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    Friends turn a side job into a booming hospitality business

    Friends turn a side job into a booming hospitality business

    Putting connection and community first helped this team expand their business.
    By Airbnb on Mar 6, 2020
    7 min read
    Updated Mar 6, 2020

    Highlights

    • When you're searching for a business partner, choose someone with different strengths

    • Clear communication with guests before and after booking can make check-in smoother

    • Be honest about your limits (especially during peak season), and hire extra staff

    After a flight and a long bus ride up snowy mountain roads, guests appreciate being greeted by a friendly face—even if they’re meeting you for the first time. Warmth and true hospitality are a part of everything that property manager duo Celine and Alison do as hosts. It’s how they welcome every guest to Tignes, a ski town nestled in the French Alps.

    Alison believes “it’s just the little things sometimes,” walking them in from town, having slippers ready by the door, getting them settled, “and their holiday can really begin.” Having lived in Tignes almost 20 years, it’s important to Alison and Celine to share what they love about their community with guests.

    A business built by a community

    It started out with favors among friends. When neighbors left during peak ski season, Celine hung onto keys and welcomed her friends’ out-of-town guests into their homes. As this began taking up more and more of her time, Celine saw an unexpected opportunity begin to take shape. She could keep hospitality as a side gig, or dive in and build a business helping others share their homes. The decision was easy. She launched her property management business and has gradually expanded her portfolio over the years.

    Her business grew, but it was a lot for one person. “I was really doing everything from top to bottom,” Celine recalls. “I was managing the booking. I was checking the apartment before the guests arrived. I was making the bed. I was saying bye-bye to the guests, then cleaning the apartment.”

    It was time for some help—enter Alison: a calm and easy-going English woman who nicely balanced Celine’s energetic spirit. As Alison tells it, Celine approached her “and she said, ‘I’m getting bigger and busier. Would you be interested at all in joining me?’”

    A partnership that really works

    With Celine managing the relationships with individual homeowners and Alison communicating with and taking care of the guests, they could take on more work. That’s when Alison began listing some of their places on Airbnb. They relied on each other’s strengths, and stayed focused on delivering a great experience for each guest and owner. Their bookings increased, and soon a growing number of glowing reviews in English, French, Spanish, and Italian gave them additional exposure to broaden their reach even further.

    Personal touch is a must

    Delivering personal hospitality at scale is definitely a challenge for a small team. What’s their secret? It’s fairly simple: clear communication with a personal connection.

    Alison uses Airbnb to set expectations with photos and arrival details. Then she communicates early and often with guests, even making time for phone calls to answer questions and help set the tone for a trip. That way, check-in goes smoothly and the personalized welcome really shines. Those might seem like minor things, but they add up.

    Fresh challenges every season

    Managing a variety of properties, and keeping occupancy rates high, even in shoulder seasons, is a constant hustle. According to Alison, Airbnb’s professional hosting tools can help: “There’s always useful tips and advice about whether you change your pricing, or have you thought about this. So that’s really helpful.”

    And when it does get busy—like fresh powder during peak ski season busy—Alison’s advice is “to be honest about your limits.” Through the years, she and Celine have recognized when they need extra help and now staff up to 18 people in the winter. The key for them is to train and trust the people they work with, or as Celine puts it, “If you want to keep your human touch in your business, you just need to show [your staff] how you would've done it. You spread the techniques, spread the qualification, spread the ethic.”

    Opportunities continue to grow

    On top of their impressive collection of apartments, Celine and Alison recently began managing several spots in The Phoenix, a newly-opened building with breathtaking views of the mountains. More and more homeowners trust their good reputation, and they’ll soon offer their first chalet—a ski lodge with room for the whole family (and then some). 

    All told, the duo manages over 110 listings across town, at all price points, growing their business as they match diverse guest requests to the unique properties they offer. It’s Celine and Alison’s hope that a stay in Tignes will not only be a memorable experience for guests, but a community they remember fondly and come back to visit again.

    Want to learn more? Click here to learn about professional hosting with Airbnb.

    Highlights

    • When you're searching for a business partner, choose someone with different strengths

    • Clear communication with guests before and after booking can make check-in smoother

    • Be honest about your limits (especially during peak season), and hire extra staff

    Airbnb
    Mar 6, 2020
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