Tenshin, the host of the social impact experience Brush and Ink, was about to retire from teaching calligraphy until he saw Joe Gebbia talk about hosting experiences on local TV. He was so inspired that the next day he submitted his concept to become a host. In addition to teaching the art of Japanese characters, he’s the CEO of the non-profit organization NPO-LESA, which provides English study materials, warm clothes, simple beds, and scholarships to children in Vietnam who are HIV+.
With over 100 reviews (he’s hosted countless guests from around the world and comes highly recommended), Tenshin not only radiates positive energy and goodwill, but is a top-notch hospitality expert. Here are a few pieces of advice from him about what makes him successful:
How do you plan ahead for guests to make sure they have a good experience?
I prepare some welcome messages and questions to my guests to get to know them well. I like to be open-minded and interested in people that I meet. An ice-breaker exercise is a must. This definitely helps me get to know them well and helps them get to know each other well. It is important to create a friendly atmosphere for everyone.
How do you quickly adapt when things don’t go according to plan?
For the most part, the experiences have gone as planned. I’m very flexible. I try to accommodate my guests as much as I can as long as I have good control of the experience and none of the guests are affected by any last minute changes.
One time, 2 guests were lost and didn’t show up on time at the meeting location. They called and asked me to pick them up. At this time, the rest of the guests were already at the meeting point with me.
Usually, I provide detailed directions to my guests via an Airbnb message a couple of days before the experience start date. I also remind them to check the meeting location beforehand. However, some guests continue to forget to do so and get lost. In cases like these, I’m in a difficult situation because I don’t want to leave the guests who came to the meeting location on time. I can’t pick up the guests who are late, but I always try my best to accommodate them by navigating them via phone.
The guests who were with me at the meeting location saw me trying my best to accommodate the lost guests and helped me navigate them. When guests see my hospitality, they too show understanding and kindness to other guests and try to do the same. It is important to share my hospitality with all my guests, so they can share their hospitality with each other.
How do you accommodate guests’ needs, and how do you make each guest feel special?
I try to accommodate guests’ requests as much as possible as long as they don’t affect other guests. For example, when guests ask me to add more spots for a particular date because it’s fully booked, I usually say no. I want to make sure that I’m able to accommodate each guest and offer them the best time. In cases like this, I promise to let them know if I get any cancellations, so they can book with me.
I give special handmade gifts to my guests. I personally select Chinese characters to write their names in Japanese calligraphy and give it to them with descriptions of each character with my signature. I also give them wall-hangers so they can hang my calligraphy on their walls!
I believe preparation and details are the keys. Also, making sure my guests are entertained and getting a lot of smiles matter.
How do you continue to show your guests hospitality even when things don’t go as planned?
I try to accommodate my guests’ requests as much as possible. I try to entertain everyone and put my 200% effort in accommodating every one of them. Showing your hospitality really matters. I always have “ichigo-ichie” spirit in my mind. “Ichigo-ichie” means “once in a lifetime experience or opportunity”. This word and its philosophy originally came from a tea ceremony theory connected to Buddhism. To welcome a guest and give them a quality cup of tea, you should wake up early in the morning to clean the front gate and the small narrow pass pavement to the tea room, preparing the best natural water with quality charcoal. Hosts should do their best to prepare everything for their once in a lifetime experience.
After the experience, I usually send follow up emails to make sure they had a great time and share photos.