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July/August 2006

How Does Your Marketing Compare?

How Does Your Marketing Compare?

After occupancy rates, marketing plans are one of innkeepers’ favorite topics of conversation with others in the industry. How old is your website? What online directories do you use? Are you still printing a brochure? Do you let travel writers stay for free? How many room nights do you give away in a year? Did you ever write a press release? The answers to these questions, and many more, can be found in the just-released PAII Study of Innkeeper Marketing Practices. For the first time, you can compare your marketing budgets and activities with those of almost 500 other innkeepers from around the country.

PAII commissioned The Highland Group to conduct a study of how innkeepers market their properties. An online questionnaire was developed with the help of PAII’s Research Task Force and sent via email to innkeepers nationwide (to non-PAII members as well) in February 2006. The questionnaire was composed of 38 questions covering such topics as the size of the marketing budget and its breakdown by category; target markets; and the mix of booking sources. We asked about promotional activities including press releases, contests, and complimentary room nights. The most comprehensive section is on Internet marketing, with questions about web design, web hosting, web maintenance, web traffic, search words, pay per click, online directories, online referrals, and online reservation systems. Perhaps the most useful question was, “What new idea or promotion successfully generated business for your inn last year?”

We received responses from 497 properties in 47 states and Canada. The Highland Group analyzed the data and created a report that provides answers to the questions above. We now know, for example, that marketing expenses have been rising in double digits for most properties. Innkeepers spent 11% more on marketing on average in 2005 than they spent in 2004, and they plan to spend 13% more this year than last year. That’s not true for all properties, though if an inn’s marketing budget this year is substantially less than last year it’s probably because they had just completed a major investment. The size of budgets is most affected by big ticket items such as web or brochure redesigns.

So, who should purchase this study? Any aspiring innkeeper will benefit from such basics as knowing how many dollars it takes to conduct a successful marketing plan. If your inn will be opening soon, you’ll want to know how to spend those marketing dollars and how much to allocate for the different marketing activities you’ll need to have. Established innkeepers will also benefit by having detailed information they can use to evaluate their own marketing practices.

Occupancy rates are the No. 1 concern for most innkeepers, according to previous PAII surveys. Since occupancy is tied to successful marketing, you’ll want to know how your marketing practices measure up in this competitive marketplace.

Perhaps your online reservations have been soft? Is it because your website traffic is down? Do you know how to track your website traffic? If your traffic is not what you think it should be, it may be time to take a look at the online directories innkeepers say work the best for them. Or perhaps you’ve not reviewed which search words are most appropriate on the search engines these days. Could you name the top search words today’s travelers are using? If you’ve not updated your website recently, perhaps it’s time to review the website elements that innkeepers named as most important.

Successful marketing involves more than just a good website these days, so taking the time to review your other marketing activities can also have a big payoff to your bottom line. Do you still need to be in printed directories? What about printed brochures and print advertising? What kinds of promotions are innkeepers running – and which ones worked the best? Are you confident that you have the right PR plan, and do you know what to say when a travel writer asks for a free three-night stay? Do you say ‘yes’ to every charity that asks for a free room night?

In short, even successful innkeepers need to review their marketing plans each year – and the best ones take the time to look not only at what they’re doing, but also how it compares to the marketplace in which they operate. That’s what the PAII Study of Marketing Practices enables innkeepers to do – and for an investment of less than a single night’s stay.

Thank you to the hundreds of innkeepers that participated in this study. If you completed the survey questionnaire, you’ll be receiving a complimentary electronic copy of the PAII Study of Marketing Practices. Thanks also to our three study sponsors:, Select Registry, and Third Millennium Marketing. Their financial contributions helped to make the study possible.

If you would like to order a copy of the PAII Study of Marketing Practices, contact the PAII office at 1-800-468-7244 or The cost of the 46-page study PDF is $39 for PAII members and $59 for non-members; add $9 for shipping and handling a printed copy. To learn more about PAII publications, upcoming conferences, and membership benefits, visit the PAII website.

This Month's Sponsor

Gift Certificates

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Wedding season is upon us! Are you missing out? To join the participating inns, just log in to your Home Base, or click here for more information.

Internet Intensives, RezOvation and Expedia, Inc. are hitting the road to bring you comprehensive information about Internet marketing, online reservations, yield management, and property management software. Please join us for these workshops and for an Innkeepers' Appreciation Luncheon. Read more...

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