David Hamer, Owner of UK guesthouse Westleigh, shares his learnings six months after entering the travel industry and explains why he’s launching a ‘robotics-based vegetable garden’ for guests
It’s never too late to get started
I would never have expected years ago that this is what I would end up doing. I was born and raised in Trinidad to an English father and a Jamaican mother – a great laid back outdoor lifestyle mixed with a lot of island mayhem. I did badly in school and struggled to find work out there, so I got on a plane to London at the age of 19 to try my luck. I got into the telecoms industry by chance and after a while decided I’d work for myself.
I owned a small telecoms business for 25 years, sold it a year ago and wanted to try something different, with as little to do with corporate life as possible. Me and my wife have a large house, so six months ago we thought we’d list it on Booking.com and see what happened. We’ve really gotten into it!
It’s still a little too early to know my biggest lesson so far, but I’ve discovered very quickly that the happier and more enthusiastic you are, the happier your guests will be. Countless times guests have arrived after a long drive or flight, tired and worn out. But when they see you’re genuinely happy to meet them and they can tell you like what you do, they respond to that. I don’t think you can fake it though, so if you don’t like what you do, do something else that makes you feel good.
I’m really proud of being there or thereabouts at the top of the ratings list in our area – we’re incredibly lucky to be in a great location and to have stumbled across something that we enjoy doing.
I’m growing a robotics-based vegetable garden
It sounds a little ‘out there’ I know, but let me explain. I like technology and gizmos and I started looking into what things I could automate around the house and garden. I also thought it would be cool to grow our own vegetables for guests and started tracking the ‘Farmbot Project’, which ticked both boxes.
It’s a company in the US that has developed a clever machine that will plant, feed and weed a small vegetable plot automatically. They’ve opened all their data up to anyone in the world to use, with the aim of helping technology with great potential for good, spread far and wide.
This guest awoke on the carpet to the delight of his family, who were sharing the room!
We plan to launch this at Westleigh this Spring, and I’m hoping our guests will enjoy seeing ‘Farmbot’ in action and possibly build one of their own one day. We’ll help guests who might decide to get a Farmbot of their own using our learnings from the project.
We also plan to have open days for our local community and schools to come and see it. It’s going to be a lot of fun and the aim is to bring people together.
You need a sense of humour in this business
It’s a people’s business, so it’s to be expected that everything isn’t always going to go according to plan. A recent funny guest story involved me forgetting to put the legs down on one side of a sofa bed and the guest rolling over in the middle of the night. This guest awoke on the carpet to the delight of his family, who were sharing the room! It was very embarrassing, but he was extremely nice about it. It definitely won’t be happening again – lesson learned!
You also need to be prepared to get ready for last minute bookings and have the energy to be the best version of yourself when guests arrive, as ultimately it’s about ensuring they have the best experience possible.
If I could give three simple tips to anyone starting out in the business I’d say: pay close attention to detail; continually improve; and smile a lot.
Life’s too short not to do a job you love.
Like this? Then check out: What I wish I knew: lessons in holiday rentals
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