Why Is arriving ON TIME At A Self Catering Place Such A Pain?

May 11, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Cape Town Accommodation Owners,Self Catering Management


Let me tell you a story about the Horaks arriving at a self catering cottage in Riebeeck Kasteel ON Time!

BTW: This story is not about dogs.

Let me say; the Horaks love dogs.

Dogs are not as demanding as kids but they can direct your life if you allow them - and we do.....

With Nandi in Cape Town looking after enquiries;

Elmarie, the three dogs and I had to leave Simonstown for the weekend.

It was the Navy Festival.

Cannons going off - shooting heavy nerve-wrecking blanks.

Dogs howling 24 hours for three days.

Helicopters, boats and thousands of people.

Earth shatteringly noisy.

Instead we arranged a delightful pet-friendly place in Riebeeck Kasteel.

We arranged with the accommodation manager to meet at the cottage to get the keys at a specific time.

There was no other way!

The manager and us are tied to this commitment as it's the RIGHT thing to do!


Dogs, biltong, bedding packed we happily detoured and left at 06:00 am for Villiers Dorp - just 40 kilometer inland from Grabou.

A few years ago I bought a collectors item VW Syncro bus - 25 years is not old but they are very popular with the fanatic group who owns them.

Villiersdorp is one of the places where these very capable busses are restored, reconditioned and pampered.

We arrived at 08:00 for a quick checkup.

The dogs on their leads, Elmarie and I walked through garage looking at shiny Carman Gias, VW Kombi Camper Vans, Double Cab VW Syncros.

I would like to get a Syncro Double Cab. But convincing Elmarie is another story.

With the Syncro ready to go we left, meandering the back roads via Worcester stopping at farm stalls, wine farms and eventually buying a few months worth of Krone MCC at Tweejongegesellen.

The fun has started.It was mid-day with lots to see and do but something was bothering us.

That nagging feeling when you feel obliged to do something that can wait but it would not be nice.


Instead of stopping along the way to take a photo, to eat lunch, to taste wine we checked the time.

We had to push to our destination.

Why be in such hurry?

Remember the commitment we made to meet On Time?

We had to meet the manager at the self-catering home to receive keys at the agreed time.


My question:

Why do I have to stop having fun during our short break-away just because I need to get a key?

There must be better ways of accessing self-catering homes that do not depend on being obliged to meet another physical breathing entity to give me a physical key at a specific time.

I accept that self-catering accommodation is not like a hotel where you can arrive 24/7.

But why not strive to give guests the option to arrive 24/7?

In our line of work, our self catering manager gets a fee to meet guests at an agreed arrival time.

And the owner pays this fee - adding to the cost to manage a home.

The main function is: give the guests access.

As we have experienced; guests want access but prefer this on their terms; a time that meets their flexible needs.

BTW: The manager also introduces the guests to the home and shows them the house manual.

But, man oh man, let these guests be late.

Everyone gets flustered, to say the least.

Let's say our manager made an appointment with guests, to arrive at 13:00.

They are having fun with friends at a restaurant, or are meandering and don't keep time.

The manager needs to pick up her son at 14:00 and then has already set up other key giving ceremonies at 14:30, 16:00 etc with other arriving guests.


She is now quietly upset with the guests who did not keep to the appointed time and all the other guests and her daughter are dragged into this mess.

Is all this key stuff needed just because access to the house needs bodies to meet?

Elmarie, just now, told me about a guest who will arrive tomorrow.

The guest said she will arrive between 14:00 and 16:00.

Elmarie said, "How could she be so ignorant?"

And I said, "Why should a key be a reason for not allowing the guest a flexible arrival time?"

We trust our banks, Paypal and other with billions of dollars using electronic pin codes (keys) but we still need a physical body and a piece of metal to unlock a home.

Can we make it more convenient for guests and avoid the conflict, avoid the cost, avoid the potential loss of physical keys?

Yes, we can.

Let us see what others have done and what they say:


Let us see what others have done and what they say:

Nathan Blecharczyk, the co-founder of Airbnb, uses a Kwikset electronic lock at his own home!

Chris Cooper a host of two homes said:

Simple. Don't have a key at all - that's one of the biggest areas of friction for guests - they worry about getting the key, or losing it, you worry about the same. But it's been such a relief. Contractors arriving unexpectedly while I am away from the shops? No problem - I give them the code on the phone. Bookings at last minute when I am away? No problem with key exchange - they get the door code automatically in the House guide, on booking confirmed, even if I am out of signal range.

Now instead of getting a manager to meet at a specific time with a guest who doesn't want to meet at this time you can now send an ekey (more here

Watch this video to get the idea.


At CapeHolidays we have opted for two solutions:

A keysafe.

This is a coded safe with home keys in the safe. We give the code to guests before arrival. They access the keys via the code and enter the home. 

This is a simple solution but there are better ways.

The one I mentioned above:

GSM switch.


We have installed one at our home/office and will install another at an apartment.

A garage door would be around R3000 to get and install the GSM Switch. Any other door would need an electric lock, the GMS switch, and installation at about R4000.

How does a GSM Switch work?



  • You program it via sms
  • The sms code give a guest access between two dates (arrival & departure).
  • The guest is send the GSM switch's phone number
  • Upon arrival at the gate or door of the self catering home the guest gives the phone number a missed call and gate opens.
  • 2
  • Every time, between these dates a missed call from only this guest's phone number will open the gate.
  • Only the master can program which phones will open the gate via missed call.
  • If there are people who need permanent access their phone number, which you program, will open every time they give the GSM switch a missed call.
  • You can be 1000's of kilometers away; you can program your GSM Switch to give limited access, permanent access or withdraw access.

Let's Now Look At The Riebeeck Kasteel Example

Assume the manager at of the accommodation had such GSM Switch:

  • The manager would enter our mobile phone number, arrival date and departure date into the GSM Switch via an app or via SMS.
  • She sends us the GSM Phone number and ask us to give the GSM number a missed call when arriving at the gate or door.
  • Now, instead of stuffing our day up, we can continue meander, stop for photos, wine tasting and whatever without feeling obliged to meet ON Time!
  • The owner can go away for the weekend and doesn't need to appoint a manager to exchange keys and fetch keys upon departure.
  • We don't have keys which we could accidentally pocket and try and return via courier.

Simple? Effective? A conflict solver? 


How would you like to be treated when you are on a holiday, meandering and stopping over? This is your first day of a well-deserved break. Do you want to be rushed to collect a key? No? Let's then be kind to our guests.

May you have a lot of fun


P.S. Johan is part of Horak Clan. We run a small self catering agency in Cape Town. We are not trying to be the biggests. Just the best.

P.P.S. That's why you should subscribe to our self catering owner's tips on marketing and management.......

P.P.P.S. You may have quateions. Any. We will glady give you answers. Just leave a comment below.