© Sandy Soule, BedandBreakfast.com
Recent BedandBreakfast.com surveys are making it clear that while some innkeepers are having a hard time, others are breaking records for occupancy and revenue. In the worst recession in decades, what are the “lemonade” innkeepers doing right? Here are some ideas to consider:
We’ll take a closer look at each of these below, but first, let’s look at the numbers.
Here are some statistics from our most recent innkeeper survey, covering the second quarter of 2009. (See complete survey results here.)
Some of the trends reported during this recession are:
How does that compare to the hospitality industry overall?
Innkeepers gave several reasons for why they’ve seen an increase in business. Here are the key ones:
What are innkeepers whose reservations have increased doing that those whose business is down are not?
So what are the “lemonade” innkeepers doing right?
1. Strong Internet marketing presence, with a good website, great photos/videos, reviews, online reservations, social marketing.
Be sure to follow these five rules for reeling in today’s distractible customers:
Here are some things innkeeper Chloe Tuttle from the Big Mill Inn does:
Big Mill Inn also has a blog. Chloe shares recipes, tips for going green, and stories from growing up on the farm—all things that tie into the theme of her inn.
Make sure it’s easy for guests to book on your website. Have an obvious “book now” button and phone number.
Reviews increase reservations! Below are traffic numbers from two inns in the same resort town in the United States. Inn A has a total of 7 reviews on their BedandBreakfast.com listing. Inn B has 53 reviews.
Inn A, with just 7 reviews, has had a 20% drop in click-throughs to its website.
Inn B, with 53 reviews, has had a 52% increase in click-throughs to their website. The number of website click-throughs has surpassed last year’s, and we still have four months left in 2009!
In an uncertain economy, guests want to be sure they’re making a reservation at a place they’ll like. Reading reviews from other guests gives them the assurance that they won’t be wasting their money on a stay that doesn’t meet their expectations.
The most popular social networking sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and MySpace.
Social marketing is the equivalent of hanging the curtains in your B&B – it can be done after you’ve addressed the basics. Having a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account is great, but don’t let them distract you from the priorities: great website, photos, reviews and online reservations.
2. Practice yield management and value pricing to increase reservations.
“We always raise rates at the beginning of the year so we can maximize revenue for premium dates when the inn is most likely to sell out.” – Jim & Cathy, Inn at Lake Granbury, Granbury, TX
3. Adjust operations and amenities to better suit guests’ needs.
“We serve breakfast until 11 a.m., and on occasion, have given Gen X/Y/Millennial guests who want to sleep in free lunch instead of breakfast. Younger guests want 'something to do‘, so we tell them about the nearby casino, mountain bike trails, hiking and canoeing on the Cedar River, etc. We might recommend the local hangout for a burger & brew instead of our romantic, candlelight dinners. You listen to what guests want, and do your best to provide it for them – in the most creative way you can." – Sherrie Hansen, The Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, St. Ansgar, IA
"We offer long leisurely breakfasts from 8:30 to 10-ish; the latest we served one was 2:30! We offer a full range of Wi-Fi/multimedia, providing up-to-date magazines and books, and even playing dance/chill/urban cool tunes in the breakfast room. We have created a Facebook page. We try and answer the phone or respond to any e-mail with personality and a little humor. All in all we try and relate to the 21st-century needs of clients, which does cause us to pigeonhole our market, but we passionately feel that what you do, you should do well.” – Dora and David, Woodstocker Inn, Woodstock, VT
A J.D. Power 2009 survey says that hotel guest satisfaction is up:
4. Maximize best practices to increase repeat and referral business.
Consider starting a frequent stay program. For example, reward those who have stayed with you for seven nights with one night free.
Off-peak gift certificates. Give guests a $25 or $50 gift certificate that can be used at certain off-peak times (mid-week, low season). The gift certificate should be transferable so that if your guests can’t use it, they can pass it along to friends, potentially granting you some new guests!
Thank-you gifts and upgrades for returnees. The results of our recent surveys show a dramatic increase in the percentage of repeat guests. A hand-crafted mug like the ones below from Deneen Pottery is a classy souvenir, and your guests and their friends will see your name and logo each morning when they pour their coffee.
Photo courtesy Deneen Pottery
If space is available, offer arriving guests a free upgrade or their choice of open rooms. They’ll love the idea that they paid for a regular queen room but get to enjoy the king suite. The incremental cost to you is minor, and they’ll love you for it. Not only will they be more likely to return, but they may decide that your top room is worth reserving in advance at the regular rate.
The recession means more repeat guests.
“Guests don’t want to take chances in a down economy. Innkeepers who combine a good location, a quality product, excellent service, and a premier guest experience will weather the storm. We have had success with last-minute midweek specials -- stay two nights, get the second at 25% off. We have also had success upgrading guests to a balcony room or giving them a choice of rooms on arrival -- a surefire way to make guests feel special. We are also booking more multi-night stays and packages this year.” – Jim & Cathy, Inn on Lake Granbury, Granbury, TX
5. Stress the value of the B&B experience in all marketing.
We all know how much value B&Bs provide by including special amenities that hotels nickel and dime guests for. Be sure you state it in your marketing!
Kalaekilohana in Na`alehu, HI, lists all the extras on its website.
Click here for a press release we distributed about the value of B&Bs.
We also host a free webinar called Selling the Value of B&Bs over Hotels. To sign up for this or any of our other free webinars, log in to your Home Base and click Educational Webinars in the table under Free Member Benefits.
Take some tips from the “lemonade” innkeepers to overcome the economy and get more heads in your beds.
Prices are low, return on investment is high, and satisfaction is guaranteed.
Key reasons why RezOvation Property Management Software, the RezOvation Booking Engine, and RezOvation Design, Hosting, and Promotion are right for you:
Call us today at 877-239-1398!
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