On My Mind- In the Shadows for Too Long

On My Mind- In the Shadows for Too Long
By Jay Karen, PAII CEO

Have you ever tried to get someone to try something you just knew they would like, but found it hard to convince them? That’s what I feel our industry has been up against for decades – trying to get travelers to try B&Bs. There is no question with the sharp growth of the industry in the 80s and 90s and the marketing power of the internet since the mid-90s, millions of travelers have experienced our great product. We have loyal customers who understand the value of a fantastic B&B stay. But there are many more travelers out there who have never stayed at a B&B – either because of one of the many “myths” or negative perceptions they might already have, or (according to our own research) staying at a B&B doesn’t even cross their minds as an option when booking travel. Whatever the reason, we all know in our industry what a fantastic product we have. With the rise of alternative lodging options and the sincere efforts of hotels to deliver an experience more like ours, we need to press forward and start getting more people to book stays at B&Bs. Our industry has to start doing something different and fresh to enter the consciousness of the traveler. We want people spreading the word about B&Bs in ways now possible that were impossible before. Enter – Better Way to Stay.

PAII wants to get more people talking, Tweeting, Re-Tweeting, status updating, sharing, linking, forwarding and emailing about B&Bs. We don’t want to build another directory. We want to get more travelers checking out what the industry already has – some great assets that have been around for years. I’m talking about the B&B directories, travel sites, state and local association web sites, your web sites, and ultimately clicking the “Book Now” button more and more. As your industry’s trade association, it’s part of our DNA to want to do this. We want to create buzz and attention for the great businesses in our marketplace.

For years innkeepers have wanted PAII to build an effective directory of our members. They figured it would be the silver bullet for membership growth and ultimate stability and success for PAII. The fact is that the horse is out of the barn on that one – several directories have been around since the mid-90s and are leagues ahead of what we could do from a search engine optimization standpoint. We don’t want to compete with them – or you, the innkeeper! Building our own directory – if we were to be effective in the search engines – would mean having us compete with you for premium placement on search result pages. There are some great B&B directories and association web sites that have been delivering value for years to innkeepers. We don’t want to compete with them – we want to bring more traffic to them!

But, we’ve been up against many elements for years. As we fight for PAII’s sustainability and success, it’s time we get on the offense rather than the defense. With the help of volunteers within the PAII ranks (our Board of Directors, Advisory Council, Campaign Committee and many others) as well as some folks who had some early blind faith in our ideas and vision (see list at bottom of this post), we are moving forward with the industry’s first ever campaign to get more people understanding that B&Bs are the “Better Way to Stay.” We have enlisted professional assistance from some fantastic resources and are currently building the basic elements of a successful campaign.

What we do with this campaign will have a lot to do with the level of support we get from all four corners of our industry – from everyone who has a stake in the game. Sure, we’re not going to get everyone to chip in, even though the intent of this campaign is to be non-discriminatory with regard to whom we want to get more business. We want all innkeepers to benefit from our efforts, but naturally we plan to promote those who support the campaign. And I hesitate to use the word “campaign,” because it can imply something temporary. The intent is for PAII to coordinate and support permanent, ongoing efforts to raise awareness and influence people to give us a look. We should only ever back off such efforts when most innkeepers are turning away business on account of being full throughout the year. With a national average occupancy somewhere near 40%, we know there’s a lot of work to be done.

So, today I’m writing this just to keep you informed about what is happening. We’ve been talking about the prospect of this campaign for at least two years. We are not ready to launch it, but we’re ready for you to start knowing about it. Visit www.betterwaytostay.com for a few more details and to get a flavor of what we’re working on.

Stay tuned for more! We hope you are as excited as we are.

Thank you to the following folks for your early support:

* BedandBreakfast.com
* Empire State B&B Association
* New Mexico B&B Association
* British Columbia B&B Innkeepers Guild
* Illinois Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers Association
* Bed and Breakfast Inns of Missouri
* Indiana Bed and Breakfast Association
* Pennsylvania Tourism & Lodging Association
And individual innkeepers

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