For two years now, Jamilah Beatrice has been curating more than just a place to stay in TT. Her Airbnb listings in Port of Spain, close to the vibrant Ariapita Avenue, are more than physical spaces. She has transformed her properties just for travellers seeking accommodation and unforgettable experiences.
In an interview with Business Day, Jamilah shares the secrets of her success, the impact of the covid19 pandemic and her vision for the future.
A vision of financial flexibility
“To create an extra income source without a cap on what I could earn,” Beatrice candidly reveals when asked about her decision to list her property on Airbnb.
A move born out of the desire for financial flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit.
Her three listings, which boast elegant design features with home-like comforts, are close to the entertainment hub of Ariapita Avenue.
“That’s the advantage,” Beatrice pointed out, “but what truly sets the spaces apart is the customer service and level of engagement offered to guests according to their respective trip objectives.”
Holiday season appeal
“The listing pictures tell our guests a story...we make it easy to visualise. The written description reveals my personality and sets an expectation of the service they can receive while here,” Beatrice explains when discussing the appeal of her properties during the holiday season. The combination of visual storytelling, personalised service and a prime location in the heart of Port of Spain draws guests seeking a unique Christmas experience. When questioned on her bookings, she explained that one noteworthy change she has seen is reservations are now confirmed closer to arrival dates.
Guest expectations and local engagement
Interacting with guests, Beatrice observes that they are open to spending Christmas in TT.
“Some ask us for guided tours and for this we have our partners in the field. Some require authentic experiences where the host can accompany them on nature tours, sightseeing, driving around to see the country’s landscapes, even local aerial tours which we now promote,” she explained.
Asked if she thinks crime is putting a dent in the number of bookings, Beatrice responded, “I don’t have that data but surely I can see how the anticipation of crime can. Some guests have said that the travel advisories on TT indeed created a high level of fear and negative expectation, however on arrival their experiences have been largely positive.”
Questioned on how the Airbnb industry in TT has been affected by covid19 and if she observed any significant changes in guest behaviours or preferences, Beatrice said, “I’ve heard from longstanding hosts that the pandemic deprived them of their sole income source. Immediately following the full reopening of our borders the trending changes were for self check-in/checkout where possible. Also, guests expected the provision of sanitisers on site, thermometres and access to information on healthcare facilities nearby.”
To accommodate the requests of guests, Beatrice has facilitated self-check-in/checkout and provided disinfecting and cleaning supplies for guests who may want that additional security even if it is just to afford them peace of mind.
One challenge Beatrice identifies is the trend of bookings being made closer to guests’ arrival times. However, she highlights that short-term rental websites effectively channel business to her listings, “provided we succeed at attaining positive guest reviews”.
So how does Beatrice contribute to the local community or engage with local businesses to enhance the overall experience for her Airbnb guests?
She explained, “Through our partners in the field of tourism and transport we are able to offer to our guests specific services in TT.”
She noted that the local community’s attitude towards short-term rentals over the years has been very positive, tourist-friendly and assistive.
This, she said, has been her feedback from guests.
Asked how she differentiates her Airbnb property from others in the area, especially in light of changing travel trends and preferences, Beatrice said, “Hands down my service is my signature. Many guests report that the spaces look great but really it’s the reviews from past guests that result in me as their preferred host.”
Amenities and services that she believes give her property a competitive edge include free WiFi, free Netflix, a welcome drink with a snack for guests, coffee and tea, transport service, tour services, concierge services, special occasion decor, laundry service and inter-island trip co-ordination.
“We listen to our clients and anticipate what they may need and offer these to them” she noted.
Future trends and initiatives
Anticipating future trends, Beatrice emphasises the importance of creative spaces and active hosting. Asked if there are any initiatives or plans she might have in place to adapt to evolving traveller expectations or market conditions, she said, “From the inside looking out, creating unique spaces with experiences is the way to go. People value the experiences you can create for them.”
Beatrice who currently works in general aviation said, “Becoming a successful host has helped me to map out and activate an entirely different generational future and to steadily invest in my bigger dreams. It has allowed me to help others as well. I’m very grateful for that.”
Asked to offer advice to those who aspire to become hosts, Beatrice suggests embracing criticism to continuously improve, rewarding oneself and the team for successes and maintaining an open mind.
“Although ‘Airbnb experiences’ are not available yet in TT, one can embrace the concept and include this in their listing description with photos to attract guests. As a host think about what your guests must do in TT before they leave, then come up with a way of offering this to them and participate in the process. You never know how much you can impact their perspective of your country through your offerings. If interested in becoming a host, be tough in your resolve to provide a sound service and the money will follow. Keep an open mind to criticism because it will come and it will help you improve continuously. I welcome it. Reward yourself and your team when you get it right,” she said.
Beatrice’s Airbnb journey is a testament to the transformative power of genuine hospitality, adaptability in challenging times and the creation of immersive experiences that go beyond traditional accommodation. Her story stands as an inspiration for hosts aspiring to elevate their offerings and create lasting impacts in the world of short-term rentals.