The most important thing, in my understanding, is the love for the guest and the sheer joy of having your home filled with guests. You exchange positive emotions, provide warmth, create a cozy atmosphere, share and listen to stories. You become a guide for your guests in a new place. The impressions that make people want to come back are created by the people you’ve met.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anton Govor.

Anton Govor is the founder of GardaDoma, a familial retreat nestled on the shores of Lake Garda in Brenzone, Italy. Before his foray into the hospitality sector, Anton worked in top management roles within international scale financial groups. With a rich tapestry of experiences in finance and a deep understanding of strategy and execution, Anton Govor brings a unique perspective to GardaDoma, ensuring that every guest receives an immersive and unforgettable experience on the shores of Lake Garda.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always loved the Airbnb-style of travel, where people open their homes to fellow travelers. In my youth, every summer, my parents would take me to spend a month or two along the Black Sea coast in the homes of hospitable hosts — of whom there were many back in the 80s and 90s and long before the Airbnb times.

Typically, these were elderly ladies or couples trying to earn a little extra for a simple life. They shopped at the local market, cooked at home, and knew everything and everyone in the neighborhood. These hosts would generously recommend the most picturesque and lesser-known spots along the beach, direct us to the stand with the freshest bread and fruit, and introduce us to a neighbor to show us around.

Fifteen years ago, in my early twenties, when I had just started my corporate career at E&Y as a financial analyst, I first visited Lake Garda and fell in love with it. The combination of stunning waterfront and mountain views, along with year-round activities like boating, skiing, and trekking, created an irresistible charm. And you can’t forget the rich historical backdrop and the culinary delights — local Italian wines, cheeses, and fish specialties.

Every holiday I found myself drawn back to the lake, and as I gained experience and wearied of the corporate world, the decision to start my own business became clear; the choice of where to build it was evident without much hesitation. Also, as an investment banker, I know that in the long run, real estate preserves capital the best.

Initially, we created our Airbnb as a way to offset the expenses of our first pricey vacation home and to share local experiences. I have visited more than 70 countries and stayed at top hotels for business and leisure, but my most vivid travel memories are forever tied to stays with Airbnb hosts. I wanted to pay back to this community.

Over time, Airbnb shifted towards individual hospitality, introducing features like self-check-ins. However, when I launched my venture, I was inspired by the original warmth and genuine feeling associated with Airbnb stays and meeting hosts in person. My vision was to become one of those authentic hosts, serving as local guides who reveal hidden gems and offer guests a genuine experience of a destination.

Over the last 6 years, we’ve expanded and now we run a guesthouse with 6 elegant rooms, 3 cozy apartments, and 3 villas, all boasting marvelous views of Lake Garda. Whether it’s myself or a family member, we personally welcome each guest, provide tailored recommendations, and remain available 24/7 for any needs. Gathered around a large table for breakfasts and dinners, we share homemade meals, local Valpolicella wines, Baldo cheeses, and personal stories, creating an atmosphere akin to being at a friend’s place right from the start.

This personal touch, a rarity in today’s Airbnbs, has earned us the prestigious Superhost and Guest Favorite status. With an exceptional 4.92 rating from 1500 reviews, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting over 3000 guests. Here, guests become a close-knit community through shared experiences.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Perhaps the most interesting and paradoxical part of the story is that for my hospitality business, I chose Brenzone. It is the most untouristic area of Lake Garda and at the same time the most authentic. Locals are not fond of outsiders and are not keen on renting their apartments to strangers. Why is that? These places are full of history; once, the formidable Templars found refuge in the welcoming and tolerant shores of Garda Lake, hiding from the Inquisition. It’s understandable that the descendants of the Templars, shaped by their history, are not inclined to open up to strangers.

Brenzone sul Garda is super quiet, tranquil and uncrowded — we have 2–3 times fewer tourists than in other parts of the lake during the peak season. However, it is also very central and close to all the attractions the area offers.

Lake Garda is a stunning destination with both the sea and mountains. It is an excellent spot for sailing sports with low waves and precisely the right wind twice a day. The oldest kite surfing school is just a 10-minute walk from all our properties. There are also fantastic trekking opportunities in the area, with the region boasting many peaks conquered during World War I. The Alpini society, initially formed to support the army, played an important role in the development of mountain infrastructure, and the trekking routes cover hundreds of kilometers.

Moreover, Garda possesses a rich cultural heritage. Historically, Garda played a crucial role in the great route from Istanbul to Augsburg, preserving numerous artifacts from that era. In the 1500s-1600s, before the Age of Discovery, Venice, located nearby, was akin to the New York of that time.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Having bought my first house, I decided to add more amenities to make it more comfortable for guests and hired an Italian team of builders to do the job. While everything seemed to be progressing smoothly, I continued to visit periodically to check on the progress. Surprisingly, I noticed a smell of alcohol around the workers, which confused me. I had a strict no-alcohol policy during work hours, so this discovery was unexpected.

