In a world where travel is more accessible than ever before, where experiences trump the typical ‘bucket-list’ items, and giving back to local communities is of utmost importance, it’s the unique local travel experiences like Be My Guest that make a trip stand out.
But 10 years ago, it was a very different story. Visiting a foreign place and being invited into a local’s home for a lovingly-prepared meal – an exchange of conversation and a first-hand look into the local life – was a revolutionary concept. Enter Be My Guest, the original local travel experience, born from the concept of enabling human connections between host (the local) and guest (the traveller).
We explore how Be My Guest has changed the guided travel industry over the last 10 years.
The very first Be My Guest experience, Sorrento, Italy 2009
Be My Guest began in 2009, at the Esposito family lemon farm in Sorrento, Italy. Relatives of a Trafalgar Travel Director, the Esposito sisters welcomed Trafalgar guests into their home for an evening of talking and learning, over a home-cooked meal and taste of the homegrown limoncello. With the scent of lemons hanging heavy in the air, they ate, drank, laughed, and both hosts and guests loved it.
The Esposito sisters very quickly became the highlight of the entire trip, with guests raving about the experience and buying bottles of the homegrown limoncello to take home with them.
Speaking of her experience as a Be My Guest host, Mamma Esposito said, “It was the finest achievement of my life.”
Sadly, the Esposito sisters have since passed away, but both the legend of Mamma’s pasta al pomodoro and the legacy of Be My Guest lives on to this day.
Bringing the human touch to guided travel
After the success of the first Be My Guest in Italy, Trafalgar went on the search for more memorable hosts and exclusive local experiences, across Europe and beyond. Like the first experience at the Esposito family farm, many Be My Guest experiences have been created from personal relationships and local connections in each country.
“Many of the Be My Guest hosts are people I’ve met on my various travels, and who I’ve thought would be ideal characters to entertain our guests and give them a flavour of local culture.” Christine Upton, Trafalgar
It is the hosts that make Be My Guest experiences so special and memorable. No matter where you are in the world, every host has a unique story to tell, whether it’s the noble keeper of a rural French farm, the charming count of a legendary Italian villa or the affable owners of a traditional Japanese Ryokan.
More than a local dining experience
Whilst nothing is more personal than enjoying a lovingly prepared meal in the home of your local host, over the years Be My Guest has become much more than local dining experiences. Not only are you getting to view a destination from a local’s lens, but you can learn about their craft, their way of life and their family heritage. After a Be My Guest experience, you’re guaranteed to take home powerful memories of the sights, scents, tastes and stories you heard while sharing laughs with your host and fellow guests.
Back in Italy, learn about Chianti wines and how they are made before raising a glass alongside your host. In Ireland, join your local foraging expert on the Wild Atlantic Coast as you pick the ingredients that will go into your homemade Be My Guest lunch. In Japan, learn about Japanese customs and the host family’s crests over a traditional Kaiseki lunch.
Sustaining local communities through Be My Guest
Over the last 10 years, Be My Guest experiences have been as much about enriching the lives of the hosts, as they are about entertaining the guests. With 81% of Be My Guest experiences being family-run and multi-generational, guests will directly make a difference to these people by providing a source of income and preserving the local customs and heritage.
Additionally, the majority of Be My Guest experiences take place outside the major cities in small, regional communities – therefore spreading the tourism out of the hubs and combatting over-tourism.
Experience Be My Guest around the world
So what’s next for Be My Guest? Born in Europe, but now spread widely across the world, Trafalgar now has Be My Guest experiences available on every trip*. Be My Guest experiences are constantly evolving, with Trafalgar always on the look-out for unique and inspiring hosts, each one completely different from the next. Last year saw the launch of Trafalgar’s new Africa product, introducing the De Waal Cape Winelands vineyard to our global Be My Guest community, bringing yet more opportunities to see a destination through a local’s lens.
“When we launched Be My Guest 10 years ago, we were the first to tap into the desire to find new ways of understanding the world by exposing travellers to the day-to-day lives of locals – and we’re proud to have pioneered this movement,” says Gavin Tollman, Trafalgar CEO.
Join us as we celebrate 10 years of Be My Guest, by going back to where it all began, with savings on all Italy trips. Have you been on a Be My Guest experience? Share your special memories with us below.