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A Touchless Guest Experience with the new Frictionless Guest App v4.0

Photo by Breakslow on Unsplash

Today we released v4.0 of the Frictionless Guest App, which greatly helps Innkeepers to improve revenue and the touchless guest experience

When the Frictionless Guest App first launched, it was built on the premise that innkeepers can enhance the guest experience by offering recommendations on the best places to eat, play and shop during their stay.

With the rising need for guests and innkeepers to communicate with minimal physical interaction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, v4.0 of the Frictionless Guest App makes major improvements to enhance a touchless connection with guests.  And the great news is that innkeepers have the added benefit of generating additional revenue through the app while improving the guest experience!

The launch of the new Frictionless Guest App v4.0 includes many new features and benefits, and we are excited to highlight some of them here:

  • Property & Offerings Information: With a new Property & Offerings section that guests can easily access, innkeepers can prominently show important property-specific information they wish to communicate to guests.
  • Touchless Guest Ordering: Guests are now able to place orders for any on-property offering – whether it be breakfast, a bottle of champagne or any other services, packages, etc. – and communicate any special instructions or needs.
  • Enhanced Revenue: With touchless ordering, guests can easily purchase packages and other offerings anytime during their stay cycle, which provides innkeepers the opportunity to greatly enhance revenue.
  • Improved Guest Communications: Guests are able to communicate more easily, with innkeepers and staff getting instant notifications by email and text when guests place an order.
  • Share COVID Policies, etc.: With the ability to share any relevant information about the property, innkeepers can highlight what is most important to guests, such as COVID policies, arrival and departure instructions, connecting to WiFi, etc.
  • Market & Sell!: With it being so much easier to organize on-property offerings in the app, innkeepers can seriously market, sell, and upsell to guests, as well as improve the service they provide to them.
  • Replace Your Guest Book, Rack Brochures and Maps: Connect guests to all of the information in your guest book, as well as the maps and brochures you currently offer, and remove printed materials like this from your rooms and common areas to limit the risk of spreading COVID.

Ready to enable your guests to truly connect with you in a touchless way? Please contact us here to learn more about the amazing new v4.0 of the Frictionless Guest App!

Frictionless Innkeeper TIP #8: Put Guests’ COVID Concerns at Ease During Winter Months by Purchasing Humidifiers NOW

Photo by Patrick Lalonde on Unsplash

Much like the way toilet paper and hand sanitizers became very scarce during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, some are predicting that there will be a run on humidifiers in the coming winter months.

Dry air and low humidity are an ideal breeding ground for the virus. According to a study that was published in Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, for every 1 percent decrease in relative humidity, COVID-19 cases can increase by 7 percent to 8 percent. A 10 percent drop in relative humidity could double COVID-19 infections.

According to Hartford Healthcare, an increase in humidity makes infectious particles both bigger and heavier, causing them to drop from the air and land on hard surfaces.

As such, innkeepers should consider purchasing humidifiers for their properties NOW – in preparation for the winter months. The use of humidifiers adds to the many things you can do to put your guests at ease by showing them you are taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID at your property.

If you are unable to purchase humidifiers, scientists recommend keeping a large pot of water carefully kept at a low boil, which can also humidify dry winter air to healthy levels. If your establishment has hot water heat, consider water vessels on the radiators.

Communicating to potential guests how to use a humidifier and the science behind them is also very important. This can be done through updating your COVID-19 policies, e-blasts and social media. 

Thank to Tobias Bray, a marketing expert for the Frictionless Guest App, for providing us with this tip!

Post-COVID Re-Opening Part 1: Carriage Way Inn Bed and Breakfast Shares Operational Strategies

Many innkeepers have found ways to open their properties in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring changes to many aspects of their business. We thought it would be helpful to interview some of them and share their insights on how they are managing their businesses in today’s climate. This is one in a series of feature articles on Post-COVID Re-Opening.

