What are the top skills you need to run a successful holiday let in France? People, preparation, practical building maintenance, parler francais? All are important – and most property owners already know more than they think.
French Connections is a holiday property listing site that specialises in France, with 20 years experience of giving owners great customer service and helping promote their lets online. General manager Donna Sloane shares her tips.
Owners and hosts are in the hospitality business, so be friendly, put yourself in the place of your guests and remember how important their holiday is to them. Prioritise customer service and be willing to go the extra mile. Keep any challenges in proportion with clear communication, tolerance and flexibility. Being adaptable is key to facing unplanned events like illness.
Be sensitive to guests’ needs for privacy. Some love to mix while others want their peace. Your skill is to sense which applies when you first meet your guests. Some of our owners at French Connections find it works well to have Saturday arrival, Sunday quiet day for settling in and Monday welcome evening where guests meet over a communal meal and get in the holiday mood.
Building and maintenance skills
Being able to tackle building, plumbing, carpentry and electrical jobs is useful for both initial conversion work and ongoing maintenance. You can keep costs down and anyone you do employ will respect your knowledge. If you really are unsuited or physically unable, maybe a friend or relative would come for a holiday in return for their skills.
Building work usually involves buying materials at French stores and builders’ merchants, which can mean a fast learning curve in the use of specialist French terms!
French language skills
Speaking French means you can assist guests, deal with tradesmen and integrate with the community. To improve your skills, join a class in the UK or France, take an immersion course or try the latest self-testing way or other methods of learning online. Even if your accent never seems like a native, try to drop your self consciousness and fear of errors and give your skills a go. Effective communication matters more than accuracy!
Anyone who has run a business before will have transferable skills to make projections, create a business plan, handle budgets and manage finances. Think you have no business experience? Well, maybe you’ve run a household or managed a department at work, been involved in a club or charity committee, even sold belongings at a boot fair. All these will have given you useful skills.
In France you’ll still need to consult a French accountant or other expert to make sure you are clear and protected on issues such as inheritance, domicility and taxation. Running as a gite business in France is simplified by setting up as a micro entreprise. This is essentially a form of self-employment and involves less complicated taxation and book-keeping.
A good eye for interior design helps you furnish and present your property so that rooms look pleasant, welcoming and bright but are not cluttered or too personal. Get inspiration from brocantes or browse magazines and websites and visit stores that have room settings. Check out local buildings open to the public for French flair. Visual skills are also useful for planning the garden and adding colourful touches close to the house.
In your online advertisements or website you need to describe the property and the attractions and potential of the local area with clarity, economy and enthusiasm, which will be infectious to potential guests. Posting your advert and monitoring enquiries also needs basic computer skills.
When holidaymakers enquire, communicate with them in an efficient yet friendly manner and be clear with information such as travel options. Adopt a friendly tone in any information left in the property and in personal interaction always be polite, cheerful and positive. Never be tempted to share your troubles with guests!
All photos show owners and their holiday properties available through French Connections
Donna Sloane is general manager of French Connections holiday rentals and property sales online. www.frenchconnections.co.uk Tel: 01580 819303