Posts Tagged ‘Innkeepers’

It’s All About Delivering the Experience!

Monday, December 12th, 2011

It’s All About Delivering the Experience!

Customers want what they want when they want it. The idea is to bundle it all together and get them to pay for access to experiences they’d never have otherwise without your help.

Most Bed and Breakfast owners are experts in delivering that experience. Go to www.nebraskabb.com and get some advice from other B&B innkeepers and collaborate with each other!

Vacation Rentals – Friend or Foe? What do you think?

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

#On My Mind – Vacation Rentals – Friend or Foe?  What do you think?
By Jay Karen, PAII CEO
Anyone paying attention to the travel industry these days knows about the rise and success of the vacation rental as a popular lodging option.  Sites like VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey and others have skyrockted in popularity.  Many cities around the world are concerned with the increased use of houses, apartments, and condos as vacation rentals, possibly altering the culture of buildings and neighborhoods.  Everyone in our industry knows that HomeAway bought BedandBreakfast.com last year, so it brought the vacation rental question into the forefront for our industry.  But how are innkeepers supposed to see the vacation rental market?  Friend or foe?  Of course, it’s not so black and white.

Activities undertaken by the vacation rental industry and its major players may end up benefiting the B&B industry.  For two years now, HomeAway has run commercials during the Super Bowl promoting the hotel alternative.  Since B&Bs compete with hotels (and we do, for those who say we don’t compete with hotels), I like this advertising.  It gets people thinking about alternatives to what can be the “cookie-cutter” experience.  HomeAway received a big infusion of capital from Google Ventures not long ago, and they recently filed to become a publicly-traded company.  The escalating scale and scope of this company will hopefully mean more propaganda to get travelers moving in the direction away from hotels.

Popular vacation rental web sites also provide another distribution channel for innkeepers to market their rooms, cottages, or cabins.  Not all rental opportunities on these web sites are condos and entire houses – some property owners rent rooms as well.  Many innkeepers have months during which occupancy drops to single digits.  Vacation rental web sites may be a great place to experiment with renting the entire B&B out to groups for days or weeks at a time.  I know several innkeepers who are having great success renting rooms on sites like HomeAway.  Think about it this way – there could be some kind of corporate sales training or other group-type function happening near you, and people booking blocks of rooms may not be thinking “B&B” when doing their homework.  But I’ll bet many are looking at vacation rental web sites.

One thing in particular I like about the HomeAway purchase of BedandBreakfast.com is the possible cross-pollination of opportunities.  Maybe HomeAway will find a way to market B&Bs to their vacation rental customers.  Maybe there are technology or marketing ideas that are highly successful in the vacation rental world that will find their way to the B&B world.

But, I do have concerns about the rise of vacation rentals.  When I think about the Gen X and Gen Y traveler – heck, maybe all travelers – and their likes and dislikes, I cannot help but be concerned about vacation rentals.  More and more, travelers seem to want it “their way” and they want it to be fast and easy – everything from the search process to the booking process to the on-site experience.  Some of the top reasons people don’t stay at B&Bs are the real or perceived notions that they will be forced into social engagement with strangers (that includes the innkeepers), that they will have to deal with policies and procedures that make the experience difficult (and which exist to make the lives of innkeepers easier), and that they just don’t know what they’re going to get when they arrive.  Will it be quiet or noisy?  Will the food be good or bad?  Will the innkeepers be absent, perfectly present or intrusive?  Who knows, right?

With vacation rentals, people oftentimes get the benefit of having a nicely decorated and clean experience that rivals just about any typical hotel experience.  When I say nicely decorated, I mean that many are outfitted like upscale homes.  Most have kitchens or kitchenettes – some might even be stocked with rations.  Vacation rentals can feel like “home away from home,” which been the calling card of the B&B industry.  Most have free WiFi.  There is likely no concern from travelers that they will have to encounter anyone but the people they are traveling with, so no fears of socially-forced/socially-awkward possibilities.  They can come and go as they please without worrying about bothering other guests or the innkeepers (I’m in someone’s home, so I better be on my best behavior).  And, they can be found in just about any town or city where B&Bs can be found.