I later discovered an interesting aspect of their work culture. These builders started their days with a ‘caffè corretto’, a shot of espresso blended with a touch of liquor, typically grappa, as part of their routine. Despite their workdays being short (around 6 hours) with breaks, they showed remarkable focus and quality in their work. It was an eye-opening experience to see their unique approach to work.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

One significant influence on my journey was the artist Armelle Andréis. Several years ago, while traveling through Provence, I needed a stopover. I found Armelle’s house listed on Airbnb in the village of Malmort. She lives in a house with 11 cats, a property she had bought from her parents. Armelle, a famous artist, whose works are exhibited at the Pompidou Center, gave me one of her paintings. It now hangs in my living room, reminding me of Armelle and Provence. This experience was a highlight of my Airbnb journey and strengthened my desire to become a host.

For me, being an Airbnb host means offering personal hospitality to a traveler who is not only exploring your city but stepping into your home. As a local, you craft a travel experience that blends the warmth of people’s hospitality with the uniqueness of the place.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

We cannot boast innovations like Uber, since GardaDoma is a classical hospitality business in many aspects. However, during my travels, I’ve seen very few places with a similar setup, and you can see that reflected in our Airbnb reviews.

We like to keep things casual and friendly when we communicate with our guests. From the very beginning, all messages come directly from the person who will meet them upon arrival. This is how we set up communication with guests, whom we later accompany, sharing meals and experiences. That contributes a lot to the feeling of inclusiveness and hospitality.

We run a traditional guest house with six rooms, and simultaneously, we have all our villas and apartments nearby. This allows our guests to enjoy the comfort of a private apartment while experiencing the communal atmosphere of the guesthouse.

We handle all the cleaning and maintenance in-house, which gives us the ability to quickly address issues for higher guest satisfaction. If anything breaks in a room or apartment, we can quickly fix it ourselves. This also means we don’t have to wait for external repair services, which can be slow to respond at times.

All in all, I would say we are balancing the efficiency and size of the business with the cornerstone of personal hospitality. If it ever got too big, it would resemble a hotel with great service, but the unique atmosphere and vibe would be lost. On a smaller scale, it’s challenging to balance costs. In my opinion, we have found the perfect balance between personal hospitality and efficiency, proving that such places can be successfully managed this way. To me, that is the key to success — the equilibrium between the old-school personalized Airbnb hospitality style with tailored recommendations and the scale of the operation.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

For me, the best part of a vacation is connecting with locals. Finding hosts on Airbnb is invaluable. It simplifies trip planning, saves time, and a good host provides great sightseeing advice, eliminating the need for hours of online research.

My ideal vacation is all about family, making sure everyone’s got what they love. Picture a typical day in this perfect getaway: We start with a leisurely homecooked breakfast made from fresh local ingredients; my partner heads out for some shopping or a relaxing time at the thermal spa, and I’m off for some kite surfing or yachting fun. Meanwhile, my kids are under the watchful eye of trusted supervisors, having a great time. In the evening, we all gather for dinner, chat, and share news of the day. A feeling of being at home while away and exploring new places — that, to me, is the essence of a perfect vacation.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

The most important thing, in my understanding, is the love for the guest and the sheer joy of having your home filled with guests. You exchange positive emotions, provide warmth, create a cozy atmosphere, share and listen to stories. You become a guide for your guests in a new place. The impressions that make people want to come back are created by the people you’ve met.

Following that is a love for communication. It involves not only the ability to tell stories but also to carefully listen and hear our guests. At GardaDoma, we are attentive to our guests’ slightest desires, be it regarding food, activities, socializing, accommodation, and more. But most importantly, we strive to provide vibrant, personal communication.

Then, you have to find the right place for you and have a sincere love for it. When you experience this genuine connection, you won’t have difficulty conveying it to others — sharing stories about it and becoming the best guide to it for other people.

Another important aspect is a love for the team. I am looking for like-minded individuals who enjoy communication, share a deep love for Lake Garda and GardaDoma, have experiences and stories, and are always eager to share them with our guests. My team is not just colleagues; they’re family and friends.

And finally, as a host, I love treating guests to delicious meals. Sharing the warmth of my home and the delightful flavors from our family table with every guest is my greatest pleasure.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

In 2018, I purchased my first house — a 16th-century gem from Signor Veronese. Together with my family and friends, we transformed it into the welcoming sanctuary now known as GardaDoma. Our mission is simple: preserve old homes, maintain their excellence, fill them with warmth, and share this comfort with others.

These abandoned homes, once filled with generations, continue to thrive, and through our efforts, we contribute to the community of Brenzone.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Firstly, I would scale the GardaDoma story. I’m eager to replicate this success by creating more locations, given my expertise in the process setup. The world is missing out on authentic hospitality, genuine warmth, and personal connections. In the hospitality scene, traditional hotels consistently improve accommodation comfort, refine services, and offer promotions. Meanwhile, Airbnb, with its smooth self-check-in model, excels in facilitating seamless rentals of owned spaces. However, both, at times, fall short in establishing a straightforward human connection. I observe a growing need for accommodations with welcoming personal hospitality, easily discoverable for those seeking genuine connections.

Such locations are not as rare as one might think. I want them to be more accessible and easy to find. Imagine exploring different regions and countries every year, effortlessly discovering hosts who offer a quick and energy-efficient connection in each new place. We can achieve this by establishing our own locations or partnering with hosts to create a network for guest exchanges for those who love it.

My third aspiration is to create a new Airbnb-like service centered around lively human connections and personal-touch places.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn. Feel free to connect!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.