10 tips for small hotels

Island bathroom

[words by Mark Eveleigh & Narina Exelby]

As travel journalists, over the course of the past year we have stayed in more than 60 mid- to low-range “boutique” hotels and lodges (and more than a few luxury ones too) in six countries. We both enjoy the simple pleasures and are not habitually fussy when it comes to accommodation, but throughout the course of our travels we’ve come up with a few guidelines that could benefit almost any hostel, homestay or resort.

(See our tips for luxury hotels here.)

1/ Put up hooks in the bathroom

No matter what the design of your hotel’s bathroom, it’s likely that extra hooks will be a godsend for guests. Near the basin for hanging a toiletry bag, close to the shower for hanging towels, on an open wall space for hanging clothes. Basically: if you have a hook (or a shelf), we’ll find a use for it.

Mark says: I’d also appreciate a shaver socket in the bathroom (I probably won’t use it much, but it could come in handy).

2/ Have a washing line or rack in the bathroom

It’s surprising how often these are lacking – especially in beachside places – and it means that guests then hang towels, boardies and bikinis out front of their rooms or over balconies, which makes the hotel look messy. Having a towel rack or bar also means that we can hang our bath towels out, and they don’t need to be replaced that often – saving you some laundry.

Narina says: A small container of (eco-friendly) washing powder for our smalls is welcome when we’re on a long trip. Especially in Muslim countries where these items are often not accepted by laundry facilities.

3/ Get your staff to clear litter in the area surrounding your property – daily

First impressions last, right? So it’s worth getting your staff, during quiet periods in the day, to pick up the litter out the front of your guesthouse, or on the beach that your guests use. When you take pride in their front yard, the neighbours soon will too – and this can only be good for business.

Narina says: At a picturesque island resort we recently visited, we saw staff cleaning their dustbins in the rock pools at low tide – right in front of guests on the beach (incidentally, they also left their plastic detergent bottle floating. Eco-warrior Mark threw it away).

4/ Don’t overcharge for food and drinks

If you need to cover extra costs, build this into your room rate, not restaurant prices. Guests would far rather have this cost built into the rate up front, and not feel like they’re being cheated by having to pay crazy high prices for food and drinks when they’ve been “trapped” at your resort. The same applies for laundry services.

5/ Offer free WiFi

This is becoming standard in many hotels and restaurants around the world, and guests really do appreciate a free WiFi connection. We’ve found that it’s often the five-star hotels that charge for WiFi, while budget hotels offer a connection for free. You could reap big benefits with this, as guests can then praise your establishment through social media.

6/ Have more than enough plug sockets

People are now travelling with more devices than ever before, and so extra plug sockets become necessary. If it’s an old building with only one plug socket hidden behind the wardrobe, then you could provide an extension cord with multiple sockets.  Having a few international adaptors at your front desk might be really appreciated by overseas guests.

7/ Think green with your bathroom products

It must be a huge waste, as well as a strain on the environment, to throw away half-used plastic containers of shampoo and shower gel, and single-serving soaps in plastic wrappers. Investing in large, refillable ceramic dispensers would earn you eco-warrior points. Better still: fill them with environmentally-friendly products – and tell your guests that.

Narina says: Please ensure that these are always kept clean. No matter how well-meaning your eco-intentions, we’d prefer not to handle a grungy, mildewed container.

8/ Provide complimentary drinking water

Why not have a large water dispenser in public areas, where guests can refill their own bottles or jugs for their rooms, rather than selling environmentally unsound plastic bottles of water? And by all means – factor this into the room price. We recently stayed at a simple beachside resort where, since it was the only option (tap water was salty), we had to buy 500ml bottles of water. In the tropical heat, we used at least 16 bottles during our stay!

 9/ Offer free airport pick-up

If cost and location allows, offering guests free airport pick-up could probably bag you extra bed-nights… along with valuable goodwill. We know of several budget places that do this, and it’s clear that word gets around and their popularity increases, especially with guests who arrive late in the day.

10/ Create a happy team

Treat your staff in such a way that you have a happy, welcoming and informative team – from the person who works in the garden to the person manning your reservations desk. We’d prefer to stay in simple places where we’re greeted by friendly people, than in upscale accommodation where there’s an atmosphere of stuffiness from the first encounter. A smile costs nothing!


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