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Archive for the ‘Innkeeping’ Category

I just finished a two week tour of Washington state.  Although my trip started with a two day meeting with the board of the Washington Bed and Breakfast Guild, the remainder of my time was spent with their members.    As the Quality Assurance Advisor for the organization, I have the opportunity to not only inspect every inn, but to learn from every innkeeper.   The economy consumed much of our conversation and I took this opportunity to ask innkeepers what they are doing during these tough economic times.  Below is a short list of ideas and insight from some successful and experienced inn owners.

My questions:  What are you doing during these tough economic times to maintain a strong business?

1.  First, let me emphasis, that those inns who are well “located” are still doing a respectable business.  Yes, location, location, location still counts.

2.  Sweat equity.  For some, money is tight, but they are investing in upgrades: painting rooms, refinishing furniture….many innkeepers are taking this time to put in a little extra effort and creatively use funds to keep their property fresh and interesting.  The market is competitive.  Evaluate your inn with a critical eye and make simple changes to keep it up to date and relevant.

3.  Social Media.  Many innkeepers initially ignored Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media as irritating, time-consuming fads.  Now, many have reevaluated these free and effective marketing tools.  Many innkeepers who would not have considered Facebook or Twitter just two years ago are tweeting and “Like” ing with success.  Todays consumers are turning to social media and sharing their favorite places with friends via Twitter and Facebook.  Savvy innkeepers are taking advantage all types of social media.  For those who feel it is too time consuming....HootSuite, MarketMeSuite and similar products help innkeepers post and tweet quickly and efficiently.

4.  When occupancy drops along with income, the wise innkeeper evaluates expenses and cuts costs.  Too often they cut marketing and advertising first, as these are often large fees they can eliminate quickly.  The problem:  With fewer guests searching diligently for the perfect guest experience, marketing is MORE important….not less.  Certainly when making changes, every cost should be “on the table” and reviewed, but the successful innkeeper evaluates the effectiveness of every marketing and advertising opportunity and actually spends more money, time and effort on those that are effective.   In a competitive market it is vitally important that people can find your inn.  Local BnB Associations, State BnB Associations, the local Chamber of Commerce  and online directories like Bed and Breakfast.com are just a few ways people find your inn.  Now is not the time to cut advertising.  Guests need to find you…use these tools effectively.

5.  Communicate with your guest.  Encourage your guests to post a review on TripAdvisor.  Like it or not, TripAdvisor is often the first place people go when searching for lodging, dining and transportation.  One successful inn sends a thank you note to every guests as a follow up to their stay and includes a link to TripAdvisor, encouraging them to post.  Keep an eye on your TripAdvisor reviews because……

6.  The successful innkeepers are listening to their guests.  TVs?  WiFi?  Coffee on demand?  Breakfast to go?  Concierge service?  Successful innkeepers are offering more…listening to their guests and meeting their needs.  Although owning a bed and breakfast is about creating a world where you love to live and welcome guests….it also needs to be a place where guests feel comfortable and well cared for.  In today’s economy the wise innkeeper always considers the guest when making any decision.  You would probably be surprised how many innkeepers set policies or create an atmosphere without considering the guest.  Remember….it is ALL about the guest.

7.  Two night minimums and pricing.  Some innkeepers have had to drop their two night minimum (except during special peak events) and even lower prices.  Pricing is about what guests are willing to pay as well as what your rooms and experience are worth.  I am not advocating making a deal with every guest when they call.   A strong business cannot be based on price alone, but, do evaluate your local market and consider what guests are willing to pay and adjust your prices accordingly.  Although it can be difficult to find the balance finding the right price for you rooms…right for you and for the guest is important.

The good news is that guests are still traveling, still looking for the perfect experience and a well-appointed, up to date bed and breakfast can offer them a more personal, well crafted experience than any major hotel.  As you continue through 2011, listen to your guests, make sure they can find you, perfect that guest experience.  Personal service, well-appointed rooms and warm welcoming innkeepers never go out of style.  Bed and breakfasts are in a class of their own and the wise innkeeper and savvy guest know it.

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