For this installment of the article series, we highlight the challenges that Julio Torres, owner of the Carriage Way Inn Bed and Breakfast in St. Augustine, Florida faced with the pandemic, and how his property has adjusted its operations to overcome them.

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During the early summer months, the pandemic started to have an impact on Florida, at a time when regions like the Northeast were seeing a decline in cases.

As a result, innkeepers in St. Augustine, Florida were facing challenges at a time when innkeepers in other regions across the country were exploring opportunities to re-open.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride in Florida,” said Torres. “Things started out well in Florida. Then as we moved from phase one to phase two, the enthusiasm for travel dampened. It was not as bad as things were in March, but not as good as we wanted.”

For Florida inns, the busy season tends to be from Thanksgiving through April and May. But this year, due to the pandemic, most inns were closed. The Carriage Way Inn Bed and Breakfast took the time however to ramp up both its cleaning and communications to potential guests.

It also reconfigured its dining room to be socially distanced, set up outdoor dining, and eliminated self-service touch-points on the property. Now, all food and beverage are brought to guest tables by staff wearing masks.

“We shortened the check-in process, and we are no longer doing room refreshes,” added Torres. “In addition, we have done many mass emails to potential guests, and posted information to our website about how we are keeping them safe. Also, guests feel comforted seeing the staff wearing masks. We have received lots of praise from our guests.”

In June, bookings turned around for the Carriage Way Inn Bed and Breakfast, driven by a discount promotion that resulted in 184 guest registrations.

“We have a lot of people who have been impacted by the pandemic, and we wanted to roll out a discount to our loyal clientele,” said Torres. “As a result, we topped last June in terms of booking, though we experienced a drop in July due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.”

When looking to the future, Torres hopes for brighter days where he can be more connected with guests during their stays.

“We would like to go back to a highly personalized way of greeting guests, and we are all again sitting elbow to elbow at a bar,” said Torres. “I’d like to see the day where we can shake hands, and if a guest gives us a hug, we are comfortable hugging them back.”

PODCAST #28: Marilyn Bushnell and Eliot Dalton, Innkeeping Consultants and Brokers, Discuss the State of the Lodging Marketplace in the Face of COVID-19

For episode #28 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Marilyn Bushnell, the founder of Bushnell Services, and Eliot Dalton, who are both innkeeping consultants and brokers specializing in helping people buy and sell inns, about the state of the hospitality marketplace.

You can also listen to this podcast at Libsyn.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a varied impact on innkeepers around the U.S. In rural areas, there is plenty of activity – both from increased guest bookings and the buying and selling of inns – while urban environments are being challenged.

There are also an increased number of prospective buyers looking to acquire rural properties, and start their lives as innkeepers away from larger cities. In addition, mortgage rates are ideal right now, and some smaller inns are being marketed to large families that aren’t looking to be innkeepers, but looking to live and work remotely in these properties.

For Marilyn Bushnell and Eliot Dalton, who are innkeeping consultants and brokers working with property buyers and sellers, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an interesting time. They have a real “feet on street” perspective on the state of the marketplace, which they share in this podcast.

Following are highlights from our interview:

  • About Marilyn and Eliot’s backgrounds as former innkeepers. (1:35)
  • About both Marilyn and Eliot’s broker and consultant services. (4:53)
  • What both of these experts are seeing in the marketplace with regards to COVID-19. (8:09)
  • How there are actually new buyers coming into the innkeeping arena. (10:50)
  • How the pandemic has impacted urban and rural properties differently, and how more buyers are pivoting to the rural market. (12:10)
  • Marilyn and Eliot’s perspective on travel trends happening right now. (15:53)
  • How the ongoing pandemic is impacting the hospitality sector overall. (17:00)
  • How larger families are purchasing smaller B&Bs as their new homes – in areas away from big cities. (18:22)
  • Marilyn and Eliot’s perspective on this recent AHLA study, and how  properties with more privacy options for guests, such as AirBNBs, are all doing well. (20:14)
  • Why mortgage interest rates are ideal now for buyers. (27:09)
  • What the future holds for this unusual time for innkeepers, and “this too shall pass.” (31:23)

We are very thankful to Marilyn and Eliot for sharing their insights with us!  You can learn more about Bushnell Services here, and Eliot Dalton here.