Of course, we know that the best of breed in the vacation rental market cannot compete with the best of breed in the B&B market.  A well-run B&B by a caring innkeeper, who has figured out the right recipe for taking care of all kinds of guests and their wishes provides something that no vacation rental can – the warmth of hospitality.  That’s not my concern, because I know that travelers who get the “B&B bug” after staying at one good B&B will come back and come back often.  What I am concerned about is being bypassed completely by travelers have never stayed at a B&B, who get the” vacation rental bug” after a good experience, and who harbor the prejudicial stereotypes that the average traveler harbors about B&Bs.  Why risk staying at a B&B, where the experience could go either way?  Why not stay at a vacation rental where there is a good chance the experience will likely be what you expect?

Maybe this is another reason why we need the Better Way to Stay campaign more than ever.  Maybe the hotel market is not what we should be worried about.  Friend or foe?  If you’re not using what that industry has to offer innkeepers, then they’re only a foe.  If you are using what they have to offer, then they could be more friend than foe.  What do you think?


Jay

Results from our March Innkeeper and Traveler Surveys

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Results from our March Innkeeper and Traveler Surveys

by Emily Gerson

We sent out surveys in March to both travelers and innkeepers to gain insight into B&B travel trends.  Below are some of the highlights from both surveys. Some of the most interesting findings are that many of the top 20 summer destinations for travelers are small towns, and close to half of innkeepers think rising gas prices may actually increase their reservations.

For the full results, please email Support@BedandBreakfast.com to receive PDF copies of the survey.

Highlights from the Traveler Survey

How many trips are they planning and how long are they going?

  • Even with ever-increasing gas prices, nine out of 10 (90.3%) say they will take at least one weekend getaway this summer, and nearly two-thirds (62.3%) say they will take two or more weekend getaways this summer.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64.5%) of travelers say they will take one or two long weekend getaways this summer, and 70% will take one or two week-long vacations this summer.

Where are they going?

  • Click here to see the top 20 destinations for summer 2011.

How do they choose where to stay?

  • When deciding where to stay, travelers rank consumer reviews the highest (49.6%), followed closely by photos (48.7%), ability to book online (44.4%) and friends’ recommendations (44%).

Why do they stay at B&Bs?

  • B&B travelers say B&Bs allow them to get away from masses staying at hotels, while offering unique, interesting, and intimate accommodations that are adult/couple-oriented.

Highlights from the Innkeeper Survey

How did their business perform in 2010?

  • More than three out of four (75.8%) said their 2010 revenue was as good or better compared to 2009, with more than half of those saying revenue was up 10% or more.
  • Almost 19 percent of innkeepers said revenue in 2010 was up 20% or more.

Are they optimistic for 2011?

  • Two-thirds of innkeepers (63.3%) said they expect their reservations to increase in 2011.

Do they think rising gas prices will affect their business?

  • With no end in sight for rising prices, 61% said yes.
  • Interestingly, 40% of innkeepers think reservations will go down slightly due to consumers traveling less, while another 40% think reservations will go up slightly as people choose weekend stays over long vacations.

What led to success for those who had increased reservations?

  • Innkeepers overwhelmingly attribute online reviews (74%) for improved bookings in 2010, but also say social media like Facebook and Twitter (28.9%) and publicity (28.9%) contributed to their improved performance.

Recipe of the Month

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Recipe of the Month

Summer Veggie Pie
Joshua Grindle Inn, Mendocino, CA
veg150
“More often these days we have guests who are abstaining from animal products. We’ve been very careful to eliminate meat from all of our dishes, but this request is a little more challenging since we rely so much on milk and eggs in our recipes. However, we have found that this quiche is so creamy, tangy and satisfying that no one seems to notice that it is not a traditional quiche.” — Cindy & Charles Reinhart, Innkeepers

Prep Time: 1.5 hours
Serves: 12

Ingredients:

  • 13 oz frozen shredded potatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil, plus extra for sauteeing vegetables and oiling baking pan
  • 1 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 3/4 cup broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup zucchini, sliced
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu, drained*
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • paprika to taste

Steps:

1. Oil a glass pie plate and distribute potatoes over bottom of pan. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned.

