Airbnb has taken over our little island of Montserrat. I was skeptical about its presence at first (and, admittedly, still am a bit), but so far, things have been generally positive. Our island is unique in that we don’t have any major chain hotels, so most people coming to the island were already renting villas. Now, guests to the Emerald Isle also have the option of choosing to rent a room in an islander’s home or an apartment.
When we renovated our island home, we hadn’t planned on renting out any part of it. But once our apartment was complete, we realized that it just made sense to say yes to the idea. We had decorated it for our friends and family, but at the end of the day I figured it was worth a try to put it online and see if we got any bites.
For those of you who haven’t gone through the steps of signing up through Airbnb, it’s very easy. Each part feels manageable and before you know it, you’ve spent several hours putting together your profile, your listing, and more. Once it was all set up, I started getting nervous. What if no one liked it? What if I’d just put our beautiful baby out there (yes, I’m referring to an apartment) and no one wanted to visit? I waited and waited and just when I’d almost forgotten I’d signed us up… ping! An alert came through: “Sea Dreams Boutique Apartment has its first guest!”
Now when you have friends or family come to stay, you put out nice things, make sure it’s comfortable, and if they need anything, they can just holler and you can remedy the situation. But hosting a guest that you’ve never met before is much more intimidating. And on an island where you can’t be guaranteed you’ll find any basics anywhere at anytime, well, let’s just say I was a bit flustered. I wanted everything to be perfect for my baby’s first date (yes, I’m still writing about an apartment). It took all hands on deck to ensure that everything was just so, and I almost didn’t want to hand over the keys when the time came. It was almost too perfect to be messed up.
But thankfully, our first guest was perfect too! Friendly and clean, the person even wrote a good review saying how much they loved the place. And that review led to more bookings and, fingers crossed, long may the bookings continue.
Though with each booking, new issues arose… things that only arise on an island.
Thus, my current list of Airbnb host challenges, island-style, include:
You’re prepared. After all, you’re a seasoned island girl. But your guests might not be used to the power being interrupted for several hours at a time because it’s a weekend and someone at the power company forgot to fill up the generator which runs the island’s power with gas! It’s a frequent occurrence, and one that’s tricky to explain to guests who are accustomed to endless power without interruptions.
Okay, this sounds a bit dramatic. Obviously, there’s food. But probably not quite the type of food your honeymooners were expecting to find in paradise. When there’s no fresh fruit or vegetables available until the container arrives, and even by then, they may already be gone, people get disappointed. Which leads us to…
No Restaurants Open
During the slow season on island, we have very few available options when it comes to dining out. WE know that the restaurant only opens if we make a reservation, but it helps to share this information with your guests who are used to going out to eat whenever they so desire.
From flying ants that swarm at will to mosquitoes… no photos on Airbnb can prepare your guests for what surprises may greet them. The best we can do as hosts is to provide an arsenal of counter measures, and pray for smooth sailing and light-hearted attitudes.
This is the first thing a guest asks for when they arrive and most of the time, the internet works. But as with all things on the island, there are times when it doesn’t. And no, lining up for hours at the local branch to fix the problem won’t help. Like everything on a rock, it’s a waiting game. Eventually it comes back, hopefully sooner rather than later. But this is a hard reality for guests wanting to post their latest and greatest to Instagram.
Oh, the roosters! Unfortunately, the hours they keep and the times they choose to crow cannot be explained or controlled. For guests, I strongly encourage drinking… and daytime naps!
Mostly, for every problem, there is an inventive solution. And we, as island girls, are the perfect hosts. We are a special mix of Joanna Gaines and Bear Grylls… ready for anything! A power outage is a chance to light those scented candles, and we get good at providing flashlights. We somehow arrange dinner bookings when all the restaurants are closed. And despite the wildlife, we encourage our guests to nap in the daytime while they’re enjoying the balmy breezes by the pool. The island evenings are for sipping cocktails on the beach… we just have to remember to tell the guests not to forget to turn off those outside lights or flying ants may add an extra few hours to the cleaning schedule! All the things that we’ve grown to live with become things we need to stay vigilant over because when you have paying guests, you just want it all to go smoothly. Thankfully, all of our guests so far have taken it all in stride and have viewed the inconveniences as part of the charms of island life.
One major benefit to Airbnb hosting on our island is the money. No one ever says that, but it’s obvious isn’t it? I mean, you’re not going to let strangers into your life for free, are you? The money isn’t much, but it’s enough to keep things running and to cover costs (and enough to have some spare change to buy new cushions or finish projects in the garden… I’m hoping).
By far though the best part though about being an island Airbnb host is seeing the island through the eyes of people coming here for the first time. I love being able to share with them the things that I find special about this place, and getting to hear about their unique experiences. It really has made me fall in love with some aspects of my island life all over again. The friendliness of the islanders is always mentioned, and how quirky a place Montserrat is, and the hiking trails that lead you all the way up through jungle to mountains that offer views of the sea on all sides.
Unexpectedly, hosting has provided me with a great reminder to always appreciate what is right in front of me in my beautiful island home.
If you’d like to come visit me sometime on Montserrat, you can find my house on Airbnb – I’d love to be your island host!
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Do you have Airbnb on your island? Have you contemplated becoming a host and opening your island home up to strangers?
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