Casual day visitors head for the Visitors Centre.
The Guest Service deals with people who want to stay for a time in Auroville
Auroville's Guest Service is rather inconveniently tucked away on the Solar Kitchen's first floor, neighbouring the Solar Café and the Internet Service. The one-room office has comfortable wicker chairs so that guests can leisurely peruse the enormous amount of literature on where to stay, what to do, how to find work and generally how to make the most of their stay in Auroville.
The first necessity is finding suitable accommodation for those who have not already booked. Binders with glossy photos of the various guesthouses and their levels of comfort and price are available, together with remarks like, for New Creation, “joyful and lively”, Aspiration, “friendly and family orientated” and the Youth Camp, “near to lively local Tamil village”, which means blaring music at 4 a.m, Quiet community at the beach “offers also Watsu and shiatsu and a variety of yogas and dances and other therapies”. Peculiarities like greenbelt houses not having electricity and probably not a desk for the visitor's computer are explained to save a lot of frustration later. The inconveniences of living in a tree house are pointed out, as is the hazardous drive up the road from the beach communities. Prices vary from one Rs 100 a night in the Youth Camp to Rs 2,800 for a cottage per night at Afsanah guest house, so there is accommodation to suit every pocket. With about one hundred and fifty rooms in various communities and maybe a hundred rooms in private houses; the choice is extremely varied and the staff has ample choice to send guests to a suitable location. But between December and March, everything is “full, full, full.”
The walls of the Guest Service are plastered with so many posters of events (updated weekly), happenings, therapies, courses, places to visit, that guests often look at these offerings in amazement. The fact that there is such a variety and high standard of opportunities for work and play available is frequently remarked upon.
When Lella took over the Guest Service seven years ago there was only one computer, the office was only open in the afternoons and it was a nice quiet job. Now five people are employed part-time and are kept very busy. Lella gives great importance to welcoming the guests and trying to find out what each one wants, even though they may not be sure themselves. Once their needs are clarified the staff try to point them in the right direction. After all, many Aurovilians came here originally as guests and it is very important to guide them through the confusing maze that Auroville can seem at first. The staff speak English, German, French, Italian and Spanish and many of the leaflets are in these languages. Apart from Lella the team consists of Auralee, who is responsible for e-mail correspondence; Josetta, the administrator par excellence; Florence who has been known to sit with confused guests for hours; and Marje as the welcoming receptionist. Lella prefers that people who work at the Guest Service work for free and not for a maintenance, as she has found from experience they such people are much more motivated and enthusiastic, which is definitely a necessity here.
The Guest Service does not have its own budget, but has to apply to the Economy Group for money. The Auroville Guest House Trust is responsible for each guesthouse and guest room keeping high standards and transparent accounts.
This is the only service run exclusively for guests in Auroville and provides a very caring and efficient atmosphere, which is a credit to the often hassled and overworked staff.