How much assistance/information are hosts supposed to provide?

A little background: I’m a relatively new host (started hosting this month and had 5 guests so far) and have been a guest on Airbnb 12 times. As a guest, I always did my own cleaning/washing/taking out trash/cleaning bathroom, room, etc. and did not ask my hosts to provide me with information about the city or provide any other assistance since I believed the hosts are not there to be my personal travel agents. I may have asked the occasional question about public transportation to/fro, but that’s about the extent of it. Currently, I live alone in a brand spanking new 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment in the center of Seoul, so I decided to occasional rent out the other 2 spare bedrooms.

My guests thus far have been good (bar one who left my apartment reeking of cologne) and hassle-free. Most recently, I had someone visit from Hong Kong. Check-in time at my place is clearly stated to be 4 p.m. or later on weekends (she was arriving on Saturday). Her first message prior to her arrival was that she would arrive at the airport at midnight and wondered if she could check-in earlier. I said she would have to book for an additional night if she was going to stay at my place from 2 a.m. She then said she would just stay at a 24-hour sauna and wondered if she could check-in earlier after she slept there. I told her it was possible for her just to drop off her bags earlier, but I would need to know her exact check-in time if she was going to actually check-in to the room earlier (this was a few days before her arrival date). Her reply was she didn’t know her plans yet.

She then asked me for recommendations for things to do in the morning, prior to check-in. I’m also new to the city (I’ve been here for just over 2 months) so I googled some information to send to her. At this point, I wondered why she couldn’t search for this herself. The next message I received was a day before her arrival, asking if there was a cafe nearby. This was clearly mentioned in the welcome booklet I emailed her… so I’m starting to think she didn’t read anything in the booklet. I told her it was in the booklet and also, there are more cafes per square kilometer in Seoul than any other city in the world, so she shouldn’t have any problems finding one nearby. I wished her a safe flight… then on the morning of her arrival, early in the morning, she texted me asking if there was a hospital or clinic that was open (it was Saturday) since her leg was itchy and red. Again, I’m not sure if a host should provide this type of information, but I googled some information and forward it to her. I’ve never gone to the hospital in Seoul since my arrival, so I’m just as unsure of hospitals here as she is… but you can find almost anything on the internet. A few hours pass and I get another message asking if she can drop off her luggage first. Then she asked if I could help her call the hospital to ask about opening hours since they were closing soon or if I could go to the hospital with her… I was starting to feel a little bit exasperated at this point since all of this could be easily found on the internet… and I don’t know if a host is responsible for helping a guest who hasn’t even checked in yet, go to the hospital for an itchy leg. She asks about how much it would be for foreigners… again, I don’t know how to answer and I tell her I haven’t had any experience with going to the hospital in Seoul on a Saturday, but according to some websites I found on Google, the emergency rooms are open 24/7, but will be more costly. I sent her multiple websites but she kept asking the same questions, so I told her to check the websites I sent her.

She tells me she took the wrong train and went to a different hospital. Then an hour later, texts me again saying it was too expensive and now will come to the apartment to drop off her luggage. She doesn’t tell me the time and instead of dropping off her luggage, essentially checks in 2 hours earlier. I just let it go since I was finished doing the laundry and cleaning for the day. In the end, she ends up going to a nearby hospital (there is a hospital within a 1-minute walk from my apartment). She has the keys so I figure she will be OK on her own now. That night, at around 10 p.m., she sends me a message and knocks on my door to ask about a nearby convenience store (this is the center of Seoul, there are convenience stores on every single corner, and then some! I’m sure she passed by several on her walk to my place). I was in the middle of a phone conversation with a friend, so I told her I was on the phone… and she could easily find one nearby and that there’s free hi-speed WiFi in the apartment and she can find convenience stores or anything else she needs on Google maps or other apps/online websites.

Was I being harsh? I’m not sure to what extent a host has to go to accommodate guests. Am I supposed to be like a travel guide and tell guests from abroad where to go, what to see, where to eat/shop, etc.? I’ve never asked my Airbnb hosts such questions when I was a guest, but maybe I’m just an outlier and a more independent traveler? Any advice from experienced hosts? To what extent am I supposed to provide assistance or information to guests as a host?

Many thanks in advance and for taking your time to read my rather lengthy post!

Some guests are quite needy, others not.

In my guide book I talk about local transport, emergency services, cafes, restaurants, shops etc as well as key local attractions.

It also talks about wifi, how the shower and cooker works etc

This covers off the majority of guest questions. If guests ask lots of questions covered off in my guidebook, I do tend to direct them to it as a first point of reference, I also give details of the local tourism, transport and listing sites.

