Guten Tag Claudia, nice to meet you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Claudia and I live in Bocholt, Germany. I run the Tourist Information Centre here in Bocholt, so I’m very closely connected to the topic of traveling. I’ve been working there for 25 years now, and I really like it because I get to meet a lot of different people and can give them advice about what to explore in Bocholt. We’re not a big city, but there is still a lot you can do. And over the years, I’ve gotten to know the whole area quite well, so I can give a lot of tips, whether someone prefers to be in nature or experience culture.
When did you start Hosting and why?
I work in tourism and find it quite exciting to get to know people, so I always thought that one day, I’d really like to run a small guest house. And actually, I kind of get to live this dream of mine in a way through hosting now.
When we bought the house that we live in now 9 years ago, I wanted to start welcoming guests right away. But our children were still living here with us and our life was very busy, so it wasn’t the right time. Then 5 years ago, my children moved out to study and I suddenly had living space left over so to speak. I thought to myself: now I can finally make my dream come true and welcome guests at my place. I also think that it is a waste of living space if the rooms are left empty, and I am fortunate to be able to share my space.
So I spoke to my husband about it. At first, we started off with one room, it was an office room that we no longer needed. This is the smallest of the three rooms we offer on Airbnb, but it’s the most popular one, as it’s also the cheapest. All three rooms are located in our house, which means that we always live in a shared living space. And the really exciting thing about sharing our space is that we can get to know the people who are our guests – if they are open to that. Of course we’ve also had guests who simply want to stay in their room, but that is not the concept that we are trying to pursue. It’s more like “leave the door open if you want, we’re always here, you can talk to us”. We cook together with our guests, we take them on excursions. Of course, I can also give lots of tips for excursions in the area, because it’s the job that I’ve been doing for 25 years and I really enjoy it.
My two children moved out one after the other, first my son and then my daughter. So after the old office, I prepared my son’s room, in consultation with him of course, after he started to visit us back home less and less frequently. But whenever he wants to come, I of course block the room, so that he still has a place to sleep! Because we are actually often fully booked, which I think is great.
What do you enjoy most about Hosting?
What fascinated me from the start was that you have a connection with 90% of the guests straight away, because it is a different way of traveling – they don’t have a holiday apartment and live in our house, together with us. We’ve actually had quite a few guests that we developed close friendships with over the years. Some guests even say: listen, we had a great time with you, so if you feel like coming to Stuttgart or something, we’d love to have you stay with us. And we’ve followed through on some of these invitations. Not so long ago, we took in a doctor from Iran, who eventually found a job as a heart surgeon in East Germany. She lived with us for quite some time and we became friends. And then we visited her last year, because we did a little road trip, and she insisted that we come to her town and stay in her guestroom. You get to know such nice people and have great experiences, which is just wonderful.
Another aspect, which is of course not insignificant, is that you can earn money through Hosting. The money we earned so far has absolutely helped us to pay off the loan on our house here. It also helps me in a way that I don’t have to worry that at some point our finances will be super tight, as Hosting allows us to put some money aside for when we need it.
Has the personal or financial impact of Hosting on your life changed in recent years, due to Covid or the current cost-of-living crisis?
For me, the money we earn from Hosting is really a financial cushion that I can put aside for when we need it. Like the other day, our fridge broke down and we had to buy a new one. The money was there and we knew that we could afford to replace the broken fridge.
Knowing what expenses one has to pay every month, especially now that prices are shooting through the roof – food, gas, electricity. I must say that unfortunately, I had to put a cap on the room temperature. 20 degrees and no higher, because I know that the next bill is coming. I have prepared a manual that I place in every guest’s room, with useful tips on how to use the stove efficiently and how to recycle. I’ve also had to ensure guests do not leave the heating on when they leave their room and go to work for 8 hours, because I will have to pay for this cost, and my room prices are still really cheap. But if guests don’t stick to this rule, I won’t be able to keep these low prices anymore. I will have to make the rooms more expensive, and I really don’t want to do that because I want to give students and people who don’t have much money the opportunity to stay overnight in an affordable and nice environment.
Tell us about the guests that come and stay with you here in Bocholt.
We have a lot of different types of guests: holidaymakers, hikers, families, service technicians. We’ve also had business travelers, who booked our room precisely because there is a person behind it, and they knew that they could talk to someone in the evening and not just sit alone in their hotel room after work. So there are all sorts of people who come here for a holiday, for work or for training. People from all backgrounds with different motivations – some from Gemany, but also from abroad. Just yesterday, we had a girl from Japan as our guest, who is currently traveling through Europe and wants to get to know traditional local dishes. So we cooked together, which was really great. These are some of my favourite experiences.
We also have guests who return regularly. For example, there is a guest, somewhere between 55 and 60 years old, who only stayed with us the first time around because all the guest houses in the area were fully booked. Since then, he comes to stay with us every 6 weeks or so. He really likes it here because he says that it’s like a flat share. And that’s exactly what he likes so much: he comes into the kitchen or we sit in the living room and we can have a chat there, or if the weather is nice, we can sit together in the garden. We’ve had some very nice evenings in the garden with our guests, we build campfires, it’s a lot of fun. I always like to make time for the guests when I’m not working.
What impact do short-term rentals have on your area?
I know that in some big cities, there are limitations on short-term rentals, to avoid the kind of situations where people with a lot of money would buy up apartments with the intention of marketing them professionally. And that’s why in some cities, there are strict regulations. In Bocholt, we don’t have these kinds of regulations because this problem doesn’t exist here. I don’t take living space from anyone. On the contrary, I make my living space available to others. And I don’t steal a night’s stay from any hotel or campsite either, because staying at an Airbnb is a completely different kind of travel. Also, let’s not forget that my guests spend money in the city. They don’t sit around in my house all day, they are out and about and spending their money all over town – they go out to eat, go to the museum or go into town and do some shopping. Whether they are staying in a hotel or with me, welcoming visitors is a mutual cross-fertilization between them and the city.