By Linda Mellor
Hosted shooting, hunting and fishing trips are events everyone enjoys. Hosts offer guests something special; beautiful scenery, exciting topography, a variety of species or an abundance of quarry. A luxury trip with no expense spared, a once in a lifetime hunting holiday to foreign lands, or a business networking opportunity with colleagues and clients, whatever the reason, guests have paid the host for a tailored trip and expectations are high.
Do you hosting skills measure up to give your guests an unforgettable experience for all the right reasons?
What is involved in making sure guests have a great time, and their needs are met?
Venator Prooffer guided deer stalking and are based in Perth, Scotland, I talk to head deer stalker Kenneth Larsen.
1. Manage guest expectations. Do this in your pre-hunt communication. You should always take the time to show an interest and communicate with your guests so there are no surprises.
2. Be professional. Everyone should be professional when handling firearms. Safety is paramount at all times. All staff should be insured, trained and fully versed on health and safety procedures.
3. Be knowledgeable. Experienced hunters know their ground and species, great people skills are invaluable for great hosting and keeping control of all situations.
4. First impressions. Details are important. Vehicles must be fit for purpose, comfortable, identifiable and sign written with company logo.
5. Equipment. All rifles and equipment should be clean and well maintained. Professional hunters are correctly equipped to hunt, and this includes having a dog to track a wounded beast.
I asked Kenneth why communication is vital, he said: ‘When you have a guest outing there is not a lot of time and the focus is guiding them on a safe hunt so pre-hunt communication is highly important. We always communicate openly so we are confident our guests are informed and they understand. Pre-hunt communication is an opportunity for us to get it right and to provide an memorable experience for our guests.’
What are the key ingredients for successful hosting?
Chateau de Villetteis located in Poil, France, and offers luxury accommodation and a variety of driven game shooting in France. I talk to owner Coen Stork.
1. Prepare your venue. Before anyone shows up, you’ll want to have your venue set up and get ready to welcome the guests. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to run around getting the last things in place in the middle of the event.
2. A warm welcome.The first 10 seconds you meet someone are key. Smile. Try and engage the guest by asking about their journey and if they need a hand with their luggage. Ask them if they would like a drink/refreshment first before they are shown around.
3. Help Guests navigate. Show you guests around so they know where they can find their way: eg. gun room, main entrance, rooms, toilets, dining room etc.
4. Encourage participation. Introduce them to the other guests and staff so they don’t lose interest.
5. Keep track of timeand make sure everyone sticks to the programme.
6. Be the last to leave.Once it’s all over, it’s on you to close down and tie up any outstanding tasks. Say goodbye to and see off the remaining guests.
7. Gather feedback constantly. While you can get a lot of information by sending out a post-event survey, you really won’t have a better chance to hear what people really think about the event. The event is unfolding and people’s feelings about it are fresh in their minds. Don’t wait for these impressions to fade and take immediate actions to improve.
I asked Coen about setting and measuring guest expectations, he said: ‘We always try to set slightly lower expectations than the perceived reality; Especially on the website and with video you don’t want to show your best side but leave something for when guests are really there. Failure to properly set and deliver on client expectations can result in unhappy clients. Exceeding expectations can set you apart from others.’
How do hosting skills help angling guests on the river?
Head Ghillie Robert White welcomes anglers from all over the world to his salmon beats on the River Tay, Scotland. I asked him about the important skills needed for hosting fishing guests
1. Communication and social skills. Ghillies can spend days in boats with their guests so it is important to help the anglers feel comfortable and at ease. Sharing stories is a relaxing and fun way to pass the time and get the most from fishing.
2. Share your knowledge. Anglers enjoy finding out information about the river and countryside. They also appreciate tips on improving their casting. Be generous and share your advice.
3. Build a network of reliable suppliers. Guest needs differ so cultivate a big network of contacts. You need to be confident your network matches and exceeds your guest expectations.
I asked Robert about hosting skills on the river, he said: ‘I have been fishing for over 40 years, and enjoy sharing the stories and experiences with guests. Successful hosting is about guests feeling at ease, and story telling is a good way of doing this. If they are relaxed they’re more likely to catch a fish. Experience isn’t only about imparting knowledge, it is also about waxing lyrical about fishing.’
Alex Pearson, from River & Green,adds: ‘A great host is someone who responds and adapts to the needs of each individual set of guests. We have guests from all back grounds and from all over the world so the service expectation is totally different for each set of clients. Some people like to be treated like members of the family and some guests like to be treated like the royal family, to be able to recognise what guests prefer and to switch seamlessly between the two for different groups is a skill we really prize.’