2. Spread softened potatoes evenly over bottom and sides of pans. Saute green onions, yellow onions and garlic in oil until tender.

3. Add broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms and saute until tender. Drain well and place in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

4. In food processor, blend tofu, oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and flour until very smooth. Add to vegetable mixture and mix well.

5. Spread mixture evenly into the pie plate. Sprinkle top with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until firm and lightly browned on top.

 

* If you’ve never cooked tofu before, click here for tips!

Use the Power of Packaging to Sell Your Rooms

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Use the Power of Packaging to Sell Your Rooms

by Sandy Soule

Although the economy is gradually improving, and both leisure and corporate travel is on the upswing, we continue to operate in a highly competitive environment where consumer purchasing is primarily value-driven.

Innkeepers are under increasing pressure to think creatively about different ways to keep their RevPar (revenue per available room) maximized; effective use of packaging is certainly worth considering. After all, it’s more feasible to increase revenue per available room than it is to increase your room count. In general, there are two types of packaging — all-inclusives and add-ons. We’ll be discussing both in this article, along with some survey results from both innkeepers and consumers.

Survey results: Innkeepers

After the second quarter of 2010, we surveyed both innkeepers and consumers to determine packaging preferences. We asked innkeepers:

Do you offer packages to potential guests?

* On BedandBreakfast.com & other B&B sites: 55%
* On my own website: 77%
* Telephone inquiries: 45%
* After arrival at the inn: 13%
* On other travel websites: 28%

Comment: Many innkeepers think that packaging is synonymous with discounting, and avoid it for that reason. Others realize that value-added packaging can increase income and reservations, and can be an excellent alternative to discounting.

Suggestion: About 20% of innkeepers aren’t taking the few minutes required to cut and paste their package information from their own websites to their directory listings. Give it a try — you never know what will attract a potential guest to your listing, your website, and your inn!

If you don’t offer online booking of packages, why not?

* No guest interest: 21%
* Don’t want the extra work: 25%
* No package components available: 22%
* Technological/website limitation: 32%

Comment: Of approximately 600 respondents, 400 skipped this question, 200 replied, and 118 commented. Responses included many who said they don’t need or want online packaging; some misunderstood, thinking that packaging involved either discounting or high commissions; and a number were interested, as soon as a new website was ready; others had PMS issues that either didn’t allow for packaging or the setup made it overly complex.

Suggestion: Both packaging and rate discounting are viable strategic marketing techniques, each with different advantages and disadvantages. Investigate them both to decide which approaches will work best for your property during different dates and seasons. When testing pricing levels, be sure that you understand both the fixed and variable costs of renting a room (or having it sit empty), so that you can balance the cost of an unsold room with one that is booked.

If you do offer online booking of packages, what has been the effect on sales?

* Increased: 39%
* Decreased: 2%
* No change: 59%

Comment: The fact that almost 40% of respondents found that online booking of packages increased sales makes it well worth testing.

Survey results: Consumers

Have you ever booked a package at a B&B or inn?

* Yes: 56%
* No: 44%

Comment: Many consumer comments ran along the lines of “it depends on whether it’s a good value,” while other remarks reflected confusion about what constitutes a package. Several mentioned singles as a neglected group. Some samples:

* “If the packages are a good value, I like to book them, but if it’s just a way to increase the price, then no.”
* “I especially like packages that include a reasonable price for fine dining nearby.”
* “We booked a wedding package for our small ceremony; it was wonderful!”
* “I love getting away on my own, but packages are always for families or couples. Change that, and I’ll be there!”

What kind of package add-ons interest you?

* Food: 73%
* Activities: 50%
* Romance: 35%

Comment: Food was clearly the most appealing add-on. Consider offing a dinner certificate as a profitable extra on busy weekends, or make it a freebie to build occupancy midweek. In either case, work with high-quality locally owned restaurants, and negotiate a discount with the owner. To test this, contact local restaurant(s) and offer to pay $40 for a $50 gift certificate for two entrees (or whatever amount is appropriate for your area; excludes tax, tip, drinks). Guests get the dining certificates at check-in. You pay the restaurant the $40 when/if certificates are redeemed. The restaurant owner is happy because of the added covers on a slow night; their 20% discount softened by extras (alcohol, dessert). You get a two-night midweek reservation for a cost of $40. Some guests won’t use the certificates, costing you nothing.

