10 tips for running a gîte
British expat and gîte owner Tom Reilly shares his 10 top tips for running a gîte
1. Location is key. Choose an area of historical interest to generate year-round appeal. Being near the coast is always good – make sure it will be easy to get to with good transport links by road, rail and air.
2. Look at other gîtes in the area and if possible stay in them to gather ideas. Also look at other gîte websites and see what they are offering their guests. Sometimes the smallest thing can make the guest experience much better.
3. Once the gîte is ready, invite relatives or friends to stay as guinea pigs. Ask them to be as honest and critical as possible to make sure you get it right for your paying guests.
4. Don’t wait until the gîte is finished before advertising. Start about four months in advance using an established website. It’s best to use a company that charges a flat fee rather than one that works on commission. However, it’s worth investing in your own website too, as it means you have the opportunity to show off your property with additional pictures. When you are out and about in the local area, listen out for different languages being spoken. This gives you a pointer as to the best places to advertise. Strike up a conversation, if possible, and ask them why they chose the area and how they booked.
5. Ask your guests when booking how they are travelling and suggest routes for them. We have a loyalty card with a ferry company which gives them an additional 10% discount plus we get £10 back which comes in handy when we go back to the UK. Also have a good selection of brochures of things to do and business cards from local restaurants etc. It is also a good idea to have links on your website so guests can plan their holiday. If there is anything special going on in the area while your guests are with you, let them know; e.g. Bastille Day celebrations, which usually involves fireworks.
6. Speak to other gîte owners in the area to build relationships. Most will refer guests if they are full and you should reciprocate. After your guests have left, follow up with an email or card thanking them for staying and leave business cards in the gîte for guests to take away.
7. Have a PayPal account – it provides a secure way for guests to pay.
8. The golden rule: make sure that your gîte is spotless. Guests don’t want to see any evidence of previous occupants.
9. Set up a Facebook page and Twitter account and post regularly.
10. Have showers installed instead of baths, as it saves on water and energy and have a separate electricity meter installed and charge for power once a reasonable level of consumption has been reached. This is standard practice in France.
Read about how Tom and his partner David renovated their Normandy farmhouse and turned it into a gîte.
Thinking of setting up a B&B or gîte? Read our how-to guide for ideas on things to think about before you start
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