|What are our next steps? (Abandoned shoes found at our Vicolo Scala entrance 2017)|
Casa Chilenne has been closed to the public since March 9th, 2020 and we have decided that we will remain closed, for now, until September 1, 2020. We promised that when we re-opened we'd be back better than before, and as we consider the path to this promise it is clear that this is not the moment that it can be maintained.
During this shut down, so many things have changed. Providing a memorable experience for our guests and extending our homestyle hospitality and service has always been our priority and now more than ever, it is also important that we protect our guests in every way we can from Covid 19 until there is a vaccine, or until the imminent threat is over.
Those who are familiar with us know that we are a small 5 room establishment which prides itself in offering hotel amenities in a home environment, however, even before the crisis, we had started to notice that the expectations of travellers was changing. We prided ourselves in offering television and telephone service so that people could keep up with the news from home and their loved ones. More often than not there was a newspaper available in the breakfast room in the home languages of our guests. We provide a mini bar for the convenience of our guests at what we feel are fair prices and so that those travelling with medications which need refrigeration have that peace of mind.
We take pride in offering a "breakfast worth waking up for" so that guests would not have to get dressed and dash out in bad weather, or compete for a table at a coffee bar to sit and relax over breakfast and we love to spoil our guests with specialities of the season or a hot, leisurely breakfast for those who enjoy their holidays that way.
We have not changed our pricing since 2008 when we opened, yet, we saw our reservation numbers declining over the past few years despite our glowing reviews. The exponential growth of offerings on AirBnB or other such sites, coupled with large hotels marketing cut rate rooms to increase interest in their properties, made us start to question our philosophy.
Amongst my blog drafts I found the following blog which I started in 2017- today I propose it for your feedback as we evaluate what our future should be. I would appreciate any feedback you can give me. Especially from previous guests.
"A No-Frills Future?" a blog draft from 2017
I met tourism of the future today and it frightened me.
I was contacted a few days ago by a friend who gives cooking lessons. He told me that he had been contacted by a blogger/journalist who wanted to review one of his cooking classes and would I be willing to offer hospitality for free for some blogspace with pictures. I was torn.
First of all, I have never, ever paid for reviews of our bed and breakfast. I have never, ever paid commissions to online travel agents like booking.com or hotels.com; the size of our structure and budget just don't allow for it. We were, for a short time listed on AirBnB as a sort of experiment from which we received one guest and I have now paid to be present on a website called bedandbreakfast.it for a flat fee each year for increased visibility in the Italian market.
I do not pay to have Casa Chilenne listed on TripAdvisor and after refusing their many offers to list my website and contact information for fees starting at 4000 Euro and ending with the last offer at 1250 Euro per year, found my rating as a B&B on their site slip from 1st or 2nd place and never rise again above 4th place, even though the simple math of number of circles awarded divided by number of reviews should land me solidly holding my original placement-go figure.
After receiving more information from my chef friend about the blogger and obtaining a link to the blog in question I visited it and had even more doubts but, I decided to accept the offer, more than anything else to help my friend obtain his review.
I already feel incredibly fortunate and honored that well known guidebooks like the Lonely Planet, Frommer's and Routard have included our home in their recommendations to their readers. All three of these inclusions were a surprise and the fruit of anonymous visits by paying visitors. To this day I cannot explain how we were included in Frommer's and Routard.
The fear that I felt today wasn't tied to economics however, it was more tied to a sort of shaking up of the tenets of hospitality by current technology.
Amenities that we have invested in and continue to spend money on to upkeep may be swiftly becoming superfluous. Telephones, satellite television are obsolete when a decent WiFi connection is provided (of course for free).
Can it be that the expectations of travellers have changed so dramatically?
More and more, I see travellers turning to OTA's like Booking.com, Expedia.com, Hotels.com or websites like AirBnB to find lodging for their holidays. I was visited one summer by a cousin's young daughter who was travelling with an app called couch surfers - or some similar frightening name to find her lodging around Europe.
Watching this new generation of travelers operate in this manner made me wonder about the future of our establishment. Are we passé? Have accomodations which offer comforts and amenities now obsolete? With the advancements of technology travelers no longer worry about finding a place with television or telephones to stay in touch with news and people back home. More would rather rely on an online review to select a restaurant or activity than asking for recommendations. So what is expected from hosts today?
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28 June 2020
We'd appreciate any comments you might have and thank you in advance for sharing them.
Jeanette and Luciano, and of course, Daisy and Jake