Hospitality Plus

Darling Harbour Area, Sydney

Darling Harbour Area, Sydney

Sydney

In a prior post, ‘Moocher Madness or Houseguest Heaven?’, I wrote about the issue of visitors and how to politely say “no” if you’d rather not provide accommodation to all and sundry in your home.

There are still many ways to be welcoming and helpful. We determine how much or how little time we spend playing host/hostess based on how close we are to each set of visitors and how much time we have available in the midst of everything else going on in our lives.

No Accommodation Does Not Mean No Hospitality

Don’t worry or feel guilty if you don’t want to have guests sleep over. You can be friendly, welcoming, and helpful – and as generous as you wish – before, during and after your friends’ trips.

A huge range of options is available, from doing things together every day to planning occasional outings to offering one or more meals at your home to only meeting people outside your home.

With rare exception we no longer offer our services to friends of friends; after doing so for years, it became too time-consuming in the midst of other work and family obligations. In prior years, I met friends of friends in Sydney but never invited them to my home.

A Reminder about Moochers

I trust it is obvious from my prior post but will restate it here: if someone is only looking for accommodation and/or meal service, then he/she/they are moochers and it should be extremely easy to tell them to go away and look elsewhere for a place to eat and sleep.

It’s hospitality for close friends and family I’m writing about here. When we say, “We’re sorry we can’t offer accommodation but we look forward to seeing you,” we also communicate one or more of the points below. It depends on the people involved and how much or how little we want to be involved in their visit.

Here are a few suggestions on how to be hospitable without providing overnight service.

Before: Planning Assistance Can Be the Most Valuable Gift of All

Planning assistance is a valuable gift. This includes assistance with the trip itinerary and recommendations tailored to friends’ specific interests.

Last year, UK friends with three girls ages 8, 11, and 13 planned a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia. Clive and I spent hours reviewing their plans and sending back our detailed thoughts and suggestions based on what the parents and children all enjoyed and wanted to experience Down Under. These are longtime, close friends and it was a joy to feel we were helping make their family adventure a meaningful one. We gave them suggestions for accommodations but they made their own bookings via the Internet.

I think anyone who lives in a desirable tourist destination can offer two precious gifts to potential visitors: 1) time spent communicating, exchanging e-mails, suggestions, and ideas to consider; and 2) knowledge and insider tips gained from months or years living in the destination area. Combined with the visitors’ own research and questions, the sharing of time and knowledge can result in a better trip than the visitors would otherwise have experienced.

Lazy Guest = Moocher’s Cousin

After years of living overseas, Clive and I can detect a lazy guest as quickly as we can a moocher. Similar to many moochers, lazy guests believe their presence alone will be cause for you to drop everything and become their personal tour guide. They’ve read little or nothing and have no idea what to do, but instead have the attitude, ‘Hey! I’m going to visit your city! Aren’t you excited? What should we do for fun?’

Ugh. There’s no excuse for this in today’s world. These people get a friendly e-mail along the lines of, “Use the Internet” or “Buy one of the many guidebooks available.”

Our favourite visitors are those who have done their own reading and thinking, and ask us for additional input or insight. We always end up learning from them, too, and we enjoy seeing and hearing impressions of Australia from their different perspectives.

During: Time and Attention Help Make a Memorable Visit

Sydney's Northern Beaches

Sydney's Northern Beaches

There are many ways to be hospitable during the time visitors are in your city or area. Much depends on time available with your own work and family obligations.

Arrival

Meeting and welcoming friends at the airport is virtually guaranteed to be appreciated. After a long journey, most people are happy to have a friendly hug and let someone else take care of transportation to hotel or B&B. Meeting visitors at the airport makes the arrival process smoother for everyone. It can, however, be very time-consuming and we make a decision on whether or not to do it on a case by case basis.

Welcome Gifts

Whenever you first meet your visitors, whether at the airport or later, a welcome gift is also appreciated. Clive and I have usually given friends a book about Sydney, and in recent years, our favourite is one about Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where we live. For our friends with the three girls who visited last year, we also gave them ferry timetables, brochures about local attractions we knew the girls would enjoy, and a bottle of our favourite Aussie wine for their parents.

Time Off Work

This can be difficult but in my corporate days I took an afternoon or full day off work once in a while to go sightseeing with a close friend. Taking time off shows you want to spend time together, even if you’re not providing overnight accommodation.

Transportation

In addition to airport pick-ups and drop-offs, driving friends to tourist sites, picking them up at train stations or ferry wharfs, and driving them to favourite day trip destinations are all ways to be helpful and hospitable.

Meal Invitations and Entertaining at Home

We live near some of Sydney’s most popular beaches and have found it works well to invite friends to spend time at our place before and after trips to the beach, especially if they have children.

It’s not necessary to provide a formal meal; some of the best times are casual get-togethers with simple, finger foods.

