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go! Platteland - - CONTENTS - TEXT STE­FANIE HE­FER IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS MONIQUE MOUISSIE

Self-cater­ing do’s and don’ts be­fore you wel­come guests

You’re ready to turn that di­lap­i­dated garage, ron­davel, worker’s cot­tage or out­side room into a self-cater­ing place that will earn you an ex­tra in­come. It’s a great plan, pro­vided you sleep and cook there your­self ev­ery now and then to make sure ev­ery­thing is per­fect for your guests.

More and more South Africans choose to go the self-cater­ing route for week­end get­aways or hol­i­days. That kind of “home” not only feels more homely, it’s also usu­ally much cheaper than a guest house or ho­tel – plus you’re able come and go and eat as you please with­out in­con­ve­nienc­ing any­one.

This grow­ing mar­ket is a great op­por­tu­nity to sup­ple­ment your in­come, es­pe­cially if you live where there are all kinds of fun things to do for peo­ple who like to keep busy, but also plenty of peace for those who just want to sit back on the stoep with a glass of wine and a good book.

Un­for­tu­nately, many home­own­ers don’t re­ally un­der­stand what self­ca­ter­ing means. Plat­te­land has heard many hor­ror sto­ries, in­clud­ing one of a cou­ple who ar­rived early in the evening, after a jour­ney of five hours, at their self-cater­ing week­end des­ti­na­tion. Pri­vate and se­cluded. Beau­ti­ful view of the sea. The “hon­ey­moon suite”, ac­cord­ing to the web­site and email com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Ex­hausted but pleased, they un­packed: meat for the braai, pota­toes in foil (pre­pared at home), a bot­tle of white wine in the cooler that just needs a quick half-hour in the freezer com­part­ment…

But where is the fridge? Ac­tu­ally, where is the kitchen? Are the “cook­ing fa­cil­i­ties” that an­cient ket­tle and two chipped mugs on the ta­ble in the cor­ner? And out­side there’s no braai, never mind a grid or wood.

That’s les­son num­ber one: if you use the word “self-cater­ing”, you must pro­vide the nec­es­sary fa­cil­i­ties cater­ing for your guests’ ba­sic needs. Vis­i­tors should be able to live, cook, sleep and bath or shower in rea­son­able com­fort.

Be com­pletely hon­est in your mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing – the key is to un­der­promise and overde­liver. Take clear pic­tures that show the en­tire place and ex­plain clearly what is pro­vided so peo­ple don’t bring along un­nec­es­sar items like salt and pep­per or dish­wash­ing liq­uid. (Re­mem­ber, in this dig­i­tal era it only takes a quick mes­sage to tell the whole world how aw­ful your ac­com­mo­da­tion is.)

But you don’t need to blow half your in­her­i­tance on fix­ing up that old ron­davel. The vast majority of peo­ple who book a get­away in the plat­te­land ex­pect an unpretentious, charm­ing place that’s neat, clean and com­fort­able.

“Work with what you have,” says Chris­ti­aan van der Westhuizen, an ac­coun­tant from Bloem­fontein. Chris­ti­aan and his part­ner Melinda Bekker re­cently con­verted a stor­age room and garage into a con­ve­nient self­ca­ter­ing unit on their small­hold­ing in Fer­reira just out­side the city.

“If you don’t have thou­sands to spend, you need to think cre­atively. Don’t al­low crooked floors, walls or win­dows to stop you – use and cel­e­brate them! You don’t need to hide a raw face­brick wall with ex­pen­sive plas­ter – scrub it and var­nish it. Browse sec­ond-hand shops or your neigh­bour’s shed or garage for things you can use, such as win­dows and sinks.

“Do as much as pos­si­ble of the work your­self, and get knowl­edge­able friends to help you where they can. You could al­ways of­fer them a free week or two ev­ery year in re­turn,” says Chris­ti­aan.

Peter (left, here with his daugther Bella) and Karen Dor­ring­ton, who farm in the Win­ter­hoek Moun­tains near Porter­ville, follow the same ap­proach. They’re busy con­vert­ing worker’s houses on their protea farm into week­end get­away spots, one by one. The two of them are clearly do­ing some­thing right, be­cause the cot­tages are of­ten fully booked well in ad­vance.

Peter, an en­gi­neer, does much of the work him­self. He uses stone and other ma­te­ri­als from the area and doesn’t hes­i­tate to ac­cept friends’ of­fers of un­used house­ware, stoves, lights or taps.

Peter and Karen feel strongly about pri­vacy, prox­im­ity to wa­ter (they build a swimming pool close to each cot­tage), and great beds and li­nen. “Sup­ply what­ever you your­self would like or need for such a get­away – down to crates full of fire­wood. The place must be cosy, warm, un­clut­tered and ab­so­lutely peace­ful. Pro­vide enough blan­kets. A Queen Ann stove or fire­place in the spa­cious liv­ing ar­eas. No TV. Shelves full of great hol­i­day reads…” >

Frik de Jager of Weskushuis in Ja­cob­s­baai on the West Coast says pro­vid­ing self-cater­ing hous­ing is a so­lu­tion if you don’t want to work for some­one else for the rest of your life and want to be in con­trol of the end prod­uct.

Seven years ago, after nu­mer­ous trips and se­vere ir­ri­ta­tions with the de­fi­cien­cies of overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion, Frik de­cided to con­cen­trate on pro­vid­ing self-cater­ing “the way I al­ways wanted it to be”. He fo­cuses on ro­man­tic places for cou­ples and com­fort­able fam­ily ac­com­mo­da­tion.

“Make it cosy but don’t overdo it. En­sure the kitchen is prop­erly equipped with qual­ity uten­sils and equip­ment. I like to cook and I reg­u­larly test the units I rent out to make sure ev­ery­thing works. Fo­cus on qual­ity, specif­i­cally when it comes to crock­ery and bed­ding. Peo­ple re­spect qual­ity.”

Like Peter, Frik em­pha­sises that ev­ery now and then you should cook and overnight in the self-cater­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion you of­fer. If you miss your own house after one night, you’ll know some­thing’s wrong! It’s the only way to make sure ev­ery­thing is where it be­longs – or to find out in ad­vance that the cur­tains are too thin to keep out the harsh morn­ing sun, or the shower spits out only a faint trickle of wa­ter, or the wa­ter takes five min­utes to heat up… It’s the least lit­tle thing that can spoil some­one’s hol­i­day.

The best ad­vice is to talk to the own­ers of self-cater­ing places where you en­joyed stay­ing – most peo­ple would be happy to of­fer ad­vice and tips on pit­falls.

Re­mem­ber, there’s a rea­son why so many places use that some­whathack­neyed phrase “your home away from home”. This is ex­actly what peo­ple look for in a week­end get­away: a happy space, just not their own.

MORE IN­FOR­MA­TION Down­load the Tourism Grad­ing Coun­cil of South Africa’s min­i­mum re­quire­ments and grad­ing cri­te­ria for self-cater­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion at

www.go-south­er­nafrica.com – search for “Min­i­mum re­quire­ments: Guest ac­com­mo­da­tion”. >

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