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Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #25: Brian Ontiveros-Kersch with Bed Bug Advisor Discusses Bed Bug Mitigation for Innkeepers

For episode #25 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Brian Ontiveros-Kersch, The Advisor with Bed Bug Advisor, an organization that provides educational resources for the treatment and elimination of bed bugs.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

While many people don’t often think about bed bugs, they can be a tremendous nuisance for independent hotels and inns. And unfortunately, they are on the rise, with a logical reason for their exponential growth over the years.

Between 1941 and 1982, the U.S. government launched a campaign to spray pesticides like DDT to manage mosquito populations to drive down the spread of West Nile Virus. This campaign also helped to eradicate the U.S. bed bug population.  

Unfortunately though, DDT had a negative impact on bald eagle populations, and the U.S. government halted this effort. As a result, between 1982 and 2001, there was a 500 percent increase in the population size, and during 2004 to 2011, we saw 13,000 percent increase.

This tremendous growth was also a result of bed bugs spreading from more people traveling, both internationally and domestically, due to cheaper airfares available in the wake of 9/11. With more people flying during this time, there were more people staying in hotels, inns and home sharing offerings, making the spread even greater.

Comprised of the top researchers and entomologists in this specialized arena, Bed Bug Advisor is the preeminent organization that provides the best informational resources for bed bug mitigation.

According to Brian Ontiveros-Kersch, with Bed Bug Advisor, there is no “best treatment” when it comes to bed bugs. In this podcast, Brian provides detailed insights into the history of bed bugs, the psychological impact of bed bugs, the best mitigation strategies for innkeepers, and much more.

  • The history of bed bugs in the U.S. (1:17)
  • About Bed Bug Advisors. (6:10)
  • The physical aspects of bed bugs. (11:00)
  • How B&B owners can identify if they have a bed bug infestation. (17:20)
  • The best options for bed bug identification and treatment. (19:17)
  • The psychological impact of bed bugs. (30:55)
  • How there is no “silver bullet” for proactively preventing bed bugs. (36:15)
  • Insights on the best kind of bed bug traps and prevention tools available on the market. (38:40)
  • How the global bed bug problem will be ongoing in the future. (46:09)
  • Insights into the business model behind Bed Bug Advisor. (48:03)
  • Why using rubbing alcohol for bed bug treatment is very dangerous. (52:49)

We are very thankful to Brian for sharing his insights with us!  You can learn more about Bed Bug Advisor by visiting their website.  

InnSpeak Podcast: The Frictionless Guest App Connects Guests to Other Local Businesses in Your Destination

The value of the guest experience, and being connected with other businesses in your community, has always been vital for innkeepers.  But now with the COVID-19 pandemic potentially winding down, and as innkeepers consider re-opening their businesses, this has never been more important.

By keeping your community in mind, and promoting your destination overall, innkeepers can put together experiences and partnerships to help drive business prior to and during the coronavirus recovery. This can come in the form of developing recommendations and referrals to other businesses in your area.

This was the key theme of a recent InnSpeak Podcast interview with Steve Short, Founder & CEO of the Frictionless Guest App, hosted by Ben Lloyd, VP of Marketing, Strategy & Customer Success at Odysys.

The podcast also highlighted how guests are already planning their future travel – especially to drivable destinations – for this summer and early fall.  

In addition, Steve discussed how the Frictionless Guest App is ideal for communicating with guests with minimal face-to-face contact, and how many guests will most likely be more apt to seek out experiences outside of properties.

Listen to the full interview below:

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #24: Kent Schnepp, CEO of Odysys, on the Top 3 Marketing Topics that Innkeepers should Focus on NOW as COVID-19 Winds Down

For episode #24 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Kent Schnepp, CEO of Odysys, who provides marketing strategies and tips for innkeepers as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

As the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown continues, innkeepers are presented with a rare opportunity to use this down time to enhance their marketing efforts to help expand awareness and drive future bookings.

In this podcast, Kent Schnepp, CEO of Odysys, provides deep-dive insights into how innkeepers can develop marketing strategies to ramp up their businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down. Odysys offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) marketing and technology platform that helps innkeepers and independent hotels to significantly reduce their guest acquisition costs.

  • About Odysys and its offerings for innkeepers. (1:09)
  • The 3 things innkeepers can do now to improve their marketing and drive future bookings. (2:05)
  • How and why Foundational Marketing is critical for innkeepers. (6:19)
  • Why innkeepers should seek out co-marketing opportunities with businesses in their areas. (17:08)
  • The right email marketing strategies as COVID-19 winds down. (23:19)
  • Why now is the ideal time for innkeepers to learn new marketing skills or better use their existing marketing tools. (26:51)
  • How Odysys works with its innkeeper customers to help improve their overall marketing performance. (34:22)
  • Kent’s perspective on what the future holds for the travel sector when restrictions are lifted. (36:00)

We are very thankful to Kent for sharing his insights with us!  You can learn more about Odysys by visiting their website.   The company also offers a wide-range of marketing resources and guides to help innkeepers get a head start on getting back to normal.

