Who's the boss?
Updated: May 22
The past 14 months have been challenging, the world has seen a shift and with it all that we believe in, how we operate and interact has changed. It has been a wild rollercoaster and it isn't over yet. Some say this is only the start.
Changes and the deep dive
Ten years ago I made some bold changes. I left my career behind and with that the ‘always busy, never time for anything' life I lead. Saying goodbye to certain securities that come with employment but I was happy to dive into the deep. I exchanged the city for the countryside, went from plugged-in to off-grid, from store-bought to homegrown and from cosmopolitan to rustic.
I discovered things about myself I never knew and had the time to engage in certain pleasures such as reading books and listening to music. I found time to study topics without a certain purpose but delving in just because they interest me. I now know I have green fingers, I am a decent baker and I am very good with a scythe. Stepping out of the mainstream allowed me to be an outsider and see mainstream for what it is. Its limitations, constraints and dishonesty came to light and its true colours were far from pretty.
When I opened Casa da Cabaza, my rural B&B, in 2017 it was my choice to share part of my home and rent out five rooms to guests. The B&B would allow for me and my family to live here. The first 18 months was a start-up period. I monitored where my guests came from, how they booked and what they liked. Listened to their feedback and improved where I could. The appeal of different platforms to engage and reach a bigger audience was interesting and this was ‘the thing to do’. I registered my boutique hotel on third party booking sites.
2020 was an eye opener in many ways. One of the things I realised was that I was not in charge of my own business and the people who made reservations on the different booking sites were not my ideal guests. Several platforms were demanding their ‘partners’ to abide by their new and updated protocols for cleaning, welcoming guests and general business processes needed to be ‘in line with international best practices’. Demands were made for more flexible cancellation policies and lists of approved cleaning products were shared. Marketed for the supposed safety of everyone but I felt this was a hello to globalisation and a goodbye to individual, quirky, artistic, independent and off the beaten path.
Something triggered, I felt they crossed a line. This is my house and my business. I am in charge, I decide on my own best practices, I know what works and what doesn't, I know my guests and I create a guest experience that people love. Without places like Casa da Cabaza they have nothing special to offer.
The big players in the accommodation booking industry received government support to keep them afloat. Under the pretence that they provide jobs and are important for the economy but we all know our governments are run by and for the big corporations. Small business owners are left to struggle with plans that are no longer valid and clients who can no longer travel freely. Some received financial support, most didn’t and many will never reopen.
Making sense of it all
I spoke with colleagues and while everyone wanted to pay less commissions and receive more direct bookings, nobody thought it was a good (business) idea to remove an income stream. But it didn’t sit well with me and as we live in such unprecedented times I gathered that there would never be a better time to try a new approach and to make a change. The best way to get guests to book direct is if there is no other place to make a reservation but your own website.
So here we are May 2021, where if you want to stay at Casa da Cabaza you can only book through my website. For special requests, you can write an email, call me or send a whatsapp message and I will get back to you. Human to human contact, the way it should be in hospitality. I am enjoying having a personal connection with my guests again and I feel that I have regained control over my own business. I would like to inspire more hoteliers to take this step and am happy to share thoughts and ideas.