CleanBnB is one of the biggest property managers in Italy. We manage over 2,000 properties, from city-centre apartments to countryside villas.
I’m a revenue manager and the team leader of the reservation department. As part of my role, I manage our customer service. That means I do my best to ensure that guests have a wonderful experience, from their first communication to their final checkout. A big part of that has always been inclusivity.
From a personal and professional perspective, it’s always been my goal to offer everyone the same kind of warm, welcoming experience. I’ll be honest, for that reason I never really thought I needed additional training. In fact, I thought that most training might fall into ‘rainbow washing’ – attempting to look like you’re doing something about LGBTQ+ inclusivity without actively doing anything about it.
As such, we never had our own programme or training, and never really felt we needed to. That was until we completed Booking.com’s Travel Proud programme, which completely changed the way I saw things.
How Travel Proud reshaped my expectations
Our goal is to provide guests with an unforgettable experience, and Travel Proud has helped with that so much.
Far from the rainbow washing I was cautious about, the Proud Hospitality training itself was very powerful. The quality was incredibly high, offering a range of opinions and points of view from the different presenters, which really helped us to reflect on our own assumptions and behaviours. It offered very practical, LGBTQ+-specific insights that were far less obvious than I’d expected. Plus it was interactive, which made it really engaging for the team.
While we had the right mindset around inclusivity before the training, Travel Proud really gave us practical, tangible insights into steps we could take to have an on-the-ground impact.
We initially had eight people from our central team in Milan join. After seeing the value ourselves, we then rolled it out to our operations team throughout Italy – over 100 people – who directly communicate with customers as part of check-ins and onsite assistance.
Even the small details can make a lot of difference
Despite how interesting and engaging the Travel Proud programme itself was, I think my favourite part of the experience actually happened after the training.
Once we’d all taken part, the entire team had a brainstorming session to share our thoughts on the training and come up with ways to implement everything we’d learnt. For example, we’re working on adding a non-binary option for guests when they check in online.
One of the biggest takeaways from the training was that even the smallest details can make a huge difference for LGBTQ+ travellers. The truth is, even in safe, welcoming countries and communities, LGBTQ+ guests have come to expect additional points of friction when travelling. That might be a form that’s restrictive in the pronouns they can use, assumptions from staff at check-in, or arriving at their honeymoon suite to the disappointment of finding the default “Mr & Mrs” robes waiting for them.
This has sadly meant that such travellers have far lower expectations when travelling, and getting the basics right can therefore be met with such an overwhelmingly positive response. Simple things, like offering to have a bottle of wine ready on arrival, or roses in the room.
They’re grateful – not because we gave them special treatment, but because we treated them like everyone else.
Travel Proud has improved our service for all our guests
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons of Travel Proud was to never make assumptions, whether it comes from our personal or cultural backgrounds. I believe this rule has actually made our service better for all guests.
For instance, it’s now become our standard practice to simply ask bed preferences for all guests, rather than assuming. We also make much more of a point to use names instead of gendered titles, which avoids getting it wrong while also creating more inviting and personal interactions with our guests.
Both of these changes came as a direct result of the Proud Hospitality training, and both are having a positive impact on every guest who comes to stay at one of our properties.
How we’re taking our Travel Proud certification as far as we can
I’m so grateful for the insights we got from the Travel Proud programme. I was open-minded and accepting before, but it gave me so many practical steps into how we can offer guests a better experience.
It’s so important to us, in fact, that we’re aiming to become the first fully Proud Certified multi-property partner in Italy. We currently have 90% of our nearly 2,500 properties Proud Certified, and we’re aiming to have the rest added soon.
I believe that’s hugely important. Each guest has their own personal story that we know nothing about. But ultimately, each person should be free to live their own life and feel comfortable travelling as a part of that life. After all, everyone deserves more moments of carefree joy – wherever they are. That’s why I’m so pleased the Travel Proud programme has helped us offer this to them.
- CleanBnB – one of the biggest property managers in Italy – has started a journey to become the most Travel Proud certified partner in Italy
- Being wary of ‘rainbow washing’, they’d never completed any direct inclusivity training before Travel Proud, but were incredibly pleased with the results
- One of their highlights came after the training, with a team-wide ideation session on how to apply everything they’d learnt
- The result was not only a more welcoming experience for LGBTQ+ guests, but in fact for all guests