Keep Your Inn Top-of-Mind During COVID-19

Photo by Cody Doherty on Unsplash

Although the entire travel sector has been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic, forward-thinking innkeepers are getting creative to make sure their properties stay top-of-mind with guests and help drive demand when the economy begins to reopen.

From offering discounts on future stays to using social media and digital marketing to keep their brands relevant with potential guests, there are actually some positive approaches being taken in response to the pandemic.

For example, the Bed & Breakfast Innkeepers of Colorado is taking steps to provide flexibility with current bookings and offering specials and packages for those who want to make a reservation for a future stay in 2020.

Along these lines, the Holden House B&B in Colorado Springs is offering an “Early Bird 10% Discount Book Now For Later” to assist travelers in pre-booking and planning their vacations at the property.

Innkeepers and independent hotels are also using this temporary business downtime to creatively engage with and entertain guests through social media. 

For example, Deer Path Inn located in Lake Forest, Illinois, is using its Instagram feed to publish light-hearted posts, which aim to provide a respite from the stress that most people are feeling these days.

The hotel recently announced it will be holding an online auction that will grant exclusive experiences to future guests, with the money raised going to the hotel’s neighboring businesses that have also shut down entirely during COVID-19.

Taking a page from Deer Path Inn’s efforts, many other boutique hotel brands are making their properties an ideal virtual destination.  Anatara Hotels & Resorts is offering a steady stream of content designed to provide a positive form of travel escapism. And, the Acqualina Resort & Spa is publishing arts and crafts videos as part of its  “Bringing Acqualina to You” campaign. Any innkeeper can record and post their own videos…all it takes is a steady hand and a mobile phone.

Now is a good time to reach new and existing guests using the tools you have today, such as email and social media, and to consider offering discounts for future stays. With most Americans being quarantined at home, there is actually a captive audience longing to get away and in need of positive travel-related stories.

All things do truly pass, and so will COVID-19, hopefully at some point in the very near future. Guests are certainly looking forward to booking their post-COVID vacations, and the key is having your property be top-of-mind when they do.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #23: Teresa Luttrell, Owner/Innkeeper of Enliven Bed and Breakfast, Discusses Her Healthy, Chemical-Free Inn

For episode #23 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Teresa Luttrell, the owner of Enliven Bed and Breakfast. Located in Kenmore, Washington, Enliven Bed and Breakfast is a chemical- and fragrance-free inn, which is ideal for guests seeking out truly healthy accommodations.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

Founded in 2009 by Teresa Luttrell, Enliven Bed and Breakfast offers accommodations that are ideal for guests who are sensitive to chemical-laden cleaning and fragrance products.  The idea for the B&B came about from Teresa’s decades-long challenges with Lyme disease, when she decided to create a refuge for medical travelers coming to the Seattle area for their respective treatments.

The property offers highly filtered air and water, is annually tested for mold, and offers organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and dairy-free food for guests. Teresa also uses cutting-edge steam vapor systems for cleaning, and all bedding is made of organic and unbleached cotton.

In addition, Teresa is launching a new online resource called chemicalfreeinns.com, which will provide a list of all chemical- and fragrance-free in the U.S., as well as have information on the best cleaning and filtration products.

For episode #23 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Teresa Molitor Luttrell, the owner of Enliven Bed and Breakfast. Located in Kenmore, Washington, Enliven Bed and Breakfast is a chemical- and fragrance-free inn, which is ideal for guests seeking out truly healthy accommodations.

In this podcast, Teresa provides insights into how she has created a safe haven for patients, and chemically sensitive guests.

  • Teresa’s background, her experience with Lyme disease, and how the idea for Enliven Bed and Breakfast came about. (1:07)
  • A detailed look at all of the chemical-free aspects of the property. (4:12)
  • The typical kinds of guests that visit Enliven Bed and Breakfast. (7:21)
  • What other innkeepers can learn from Enliven Bed and Breakfast when it comes to being safe and chemical-free. (11:29)
  • More about the vapor cleaning system that Teresa uses for advanced cleaning of her property. (17:24)
  • How other innkeepers can be more considerate to guests by using cleaning products without fragrances. (19:49)
  • Insights into the mission behind Teresa’s efforts with chemicalfreeinns.com. (23:53)
  • An interesting anecdote about a current guest who has autism, who has seen an incredible turnaround in his health at the property. (32:54)

We are very thankful to Teresa for sharing her insights with us!  You can learn more about Enliven Bed and Breakfast by visiting their website.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #22: John Smallwood, Founder and CEO of ExpressRez, Discusses His New Specialized Reservation Service for Innkeepers

For episode #22 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with John Smallwood, Founder and CEO of ExpressRez, a specialized and simplified voice reservations service for Inns, B&Bs and vacation rental management companies.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

For many innkeepers, it can be challenging to balance day-to-day operations and be available to take all reservation calls from prospective guests. Missed calls can translate into lost revenue to competing lodging options.