“Activities” was the second most popular add-on; work with local outfitters to offer bike, kayaking, fishing, riding, and other experiences. They should offer you a commission or discounted price that you can incorporate to make your package attractive to potential guests.

“Romance” packages generally include some combination of roses, chocolates, champagne or sparkling cider, and often, two wine glasses with your inn’s name. Purchase these elements as needed for your packages at discounted rates, so that you make a small profit when offering them to guests.

Packaging online: all-inclusives and add-ons

The Castle in the Country in Allegan, Michigan effectively promotes and books both all-inclusive and add-on packages on its well-designed website, giving potential guests the choice of telephoning or reserving online. Their all-inclusive Celebration Package, for example, makes it easy for guests to enjoy a special occasion escape while generating significant additional income for the inn with relatively little effort. Use of the RezOvation Booking Engine makes it easy for guests to read reviews, check pricing, and select the room of their choice for their preferred dates. If a potential guest is not interested in an all-inclusive package, add-on upsell items like a massage, flowers, etc. are also presented as part of the checkout process; this makes it easy for guests to pick these extra items. Innkeeper Ruth Boven was exceedingly generous in sharing some of her advice on how packaging works for them:

“We sell a lot of packages because they are a great way to give guests exactly what they really want in a getaway experience. Value is created not only by the package components, but also in the service we provide by bundling together the best of what our inn and area offers. Here are our primary packaging objectives:

* “Sell multiple night stays: Potential guests must view us as a destination getaway location, allowing us to compete with other lodging alternatives such as casinos and resorts with multiple activities/attractions, plus more centrally located B&Bs. Our all-inclusive packages make it easy for the guest to understand how much our area offers for them to do, despite our slightly out-of-the way location.”
* “Increase revenue: We want to make money on our packages because they cost us money to implement. For long-term sustainability, we aim for a profit of at least 30%. We prefer bundled packages so we can recoup our costs over several components. We sacrifice this profit only when we need to increase reservations with specials.”
* “Brand our unique selling proposition: Not only do our packages make the guest experience different from a stay at a competitive property, but the take-away package components continue to remind them of their experience here.”

Castle in the Country Special Packages

Celebration_Package

Packages increase SEO

If travelers wanted to find a country B&B in which to celebrate Thanksgiving, they might enter a term like “thanksgiving bed and breakfast” into Google. If you have such a package, you might end up with a three-night reservation from folks who would never have found you otherwise.

Promoting your packages: In describing and promoting your packages, keep these goals in mind:

* Keep the descriptions concise, clear, and appealing, with the focus on WIIFM (what’s in it for me, the guest).
* Enhance your written description with great photos relevant to your packages.
* Work with state/local chambers/tourist offices to promote your packages and your property.
* Send press releases to local media about your packages, especially those with a timely theme and/or a news hook.
* List your packages prominently on your website, directories, state B&B association, CVBs, etc. and ensure that your staff is well informed about this as well.

Social Marketing: Use your blog, Facebook and Twitter pages to attract potential guests possibly looking for package options. Younger guests often use social marketing sites as an alternative to email or telephone when doing research. Take a look at the Castle in the Country’s Facebook page to see how they are using it to promote their engagement, wedding, and anniversary packages; another excellent example is the Empress of Little Rock.

empress-wed

Take-away: In conclusion, bear in mind that packaging is not for every property. Test packages that will grow income by increasing RevPar and/or occupancy, while avoiding packages that require too much time or money with no guarantee of success. Offer simple up-sell packages online in your checkout to increase revenue risk-free.

Older Home Restoration Project

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Hello Innkeepers – for those of you interested in restoring and upkeep in your older homes, I came across this workshop that you might want to investigate further: Restore Omaha Conference. It will be held on March 5 @ Metro Community College’s South Campus, 27th and Q Streets. There is a website with full details. Go to www.restoreomaha.org
Early registration ends on Feb. 18th so check this out if you’re interested.
~Harriet Gould, President NABB



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