Responsible holiday hosts in Edinburgh boost local economy
Just a short walk from Edinburgh city centre is a beautifully furnished one-bedroom flat, which has provided hundreds of visitors with a local place to stay.
The flat belongs to Sjoukje Selener Blackford, who personally greets every guest at the door to welcome them to the city, and helps them find their way around.
Being a responsible Host on Airbnb is something Sjoukje is passionate about. She wants it to be a quality experience and a job she can do alongside caring for her pre-school children and running their household in another part of the city. She does all the marketing, booking and cleaning herself, as well as all the check-ins.
The first-floor apartment, which has one bedroom and a sofa bed to accommodate young families, is in the Gorgie area of the city – an up-and-coming West End location, near Haymarket and a 20 minute walk from Princes Street.
Improving the surroundings
Sjoukje and her husband bought it five years ago and did a lot to improve both the interior and its surroundings – including tidying up the garden and doing litter picks and encouraging their neighbours to do the same.
“When we first bought the flat we put flyers around the area to get people to take some pride in it and keep it clean – and it worked,” she says. “We are the most active people in our building when it comes to contacting the factor and cleaning up the garden.”
Sjoukje says responsible short-term lets hosts enhance an area. “It’s in their interest to ensure that guests are coming to a clean, tidy and looked-after place, outside and in,” she explains. “We have never had a single complaint from any of our neighbours.”
A personal greeting
Greeting the guests personally is important, she says, not only to make sure they have a warm welcome but to tell them about the area. There is no keybox outside the door – a conscious decision to make it more like a regular home for both their guests and their neighbours.
“This part of Edinburgh has a lot of independent shops and restaurants,” she says. “We tell them about what there is and give recommendations.” The flat has guests throughout the year.
“We really give a lot to the local area. If people stay more than a couple of nights they might cook at home – and then they are buying ingredients - but mostly they are eating out.”
Under new Government proposals, hosts not sharing the home in which they live will have to seek planning permission in order to operate in places like Edinburgh and other “control areas” across the country. In addition, all hosts - including those sharing a room in their family home and local B&Bs - will have to be granted a licence in order to offer their space as a short-term let.
Sjoukje say licencing and ensuring properties are checked and taxes are paid is the right thing, and would ensure safety and a quality experience for guests.
“I am not opposed to regulations,” she says. But she has concerns that the short-term lets sector is being singled out.
Their guests are encouraged to be good neighbours too. At Sjoukje’s property on Airbnb, guests are reminded to treat the apartment and the neighbours with respect. And they promote local produce with a hamper of Scottish treats for their guests.