John Smallwood founded ExpressRez to address this very issue – to serve as an outsourced call center for Inns and B&Bs by handling all reservations and guest inquiries. When a call is received, an ExpressRez reservation specialist answers with the B&B’s unique greeting, as if guests are speaking directly with the innkeeper, and they are immediately provided detailed information about the property on their computer screens, to be able to answer typical questions from guests.

The solution will officially launch this summer, is simple to use, and offers tremendous return-on-investment. Innkeepers only need to pay 89 cents per minute for the calls, and there’s no startup fees or long-term contracts. ExpressRez also has an easy-to-use software interface for innkeepers to provide details about their properties, and all invoices include the revenue generated each month.

In addition to booking revenue for properties, ExpressRez takes calls from current guests regarding their questions and needs during their stays. This ultimately helps to enhance the guest experience, and boost overall TripAdvisor reviews.

In this podcast, John provides more insights into the value of the ExpressRez service for innkeepers:

  • John’s background in the hospitality arena. (1:08)
  • How John’s Travel Outlook parent company laid the foundation for the ExpressRez call center solution for Inns. (2:17)
  • How ExpressRez is different than Travel Outlook, and why it’s ideal for innkeepers. (5:01)
  • Why it’s easier for innkeepers to use ExpressRez rather than taking reservation calls on their own. (7:05)
  • Details about the pricing structure of ExpressRez for innkeepers. (11:43)
  • Why ExpressRez can help replace the use of OTAs. (15:50)
  • How ExpressRez uses an inn’s booking system for tracking ROI. (17:32)

We are very thankful to John for sharing his insights with us!  You can learn more about ExpressRez by visiting their website.

Less Obvious Tax Benefits of Owning a B&B

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

Many people pursue the dream of owning a B&B to gain more independence, live in tourist destinations, and lead a lifestyle outside of the traditional corporate world.

In addition to these intangibles, there are also quite a number of tax benefits that you should take advantage of, according to Little Hotelier and the financial advice website sapling.com.  While you can deduct the most obvious expenses required for running your innkeeping business, here are a few less obvious ideas for lowering your tax burden, as well:

  • Less obvious items used by guests are deductible, such as magazines
  • The cost of your health insurance premium is often deductible because of being self-employed as an innkeeper
  • You can get travel reimbursement for the use of your car to transport your guests or perform any other tasks for your business
  • Leverage the benefit of depreciation of your property for rooms used exclusively by guests
  • Your payroll taxes can be lowered when hiring family members — especially children and parents
  • Contributions to an IRA may be a way to both lower your tax burden and save for retirement

You should consult your tax advisor to determine if any of these ideas are viable for your situation.  Oftentimes the challenge lies in needing accurate documentation and bookkeeping to be able to take advantage of these strategies.  But if that is a challenge, you can always hire a talented bookkeeper and probably deduct that expense, as well!

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #21: Monique Greenwood, Owner/Innkeeper of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns and Star of Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Checked Inn” Reality TV Show (Part 2)

For episode #21 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Monique Greenwood, Owner/Innkeeper of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns and star of the television reality show “Checked Inn” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). In Part 2 of a two part podcast, she discusses her reality TV show, how she defines the guest experience, and much more.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

As we noted in Part 1 of our previous podcast interview, Monique Greenwood is a highly regarded innkeeper who developed the Akwaaba empire of five properties, and has parlayed this experience into an OWN TV reality show called “Checked Inn.”

While most of us will never know what it’s like to have a reality TV show based on our work lives, Monique had this unique privilege with her Checked Inn TV show.  Though this may seem glamorous on the surface, it actually required long hours of video shoots and Monique had to ensure that the televised content reflected the compassion that she truly has as an innkeeper, without allowing her guests to be used mostly for entertainment value.

As a result, Checked Inn is not typical of most reality TV shows, where producers create environments of drama and conflict to occur. On Monique’s show, she often played the role of a therapist, and strove to continually help guests productively deal with their personal issues.

Checked Inn also had a celebrity guest when award-winning R&B singer Peabo Bryson appeared in an episode, which created a star-struck moment for Monique’s husband Glenn Pogue.

Checked Inn created what Monique calls the Oprah “halo effect”, where she says there was an increased interest and booking from guests wanting to stay at The Mansion at Noble Lane, where the show was filmed.