What sort of information do you have in yours?

I don’t think you can judge guests by your own standards as a guest. Just because you are quite an independent traveller. It doesn’t mean everyone else. Nor is everyone familiar with how to use the internet to search for information.

Yours sounds particularly needy. It’s about striking a balance between being helpful and not acting as their personal tour guide. Yes you could have told her where the nearest store was rather than telling her to look on the internet (or told her to look in your guide). No you should have to go to hospital with a guest.

@Helsi
Things included in my guestbook:
Nearest cafe
Convenience store
Restaurant
Popular tourist destinations
WiFi (no password)
Emergency contact information
Transportation information
Shops
Hospitals

Everything was in the welcome booklet. She just wanted me to tell her instead of reading it. I did refer her to the booklet when she initially asked about the cafe. Of course, I don’t hold all guests to my own standards, which is why I included detailed information in the booklet. I was just wondering if I should have to personally repeat things that were already in the booklet to the guests.

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Oh, I did put in my profile that I work full-time (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday - Friday) so I wouldn’t be always readily available, especially during work hours. Does that automatically disqualify me from being a good host? I would hope that potential guests actually read my listing prior to booking…

Well. In my opinion your guest was horribly needy and highly irritating and you did well persevering up to that point. I have had one set of guests that were as needy as your guest and they made hosting intolerable during their stay. They were unable to work out the transport system so used uber a lot. They also rewarded my constant efforts with a three star review.

In my experience the questions started before they checked in and I thought they were just nervous travellers. Now if that happened I’d cancel the guest. I can’t offer that level of support to a guest and they should be booking in to a central hotel.

My issue in this modern day is that we all have smart phones. Download your favourite travel app and off you go. My guests used uber so I know they had s smart phone but they somehow couldn’t use it to find out what they needed to know? Bizarre.

I wouldn’t host guests like that again. if I saw signs of extreme neediness I would now head it off early by recommending they use google.

You weren’t harsh at all but don’t expect a stellar review.

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Of course it doesn’t many of us work outside the home.

This does seem needier than most, but do remember that AirBNB is selling “living with a local” and many guests assume that means that you know the area and city. I do offer lots of suggestions about what to see, where to eat, etc. but generally only after they have arrived. The exception is folks that are doing something “special” and need to make dinner reservations.

It sounds as though you did your best to help her navigate her way around Seoul. In the end, did she enjoy your city?

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@Zandra
Thanks! I was wondering if I was just too busy to be a good host. Whew
It’s a bummer about the review… :sweat:
Maybe she won’t even leave a review at all… half my guests haven’t left a review and the other half have given me 5 stars. We’ll see!

@smtucker
Oh, I did ask her what she was interested in seeing, but she didn’t seem to have the slightest clue about what she was interested, so it was difficult to work with. The first day, she just spent the entire day in the apartment. The second day, she did go out and returned around 22:00, so hopefully, she was able to see some things. I was at work the second day she was here, so I’m not quite sure how much she got to see of Seoul. I hope she was able to enjoy her time here. fingers crossed
I will make an even more thorough welcome booklet this weekend! :smile:

Pamphle, this is my idea of a nerve wracking guest who expects you to be mommy and nanny. They honestly should NOT be traveling if they cannot figure out basic things. The subways in Seoul are the best in the world, and easy to figure out as they have the routes color coded and translated into every language. But you already know that.

I mean… your first clue that she was clueless is that she didn’t think about how getting into the airport at midnight might impact check in. Duhhh.

You said she was from Hong Kong so I wonder if it is a language or cultural thing.

If I started getting a bunch of questions that were already answered I would refer her to the packet you sent instead of enabling her helplessness by answering. As for the hospitals and stuff, you could just beg off. Sorry I’m not sure about that, etc. I just feel like if you start getting into territories like hospitals the guest keeps drawing you into the matter and making you more responsible for their situation and suddenly somehow everything that happens is your responsibility.

Definitely leave an honest review and just summarize the points here. This was the kind of needy difficult guest none of us want.

On a personal note, I LOVED Seoul! My son studied at Hankuk for a year and loved the city. He would love to go back to work. What do you do and how easy is it for foreigners to get jobs and apartments? He was planning on getting a goshiwan since we heard full apartments take a large cash deposit.

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Airbnb hosts run the gamut from absentee slumlords to the most optimistic images presented by Air ads. There is no one set of expectations. There are those here who insist you have to offer breakfast. Once I quit offering breakfast and started offering privacy my bookings tripled, but I have travelers not tourists.

