A couple of weeks ago, I left office life behind for a few days to make the most of a long weekend. While in the land of pumpkin jam and port wine, I had the pleasure of staying at a breathtaking B&B—for the second time around. Nestled in the hillsides of Portugal’s renowned Douro Valley, the oldest commercial wine region in the world, this B&B is something to behold. The view, the wine, the architecture. It’s all very striking.
But there’s something even more notable about this hotel: the hospitality.
Perhaps that’s just the effect Portugal and its people have on you. They make you fall in love with a place and a way of life you hadn’t known before. The people are exceptionally welcoming and their ethos is an attractive one to embrace. So I did. And I think about Casa do Outeiro Tuias and the proprietors who make it what it is every time I take a sip of Vinho Verde. Which needless to say, is often enough.
Here are 5 little details that Jose Maria and Ines of Casa do Outeiro Tuias never miss. They’re simple, affordable, and relevant to just about every hotel.
So join me, as I show you how to take a page out of this vineyard B&B’s book in a post that will introduce you to the little details and gestures that matter most to your guests. This quaint hotel is providing what may just be the best guest experience in Europe, and you can improve your own guest experience by learning from them.
First impressions are everything. Whether you’re meeting someone new or staying at their hotel for the first time, it’s no different.
Your chance to make a good first impression isn’t necessarily the moment your guest walks through the door, however. When booking online, the traveller’s first impression of your hotel is when they view your hotel profile, click on it, and book a room.
Utilise this moment to stand out from other hotels. As soon as a guest books their stay, send them a personal note acknowledging the booking and offering a hearty welcome, along with any helpful tidbits of information that you may have. Don’t hesitate to invite them to reach out if they have questions or requests that will help make their stay a comfortable one.
Jose Maria and Ines of Casa do Outeiro communicated with us both before and after our trip, to make sure that we had an easy arrival and that our stay was memorable. It’s a small gesture that makes a big impression. It personalises the experience and makes for a smooth trip to one of the world’s most coveted wine regions.
A hotel has several main touchpoints that contribute to the overall impression a guest has of the accommodation. These include the booking experience, the check-in process, and the moment they open the door to their room and see what their travel-planning efforts have amounted to.
There’s an air of mystery to the latter in particular, which you can use to your advantage. Chances are good that guests who booked online have already browsed through all the photos they could find of your hotel as well. So, use this instance as an opportunity to delight the guest by giving them something extra that they were not expecting.
When it comes to Ines and Jose Maria’s hotel, they’ve gone the extra mile and placed high-thread-count bathrobes in each room. Delicately folded and laid neatly on the bed in a His-and-Hers fashion, these standout. While bathrobes obviously cost money, they’re not unreasonably expensive. And when a you have high-quality robes, you can trust them to last a long time, reducing the overall cost per guest’s stay each time they’re worn.
The impact, on the other hand, is priceless. When I stayed at Casa Do Outeiro, we were all donning the robes and talking about how good we felt in them. And now, I’m telling you, the Internet at large, what a big effect these robes had on the guests’ overall impression, mine included.
Water, bottled and replenished daily
Ok, so great communication and added incentives like cozy bathrobes go a long away. But not everyone is ready to invest in the latter. Still, there’s one thing you shouldn’t skip doing: providing bottles of water in your guests’ rooms.
Everyone appreciates water, but not everyone brings a bottle with them. Some people are also hesitant to drink from the tap, so leaving glasses alone isn’t going to cut it. Help them out by providing a nice bottle of mineral or spring water and replace it daily, if it’s a smaller bottle.
Guests will be thankful for it when it’s late at night and they wake up parched after indulging in one too many local tastes and libations of choice.
In our rooms at Casa do Outeiro, each guest had their own bottle, and a new one every day.
This is another one of those “surprise and delight moments” that Ines and Jose Maria do so well. In addition to a sensational breakfast in the dining hall, with fresh fruits, homemade confitures, delicious yoghurts, fresh baked bread, and warm croissants, Ines set up a coffee bar on the second floor, tucked up against the wall in the middle of the guest suites.
Simple enough when you think about it, to have a table with an assortment of teas, a Keurig machine, cream, and sugar a few steps from the rooms. And there were extra bottles of water too, as I recall.
Guests loved it. None of us had more than one cup, but it was convenient and the gesture meant a lot. While I was reclining after dinner, or during the morning while I was drafting an article, it was nice to know that there was a cup of excellent coffee within my grasp. And it was comforting to be typing away with my bathrobe on and my coffee in hand before getting my day “officially” started.
That’s not all, though. Ines made this simple set-up an amenity in its own right. On the second day, she set out a freshly baked batch of cookies for guests to enjoy, making the gesture all the more memorable.
Now, this doesn’t cost anything at all, but it’s the most significant gesture. From the moment we walked into the hotel, you could feel the hospitality. We were welcomed with high spirits as soon as we stepped through the front doors.
Everything that could be done to make our stay a pleasurable one was taken care of. We asked about the local area and Jose Maria put together a personalized itinerary of the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Douro. He called up a friend at another vineyard and arranged for a private tour. And let me tell you—this was no normal vineyard, but an otherworldly place that could inspire an online post of its own.
But it doesn’t stop there. Why I love Casa Do Outeiro Tuias (and why I’ll be back again soon) is because you come as a guest and leave as family. We drank wine together, exchanged stories, indulged in pastries, and talked about life.
When it came time to depart, Ines and Jose Maria were there to see guests off. With open arms and a healthy dose of good wishes, you felt that this wasn’t just a stay at some hotel, but that it was one of those fond moments that make life what it is. It was a human connection.