How Guesty Helped Raise Money for Property Owners Hurt by Hurricane Irma
November 7, 2017
This story comes to Guesty from Cuba. Which was heavily affected this August by hurricane Irma. Boaz is the the co-founder of CubaPura, a company that helps Cubans connect with international tourists online, making their visit to Cuba not only easier but more authentic as well. Boaz reached out to Guesty to thank us for the creation of the Guest Book feature, which allows the direct contact details of each guest to be retrieved while booking websites like Airbnb keep that information hidden. Guesty was happy to be a part of helping to rebuild this family’s life and business after the destruction of hurricane Irma.
For the last year, I have been helping property owners in Cuba provide vacation rentals for tourists. In practice, this usually means creating accommodation listings on sites like Airbnb, messaging the guests, and making sure the hosts get paid. About six months into doing this, I discovered a tool called Guesty which made things considerably easier (more on this in a bit).
In September due to Hurricane Irma, most guests canceled their reservations. This in itself, put many of the hosts we work with in a financially difficult position. Fortunately, the hurricane did not hit Havana directly, although there was some flooding. Most of our properties were unaffected, except for the Baylac family.
The Baylac family is one of our most beloved hosts. Jenny and Jorge are so loving to their guests, so attentive to their every need, that not a single person has given them anything less than a 5-star review. Just to give you an idea of how amazing they are, I’ll quote one of the reviews:
I had an amazing stay and I would need to write a book to list everything the family did for me or helped me with. They are the loveliest, most caring and honest people you can wish to meet and they treated me from the very beginning as if I were a family member. Just to give you an example: my flight was delayed an hour and it took another hour just to get through immigration, customs and finally to get my luggage. They waited for me at the airport and picked me up without a word of complaint. (They have an amazing Ford from 1952!) Then they invited me to join them for dinner, even though I didn’t have this “additional service” booked and paid. They drove me to and from places, invited me to family events and introduced me to friends. Thanks to their big hearts and hospitality my Cuban experience was truly authentic and unforgettable. My room was clean, spacious and it had everything you might deem necessary for a convenient stay: a very comfortable mattress, TV, fridge, a little balcony, from which you can observe the “street life” and most importantly, it comes with a private bathroom, which I didn’t expect. The Malecon is less than a 5-minute walk (you can see it from the balcony of the living room) and the old city center about 15 minutes. I feel extremely lucky for having chosen this place for my stay, I can only recommend it and I do so with 100% certainty, knowing that anyone wanting to experience the real Havana will fall in love with the place and this family.
One of the many reasons their vacation rental is so popular is because it is right next to the Malecon, the seafront in Havana. Their home is a traditional charming colonial house, built over a hundred years ago. These are charming qualities in normal times, but a disadvantage during category 5 hurricanes.
View from their balcony after the hurricane
Long story short: their house was damaged. Not very badly, but badly enough to set them back considerably. Many of their former guests messaged us to find out how they were, and I realized that we could help the Baylac family tremendously and decided to start a fundraising campaign.
I set up a profile on GoFundMe and briefly told their story:
Snapshot of their GoFundMe profile
The Baylac family is so generous that they actually end up spending a considerable amount of money on their guests (taking them out to dinner etc.) Moreover, they refuse to take tips (a guest once resorted to leaving money under the pillow). This is very rare in Cuba. So I was sure that if I found a way to get in touch with past clients of theirs, who have an appreciation for them, that they would help us raise the money they needed to repair the damages. But how would I get in touch with these guests?
This is where Guesty comes in. They have a function called the Guest Book, which keeps the contact details of the thousands of people that have stayed at each property over time. I exported a list of around 60 phone numbers that had been guests of the Baylac family (Airbnb doesn’t give you emails or any form of a Guest Book).
I sent an SMS to these guests. I sent out three waves of messages over the course of a weekend in September. Given the fact that Irma was all over the news, the Baylac family is much loved, and that people tend to look at their text messages, I got an incredible response rate. Out of the 60 phone numbers that I messaged, 60 of them donated to the GoFundMe campaign, helping to raise over 800 EUR for the Baylac Family!
Unfortunately, GoFundMe and the transaction costs took a big bite out of the pool, but we managed to hand over to the family over 850 CUC. This they will use to get back on their feet, and to ensure more people can enjoy their hospitality!
This blog was written by Boaz is the co-founder of CubaPura, a company that helps Cubans market tourism services online. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to reach Boaz.