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June 2008

Survey says: State of the industry is up, down, and all around

On May 20, BedandBreakfast.com emailed 5,300 member innkeepers in the United States. Over 1,000 innkeepers responded from every region of the country. More than 29 percent of respondents reported that Memorial Day bookings are ahead of last year, while over 37 percent noted that they are even with last year's bookings -- a notable achievement in an unstable economy.

Innkeepers' comments explaining the reasons for increased reservations ranged from proximity to scenic attractions to travelers' preferences for one-tank getaways. Additional explanations for positive B&B travel trends included savvy marketing, an increase in Canadian and other international visitors, use of economic stimulus checks for travel, and proximity to public transportation. The majority of American B&Bs are within a one-tank drive from a major city, making them an excellent getaway choice for Memorial Day and beyond.

While most innkeepers reported increases in reservations for the Memorial Day weekend and the summer, 37 percent of BedandBreakfast.com survey respondents stated that bookings were down for Memorial Day travel. Among those responding, 82 percent attributed the decrease to the price of gas. More than 71 percent claimed that the unstable economy was affecting travel, and over half pointed to strengthening last-minute travel trends (respondents could select more than one reason). To further track travel trends in this challenging economy, BedandBreakfast.com will be sending a follow-up survey to track projections for the July 4th holiday weekend and beyond.

Here are some of the survey highlights:

Sample comments:

Improved online marketing:

  • “In January and February we were behind last year’s reservations; March, April and May have all been ahead. We upped our membership level on BedandBreakfast.com, BNBFinder, and BBonline in March, added a couple of promotions, and updated our website. All that combined seems to be paying off. Can't finger a single cause, but do note that the increased picture gallery and video option on BedandBreakfast.com is attracting attention too.”
  • “So far we have been ahead by quite a bit all year due mostly to more aggressive online marketing.”
  • “We seem to have greater lead time on most reservations, but that could be specific to our inn. We've recently added online reservations & greater Internet exposure.”
  • “Positive reviews are definitely helping.”
  • “I think our awards are beginning to pay off. It's amazing how many callers mention them when they make their reservation. We are in a great getaway location on the water, with all water sports, and close to outlet mall shopping and golf!”
  • “BedandBreakfast.com is a major player in our success; I’m glad that this website is so well managed.”

Trend toward last-minute reservations:

  • “We've noticed a huge difference in the lack of two- to three-month advance reservations compared to previous years. Far more one to two weeks in advance bookings and many more cancellations than previous years.”
  • “With the tight economy and soaring gas prices, we believe that guests are waiting to see if the weather is worth the cost of the trip before booking. We generally have a three-night minimum stay for a holiday weekend but are considering reducing it to two nights to fill our empty rooms.”
  • ”Very few are booking more than two to four weeks in advance, which is completely different than any previous year, when most booked several months in advance.”

Trend toward international reservations:

  • “European tourists have helped shore up our spring season -- an indication that they are taking advantage of the favorable currency exchange rates.”
  • “So far gas prices have not been a major issue for our guests. They don't like the high prices, but it isn't keeping them from traveling. We are seeing more Canadians due to the stronger Canadian dollar.”

One-tank travel:

  • “I believe that guests are choosing closer destinations. Places to travel with a tank of gas. Because we are within a three-hour or less drive of several major cities, our reservations are still steady.”
  • “Guests are looking for a beautiful destination within easy driving distance.”
  • “I am in a rural area only 45 minutes from three major urban centers. Our reservations are 20% ahead overall. Guests are actually staying longer than before; they don't want to hop on a plane.”
  • “We are an upscale inn, and people are getting away no matter what for the long weekend.”
  • “Soaring gas prices and food costs are hitting the disposable income for guests thinking of traveling.”

Thoughts and recommendations:
Here are some key steps that can easily, affordably, and effectively increase your reservations. Best of all, they are free or don’t cost you anything unless they put heads in your beds.

  1. Online reservations: If you don’t have online reservations on your own website, and don’t use BedandBreakfast.com Online Reservations, you are losing out on approximately half of your potential reservations. In other words, 5 of 10 potential guests simply will not call you. If you’ve been thinking about adding the RezOvation Booking Engine to your website, and/or signing up for BedandBreakfast.com Online Reservations, there’s no better time than right now.
  2. Reviews: When dollars are tight, travelers want to be extra sure that they are picking an inn they’ll love. Study after study demonstrates that the way they do this is through reviews, and traffic patterns on BedandBreakfast.com confirm it. Email past guests to thank them for staying with you, then encourage them to return and to post a review. Be sure to give them the link to your review page on BedandBreakfast.com, and to distribute the review reminder business cards and postcards; contact us if you need more at Support@BedandBreakfast.com or 800-GO-B-AND-B.
  3. Gift cards: BedandBreakfast.com Gift Cards are an incredibly popular present for weddings, anniversaries, and so much more, as you can see by reading the reviews here. If you don’t already accept them, log in to your Home Base and click the Gift Card link to sign up. You get great extra exposure, and you pay a commission only when you get a reservation, and then only on the amount of the gift card. 
  4. Photos: If you can afford to hire a pro who’s an expert at shooting B&Bs, by all means do so. You’ll see the ROI almost as soon as the photos go live on your website and on your BedandBreakfast.com listing. Can’t swing the cost right now? Read our photography article for great advice on improving your own shots, then add them to your website and your BedandBreakfast.com listing ASAP. Don’t forget that your membership includes 10 photos at the Silver level, 15 at Gold, and 25 at Platinum, plus a free video!
  5. Special packages: Our Tanks a Lot free gas promotion has received enormous media coverage, as have had many of the other special packages posted on BedandBreakfast.com. If you are a Silver level member or up, make sure to post at least three specials -- one for free gas, perhaps one for girlfriends’ getaways, and another for a theme that will appeal to your guests.
  6. Recession-proof your marketing: Incorporate these themes into “affordable luxury” messaging on your website, in your emails, and in your publicity:
    • Isn’t it time you were spoiled rotten? No beds to make, no dishes to wash, no laundry to fold, just kick back on a porch rocker, and we’ll bring you homemade iced tea.
    • Isn’t it time you had a personal concierge? Want dinner and/or theater reservations? Advice on the best boutiques, antique shops, flea markets? Need help planning a bike ride, picnic hike, float trip, or a tour of local wineries/cheese makers/micro-breweries? Just ask your innkeeper!
    • Isn’t it time you spent your limited vacation days on vacation instead in transit? A great B&B getaway may be just a one-tank trip away, so you can measure your travel time in hours, not days, and save money on airfare and car rental to boot! Use the money you save on transportation to splurge on a gorgeous guest room with a double whirlpool tub, fireplace, and more.
    • Isn’t it time you spent a night, not a fortune? B&Bs offer affordable luxury, where you’re not nickel-and-dimed for every little thing, and extras like soft drinks, snacks, and Wi-Fi are included in the reasonable rates.

Remember, if your guests are not spending a full vacation day in transit each way, a five-day, four-night B&B getaway will feel like a week’s vacation, but will cost about half the price.

This Month's Sponsor

Gift Card Reseller Program

Could you use some extra cash? Sign up for the gift card reseller program, and make 15% on each sale! There is no cost to get started; click here for details. If you'd like to receive a free reseller kit, contact us at 800-462-2632 or Support@BedandBreakfast.com.


"I love how easy and flexible the gift cards are. What a great gift." Sarma M.

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