Local Tour Guide

Sydney's Northern Beaches

Sydney's Northern Beaches

This is probably the biggest area of opportunity in terms of providing hospitality and support to visitors. In Sydney, we recommend and/or accompany friends on walks not normally known to tourists, to local headlands or side streets off the beaten track.

With the family of five who visited from the UK, we went shopping at our local grocery store and had fun introducing the kids to Aussie products.

Treat to Dinner Out

This is another way to be welcoming and generous. (By now I hope you will not feel guilty if you’re not offering accommodation, but if you do, paying for a meal out may help ease that guilt.)

On the other hand, visitors may decide they’d like to treat you to a meal out, if you have been especially helpful to them.

Plan One Special Day

Over the years in Sydney, I developed a one-day program for visitors to see one of my favourite residential parts of the city just outside the normal tourist areas. Clive has also taken days off work to drive friends and family to special areas of interest. Giving visitors time and attention can help them experience the city or area at a deeper level than they might otherwise do.

After: Sharing Photographs and Memories

We try to take extra photographs and then e-mail them to friends and family when they get back home. This adds to their collection and often we have a few good group shots they appreciate having as part of their trip album or memories.

Sending photographs after the trip provides a sense of closure and reminds visitors that we were pleased to see them and provide support during their time here.

Trust Yourself

Clive and I value our privacy and also the flexibility we have with our approach to entertaining visitors. Our advice is to make minimal commitments up front as to how much time you’ll spend with visitors but instead decide as you go along. We like to gauge how things are going and adjust accordingly, without the stress and disruption of having everyone stay overnight.

They couldn’t afford to visit, otherwise,’ we have been told. It may sound harsh to some, but again with very rare exception, Clive and I do not see ourselves as a charity hotel.

I re-read Michelle’s excellent post about visitors  at Mid-Atlantic English (thanks, Michelle!) and found it interesting to note that most of her recommendations do not require providing overnight accommodation.

I think it’s most important of all to trust your own instincts and be confident in how much or how little you choose to engage with visitors. Be confident, be hospitable as much or as little as you wish, and everyone will have a great time.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

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7 Responses

  1. Wow! Can I book you in as my own itinerary manager when I am fortunate enough to get to Oz? Great tips here, you sound like such a lovely host.

    I really like all the suggestions but one that is especially thoughtful is the sharing of extra photos. So many people get home and find their family and friends are only vaguely interested in seeing photos and to receive some in emails from people who shared the experience with them must be a real boost.

  2. I just want to thank you for these last two posts about entertaining visitors. When my friends learned that I was moving to England, I immediately started hearing, “oh great, we’ll come visit, I’ve always wanted to….” It was great at first, as I do not know how often I will be able to travel back home. However, recently one friend has been inquiring about next summer, and the best month to travel, I started panicking! My husband would be very pleased to have them stay at the house (these particular friends are primarily his friends), but I do not want that. We have a three bedroom townhouse with us and two children. The living and dinning rooms are hardly big enough for us. I started drafting a list of rules that we need to stick to for all guests, but I had not yet figured out a way to broach the subject. I am going to save your blog to my computer and use it as a back up if needed when the time comes. You are so right. We should not feel bad about saying NO. Our finances and space just do not allow us to help others save financially on their vacation. Thank you so much!

  3. What a comprehensive and truly thoughtful list of ideas. Acting on any or several of these would certainly show your visitors how much you care for them. I know I would feel privileged to be on the receiving end of any of these generous gestures!

  4. Thanks, Michelle, Jenny, and Kim!

    Michelle, I know you are a wonderful host and I appreciate your kind comment.

    Jenny, trust that inner voice and instinct! You are very articulate and I’m sure you can communicate in a friendly, welcoming way to your/your hubby’s friends that you will be pleased to see them even if you don’t offer accommodation.

    Kim, thank you too for your comment – hope to see you in Paris soon!

    Cheers all.

  5. Hi Carolyn!!

    Hope all is going well.. I’ve really enjoyed the past two posts on this topic! I have a similar system and I swear I should have been a travel agent or a tour guide… or something that entails other people’s trips! heheh!! I like to “help” and be helpful when people need assistance… but isn’t it funny when people write to you and say, “Oh do you know any good hotels…” etc.. and you have to write back… Uhhhh… Like what’s your budget… type of hotel? Hehe… It gives me a laugh that people just expect that of you because you live in the city, you automatically know a good or cheap hotel to stay at… And, for me, living outside of Paris… it’s even funnier.. Well, good that I have some good websites I use for research like Venere.com and Trip Advisor… But, I really don’t mind helping with the planning.. but I don’t like doing the “touristy” things in Paris anymore– !!! Take care and thanks for the great article…. You should be a writer… Leese

  6. Sounds like a good substitution for having someone stay at your home. I have a relative coming in two weeks and will be doing the local tour guide thing.

  7. Leesa, thanks and you’re definitely the tour guide extraordinaire!

    Linda, enjoy being local tour guide – from your blog posts I know you are also brilliant at doing that.

    Cheers and happy travels / tour-guiding all 🙂

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