Providing unforgettable hospitality to your guests can be a factor in your success as a host. When your guests feel taken care of, like they truly belong, they’re more likely to spread the word about your experience and may leave you more glowing 5-star reviews. The best hosts build their success one experience and one guest at a time.

Here’s what we’ve learned from our best hosts: hospitality is about making people feel like they belong. They create unforgettable experiences by spending time thoughtfully considering how their guest truly feel along each stage of their experience journey. What feelings should you try to encourage in your guests if you are being a hospitable host? Here are four key states that can make your guests feel like they belong, ensuring they remember you for your hospitality:  

  • Safety
  • Recognition
  • Welcomed
  • Special

Let’s dive into these keys to hospitality and find out how you can make your guests feel immediately at ease and ready for a 5-star experience.

Help guests feel safe

Guests should first feel at ease and safe, this is the foundation great hosts start with and build upon, especially when we are trying something new or in an unknown environment! Consider sending a message to the group a day before the experience answering their potential questions or concerns. This can help start to build that foundation of trust in you as their host.  Some questions you might answer: how will they know they are in the right spot? What happens if they can’t find you? What should they bring or prepare? 

Plan, plan, and plan again: Before hosting your experience, think through scenarios of things that could go wrong or even just slightly different from your original plan. Having solutions and action plans already figured out for these scenarios can be helpful.  

Take care of your guests’ basic needs: When your guests arrive, guests want to know that their basic needs are taken care of. Providing helpful information can set a tone for the whole experience and will help guests feel cared for and safe. Small things like letting them know where restrooms are, inviting them to take breaks if they get tired, and welcoming them to drinks and snacks if they get hungry or thirsty help right off the bat. Check out more tips for hosting a safe experience.

Help guests feel recognized

Consider memorizing guests’ names beforehand: This is always more manageable with a small group, but any effort you can put into memorizing your upcoming guests’ names beforehand might go a long way in showing you care and making your guests feel recognized.

If you’re short on time and can’t memorize every name before an experience, you can consider making a cheat sheet with each guests’ profile picture, name, and any other facts you can pull from their Airbnb profile, like where they’re from.

Remember who they are: Memorizing names are one thing, but remembering who your guests are and recalling a few facts about them when you meet can do a lot to make them feel special.

Try introducing guests to each other by name and highlight any similarities or shared interests between them. This is a casual way to drop some of the things you remember about each guest into the conversation and may also help form friendships.

Help guests feel welcome

Consider greeting and treating your guests like friends:  For instance, when you’re getting ready to meet your new guests, imagine they’re an old friend you haven’t seen in a while to get in the right mindset. Try a welcome with a big smile and take their queue on any other greeting they’d like to exchange (handshake, high-five, an air-kiss on the cheek, etc).

Hospitality is a dialogue, not a monologue! Consider not just talking at your guests – but try having a conversation with them like you’re talking to a friend. 

Help guests feel like a part of the group: You might take advantage of the intimate group size to foster connections between guests! One thing to think about is starting the experience with an icebreaker which might get everyone feeling familiar and comfortable with each other. For instance, an easy icebreaker activity is to have everyone stand in a circle and go around introducing themselves and answering a question (you can also participate!). Here are a few options, but feel free to come up with something related to your experience:

  • What do you hope to get out of this experience?
  • What’s one surprising fact about your hometown?
  • What are you most grateful for today?

Help guests feel special

Consider giving guests your undivided attention: Body language can be an effective way to make someone feel like you care. Make regular eye contact with each of your guests and, as much as possible, check in with each guest equally, facing your body towards them when you do.

Sometimes, quiet guests might require more support in order to feel comfortable, but try not to pushing shy guests too hard as it may make them uneasy. 

Try showing guests a new side of themselves: A truly magical experience could mean making guests feel like they’re in a different world for the day and they can be whoever they want to be. Maybe they’re an accountant every other day, but today, during your experience, they are an explorer, a sushi maker or a nature photographer. 

Consider sharing a personal story about what it was like the first time you tried the activity that many of your guests may be doing for the first time during your experience. Reminding them that you were once new at the activity can put their mind at ease and open them up to exploring new possibilities.

Surprise and delight your guests. Providing an unexpected extra moment or gift can help your guests feel special. Some hosts offer a unique souvenir, a printed guide of your favorite nearby spots, take a Polaroid photo with their guests, or might add an extra stop on their tour.

Some of this may seem like common sense, but you might find it difficult to focus on hospitality while you are busy with the logistics of putting your experience together. That is totally normal and okay, do your best!

The Guest’s Journey exercise below can help you consider how you might follow through on these hospitality principals. You may want to consider how you provide safe, welcoming, personalized moments along your guest’s journey, from the moment they book to after the experience ends. Jot down how you might provide an exceptional level of hospitality along this journey:

Before the experience begins

  • What moments are you interacting with your guests beforehand? How can you infuse the four keys into these interactions?

Arrival and introductions

  • How might you make your guests feel safe with you and each other from your first moments together?

During the activity – note: this is the peak point of their journey!

  • If the whole group is doing the same activity, how might you recognize each guest’s unique perspective?

The end of the experience

  • When ending the experience, what one feeling should your guests walk away with? What can you do to encourage this?

After the experience

  • How are you following up with your guests? Is there a fun way you can remind them of your favorite special moments together?

Remember: these are just a few tips based on what we have heard from hosts who have found personal success this way. These tips aren’t the only way to be a hospitable host. As long as your guests are safe, comfortable and having fun, you’re doing a great job.

“People may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buehner