I think it helps to make clear what kind of guest you need. No, not everyone reads all of your listing but at least if you’ve made it clear and if they leave a ridiculous review it makes them look bad, not you. As kona advises, state that your place is best suited to self sufficient guests. Make it clear that not only do you work but you are a busy person. When I worked and did Airbnb I was a teacher. I could not be answering texts or requests during about 5.5 hours of every day. So I made that clear in the listing.

As you do this longer you will learn what works for you. Tweak your listing every guest or more often. Suck it up for this one although if I were you I’d make myself a little less available. “Sorry, I didn’t get your text.” “Oh, you were knocking on the door? I slept through it I was so exhausted from working 16 hours yesterday.” :smiling_imp:

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@konacoconutz
Thanks! I feel reassured after reading your post! I thought I may be just too busy to be a good host if I work full time, but it seems like I just had an overly demanding guest.

As for your personal question, I work at the US Embassy in Seoul, which is kind of a rare job for foreigners since it seems at least 90% of foreigners in Korea are language teachers. If you’re a native English speaker, it’s rather easy to get a job as a language teacher in Korea, either through the Korean government (through programs like EPIK) or with private academic institutions. Usually, if you get hired as a language teacher, housing is provided. Unfortunately, I can’t say how easy it is to get non-teaching jobs in Seoul. If you have a graduate degree or a degree in a specialized field (such as engineering, media arts, etc.) it may be easier to get a job, but knowledge of at least some Korean is probably preferred. As for large deposits, that is only true if you deal with local realtors. I know some realtors who cater specifically to foreigners and the deposit is usually only one or two months’ rent. :wink:

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@KKC
Thanks so much for your advice! I’ll definitely make it clearer that I may not be readily available 24/7, especially during weekdays/work hours.

I will be sure to tweak my listing every so often to make sure that my guests and I are compatible and I’ll have more self-sufficient guests who are OK with not being able to reach me or 8 hours a day on weekdays. :blush:

Wow! Awesome!!! I’m going to send you a PM…

This can be difficult to find out before the guest actually sets his foot on your doorstep.

Actually, the most needy guests I had were all those booking through Homestay.com, not Airbnb. What the platform you sign on promises to guests is really what you are expected to provide, even though you are not part of the platform, “just” a host.

For example, Homestay.com states

Every home has a host present and they do more than just hand over keys. They’re real people bringing real homestay experiences to life. (…) We connect travellers to local hosts in over 160 countries. Do what the locals do, eat where they eat and experience the realness of the place you’re visiting.

So you can imagine this creates expectations with guests, regarding how much hosts should get involved.

Airbnb aren’t quite as “bad”, but they aren’t far off.

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Not especially. My guests book up to 6 weeks in advance and without fail the ones that have contacted me over and over with questions subsequently were also exceptionally needy. I’m talking a message thread that follows like this:

Message 1: How far are you from the station
Message 2: Do you provide towels
Message 3: Do you have an iron
Message 4: How much is a travel card
Message 5: how do we find the flat

Etc etc.

The others were fine. In my experience it hasn’t been difficult at all to work out if a guest is excessively needy and like I said: based on my experience too many questions in future and I will always choose to cancel.

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Good grief. Most of these questions are answered by simply looking at your listing, and for the others, a quick query on the internet will be all that’s needed.

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I once had a guest who was pestering me with her questions about how to travel around my country. In her first message she stated she wants to stay “off beaten path” so this is why she likes my place, but she was too cheap to rent a car upon her arrival, as I advised her to do, as she expressed her wish to travel all around my country. Therefore, she expected me to sit with her an plan different routes literally for hours, finding cheapest buses and so on. The problem was that this kind of info isn’t always on the internet or in English, so I felt like I couldn’t legitimately refuse her request. Still, it seemed like she could magically always find her way around when I was not present, so I simply started avoiding her (she never texted or knocked on my door explicitly, but would always stop me on my way to the car with “a few questions”, insisting even after I would say I’m currently busy…). :smiley: I mean, that feeling that you don’t feel “safe” in your own backyard is just horrible…

Besides my help, and picking her from the airport, she didn’t even bother to leave a review. It was the same situation with other needy guests throughout the years, besides one that left me the worst review ever and the other who actually decided to come again. I accepted as they left the apartment in order and because I wasn’t at home at the time of their stay, which I told them from the outset. :smiley:

Otherwise I’m prepared to talk about my town, region and country for hours, giving recommendations for hidden gems, but there is a huge difference between that kind of questions and those that are simply the result of someone not using their brain.

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Yes this reflects my experience. One of my neediest guests left me a terrible review and dinged me for accuracy and that was after being accosted daily with questions and advice requests. Never again.

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Me three. Needy guests, excessive question askers and other pesky guests… have all burned me with bad reviews or no review.