to open up and be less shy. Thereafter, every time she did a costume change, the whole group cheered her on. The group was no longer disconnected, but rather moved as a unit. Laughter and humor saved the day.
3. Taking time to relate to your guests
In September 2015, I warm welcome a beautiful family from Chicago. They stayed in one of my Airbnbs in Athens, which is actually the home I grew up in. The US family consisted of the 3 members, the dad, mom and 21 year old beautiful daughter.
This single hosting experience lead me to identify and design my step by step hospitality process that consists of “welcoming, listening, helping, suggesting, “I’m here to help”.
Back to the story now ..
The kindness came naturally and 1 week living with them as a true family member, sharing, talking and opening in every possible level, the mom shocked me by telling me that she lost her son in a car accident and she bonded with me as her missing son.
We ended up sharing an amazing week together and the experience ended at the airport with tears in the moms eyes.. I will never forget them and I totally feel that I gained an extended family in Chicago!
Treating people well can make them feel safe and then, the magic happens.
Focusing on the human connection and making sure that your guests feel welcome can for sure make you the best host in your city. It is possible to connect deeply with people you don’t know when you stop thinking of it as a monetary transaction, and instead focus on them being your guest.
When you just see them as being your guest, you want to welcome them and make sure they have an awesome experience. For me, this change of perspective ensures that I am authentic with my guests and creates opportunities for me to really connect with my guests.
4. Having the courage to be vulnerable
Recently I completely messed up two of my bookings and it happened all while I was on a date. There were two couples, one French and one Canadian. Both had the same check-in dates, similar names, and similar arrival times. The problem arose around 10 p.m., just as my date arrived to my house. I suddenly was inundated with messages from both couples. Apparently, I confused the bookings and accidentally had my driver bring the French couple to the Canadian’s Airbnb.
Both couples ended up there at the same time. As you can imagine, this caused both couples to panic and be frustrated. To make matters worse, I was unable to communicate with the French couple, as they spoke neither Greek nor English. I decided to try and resolve the mix up in person, so I took my date along for the ride. Upon arrival, the Canadian couple ended up translating for me to the French couple. While both couples awaited my arrival, they had bonded and laughed over the absurdity of it all. Once I got there, I decided I had to just be honest and own up to the fact that I messed this up. The interesting thing about this is that once I admitted to my own mix-up, everyone calmed down and shared a laugh. My resolution was to upgrade the French couple for the night to a nicer Airbnb and provide both couples with wine and free transportation back to the airport. Eventually, the matter was resolved and both couples returned to their respective flats. In the end, both couples became friends. Interestingly enough, I ended up getting a five-star review from both couples and I got an invite to dinner in Toronto with the Canadian couple.
Hospitality isn’t rocket science, just try to be honest, truthful and accept your hosting mistakes Solving issues fast.. (fast as hell!) can transform a bad experience to 5 star review in a split second.
Feel free to follow my hosting stories, tips & tricks and honest thoughts I share through this awesome life journey of hosting.
Your host from heart,