While the show only ran for one season, Monique’s television career continues on today. She was featured on CNBC’s “Five Day Biz Fix,” on January 1st at 10 p.m. where she transformed the side-yard of her Brooklyn property into a luxury “glamping garden.” 

In part two of this podcast series, Monique discusses Checked Inn, and provides her philosophy behind continually offering the best experiences for her guests.

  • How the Checked Inn TV show came about for Monique. (1:15)
  • What it was like filming a reality TV show for Monique, her family and staff. (3:00)
  • How Checked Inn was not like a typical reality show because it focused more on healing and a human element. (7:40)
  • Insights into the TV story line around Monique’s daughter not getting into the family business. (9:17)
  • What it was like to have Peabo Bryson appear in an episode. (10:48)
  • Monique’s appearance on CNBC’s “Five Day Biz Fix.” (18:31)
  • How Monique defines the guest experience, and what strategies she has used to improve it. (21:28)
  • The most important questions she would ask a leading expert/consultant in the B&B industry. (24:23)
  • Age demographics for guests who stay at Akwaaba properties and how they are trending. (26:44)

We are very thankful to Monique for sharing her insights with us!  You can learn more about Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns by visiting their website.

Frictionless Innkeeper TIP #6: Funding Expansion Through Your Inn’s Equity

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Many innkeepers aim to continually expand the offerings on their properties, whether it’s the addition of a barn for weddings and events or even acquiring other inns. Leveraging the equity in your property is one viable way to fund these types of expansion efforts. 

For Monique Greenwood, Owner/Innkeeper of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns and star of the television reality show “Checked Inn” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), this strategy helped her to expand her innkeeping portfolio.

In 1995, she started with the first Akwaaba property in Brooklyn, and eventually used its increased equity value to acquire four other properties in the U.S.  Today, there are Akwaaba inns in Brooklyn, NY; Washington, D.C.; Bethany, PA; Philadelphia, PA; and Cape May, NJ.

You don’t have to be an empire builder to take advantage of this approach. For example, you can use the current equity in your property to fund renovations and new amenities such as a swimming pool, gazebos and event barns for weddings and concerts.

The key, of course, is being sure that the investment will generate revenue and feeling confident that the risk outweighs the reward. For larger projects that appear to have a significant upside, using the equity in your property may be the best alternative and one that you should seriously consider.

Thanks to Monique Greenwood for contributing to this Frictionless Innkeeper TIP by sharing insights during a Frictionless Innkeeper podcast.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #20: Monique Greenwood, Owner/Innkeeper of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns and Star of Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Checked Inn” Reality TV Show (Part 1)

For episode #20 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Monique Greenwood, Owner/Innkeeper of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns and star of the television reality show “Checked Inn” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). In Part 1 of a two part podcast, she discusses her personal and professional journey, how she built the Akwaaba empire of luxury properties, and much more.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

It’s not often that we find an innkeeper who has built a reputation to the level that attracted the attention of Oprah Winfrey. Monique Greenwood is a highly regarded innkeeper who developed the Akwaaba empire of five properties, and has parlayed this experience into an OWN TV reality show called “Checked Inn.”

Prior to reaching these heights of innkeeping success, Monique started her career in journalism and achieved her dream of being the editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine. In 1995, she decided to move into the innkeeping arena, and realized that real estate investments were the key to success.

With her business plan tied to her overall lifestyle plan, she ultimately wanted to own properties in areas around the U.S. that she loved.  She started with the first Akwaaba property in Brooklyn, and eventually used its increased equity value to help fund the acquisition of four other properties in the U.S.  Today, there are Akwaaba inns in Brooklyn, NY; Washington, D.C.; Bethany, PA; Philadelphia, PA; and Cape May, NJ.

The property in Bethany PA, called The Mansion at Noble Lane, is the “crown jewel” for Akwaaba, and ended up being the location for the “Checked Inn” reality show. It was built and formerly owned by the Woolworth family, and carries significance for Monique that goes beyond its incredible architecture. As an African American business leader, owning a mansion that is connected to a company that would not serve her grandmother during segregation is a reminder of how much she has overcome and achieved in her career.

In this podcast, Monique discusses her background, the growth of the Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, her book titled, “Having What Matters: The Black Woman’s Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want,” and much more.

  • Monique’s background and how she came to be an innkeeper. (1:07)
  • About Monique’s strategy for owning Akwaaba inns, and more about the properties. (2:05)
  • How Monique made the transition from being a journalist to innkeeper. (10:07)
  • Insights into her “Having What Matters” book, and how it has guided her success. (16:39)
  • More about The Mansion at Noble Lane, and the newer Philadelphia property. (19:26)

We are very thankful to Monique for sharing her insights with us!  You can learn more about Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns by visiting their website.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this podcast, where Monique discusses “Checked Inn,” as well as her philosophy regarding enhancing the guest experience.