Survey Says: Q1 2009 Innkeeper Survey
Continuing our 2008 pattern, we sent another survey just before the end of March 2009. We apologize for not waiting until the quarter ended to send the survey, but we wanted to have the results in time for the PAII Conference in Atlanta. We’ll be sticking to a quarterly schedule for future surveys.
In comparison to past surveys, as reported in our year-end recap article a majority of innkeepers are feeling a recessionary pinch in their reservations. About 45% of the inns surveyed reported having even or increased sales this past quarter, which is extremely impressive in this economy. While a slightly higher number of those that reported positive growth were in the Southeast and Midwest, it looks like our current economic woes have befallen all regions more or less evenly. Nevertheless, excellent customer service and flexibility in catering to the guests’ needs helped out tremendously.
While a significant 17% of respondents reported that sales were off by 30% or more, more than 45% of the 741 innkeepers that responded to this question reported being even or ahead in comparison to the same period last year. The economy, news reports and a number of other factors are having a negative impact on the entire travel industry, but many innkeepers are finding creative and time-tested ways to weather the storm.
When asked what helped make them successful this quarter, innkeepers pointed to increased returning visitors, accepting more short-term stays, and being open to setting up discounts and packages. Potential guests want to de-stress; make it easy by offering them quick, complete, and affordable getaways.
Savvy innkeepers understand that a down market is when you should invest, not cut back in marketing, and significant numbers continue to upgrade and enhance their photos, website appearance, and social marketing presence.
For those whose business was down, the economy took the lion’s share of the blame at 80%:
Looking forward to the second quarter, projections were fairly evenly divided:
Some suggestions for surviving (and thriving) the downturn:
- Affordable getaways. In this economy, everyone is looking for a deal, but even more than that, everyone is looking for a package deal. In his February survey, Ypartnership CEO Peter Yesawich said that 87% of the people surveyed were planning to book a bundled package to save money. To take advantage of this phenomenon, try testing affordable getaway packages (like BedandBreakfast.com’s Tanks for Traveling) that include several components (like dinners, massages, tours) so that people can enjoy a fabulous all-inclusive getaway for a reasonable price. People will continue to travel, but are definitely shopping around, so be sure to message that a B&B stay is a great value because you get so much for your money, including a priceless experience!
- Stay ahead of the curve. When marketing dollars are tight, be creative. When asked “What, if anything, do you plan to do to increase/maintain your reservations for 2009?” 46% of the respondents mentioned social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.). While the best way to use these tools for generating sales is still unproven, these tools have generated a lot of buzz and even more followers. Twitter doubled its users in March alone to over 9 million, while Facebook boasts over 100 million users. Test whether investing 30-60 minutes a day can potentially help you increase occupancy. Moving forward, social media networks will get more important as consumers look to their peers for recommendations and information about the best places to travel. Become a part of these channels early and establish your presence. People aged 45 to 54 are 36% more likely to sign up for a Twitter account than any other demographic. They are tech savvy, educated and affluent. You want these people to stay at your inn.
- Be flexible. Great customer service is the basis of any successful B&B. Return guests were the reason for increased business despite the economy for over 50% of respondents. But, at nearly 45% of responses, “couples looking for short getaways” was also a highly popular answer. Current wisdom, and many of your comments, tells us that guests aren’t forgoing travel all together, but many are opting to take shorter trips and waiting to make sure that the money is there before they book. Continue to create last-minute specials and packages to promote via BedandBreakfast.com’s Hot Deals (or on your own site). These are also the perfect types of deals to promote using tools like Twitter and Facebook.
- Put the guest first. WIIFM (what’s in it for me) always rules. Stressed-out potential guests want to feel confident that their visit with you will be a positive experience. From their initial search for lodgings, to check-in through departure, you can keep repeat and referral business high by the professionalism and accuracy of your online presence; the warm welcome they’ll receive on arrival; the quality of their stay; and the follow-up mailings they receive from you. The surveys clearly indicated that folks like to return to B&Bs where they had a great stay.