Enabling Innkeepers to Connect with Guests in a Touchless Way: New Features for the Frictionless Guest App

Photo by Breakslow on Unsplash

New Launch Will Greatly Improve Innkeeper Revenues and the Guest Service Experience – with New Property Offerings Information, Touchless Guest Ordering, and More

When the Frictionless Guest App first launched, it was built on the premise that innkeepers can enhance the guest experience by offering recommendations on the best places to eat, play and shop during their stay.

With the rising need for guests and innkeepers to communicate with minimal physical interaction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are making major improvements to the Frictionless Guest App to enhance a touchless connection with guests.  And the great news is that innkeepers will have the added benefit of generating additional revenue through the app while improving the guest experience!

The launch of the new Frictionless Guest App will include many new features and benefits, and we are excited to highlight some of them here:

  • Property & Offerings Information: There will be a new Property & Offerings section guests can easily access, which will allow innkeepers to prominently show important property-specific information they wish to communicate to guests.
  • Touchless Guest Ordering: Guests will be able to place orders for any on-property offering – whether it be breakfast, a bottle of champagne or any other services, packages, etc. – and communicate any special instructions or needs.
  • Enhanced Revenue: With touchless ordering, guests can easily purchase packages and other offerings anytime during their stay cycle, which provides innkeepers the opportunity to greatly enhance revenue.
  • Improved Guest Communications: Guests will be able to communicate more easily, with innkeepers and staff getting instant notifications by email and text when guests place an order.
  • Share COVID Policies, etc.: With the ability to share any relevant information about the property, innkeepers can highlight what is most important to guests, such as COVID policies, arrival and departure instructions, connecting to WiFi, etc.
  • Market & Sell!: With it being so much easier to organize on-property offerings in the app, innkeepers can seriously market, sell, and upsell to guests, as well as improve the service they provide to them.
  • Replace Your Guest Book, Rack Brochures and Maps: Connect guests to all of the information in your guest book, as well as the maps and brochures you currently offer, and remove printed materials like this from your rooms and common areas to limit the risk of spreading COVID.

Ready to enable your guests to truly connect with you in a touchless way? Please contact us here to learn more about our amazing new version of the Frictionless Guest App!

Finally, Some Good News for Innkeepers? We Interpret the Latest AHLA Survey

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Without a doubt, 2020 will go down as a very strange, and difficult year for the travel sector.  

Almost overnight, lodging properties around the world were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and these challenges live on today with new hotspots emerging throughout the United States.

Clearly, larger hotel chains are the most impacted, but how are things looking for independent innkeepers?  Surprisingly (or perhaps not,) things may be looking up for many inns and B&Bs – especially those located in rural areas.

According to a recent American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) survey, only 44 percent of Americans are planning overnight vacation or leisure travel in 2020.

However, the good news is that 68 percent of these expectant travelers are likely to stay in a hotel, and only nine percent plan to stay at a short-term rental such as Airbnb or VRBO. With many travelers concerned about the safety of larger hotels – especially those with elevators – it seems reasonable to believe that travelers are more apt to stay at smaller properties, such as boutique hotels, inns, or B&Bs.

While our analysis may seem speculative on the surface, we have recently spoken to several innkeepers and industry consultants, and discovered that many inns are seeing a significant surge in new guests. This especially appears to be a trend with properties located outside of urban areas.

In addition, the vast majority of guests are driving to these properties, sometimes many hours away from their homes. It’s clear that Americans have not lost their desire to travel.

“Travel is part of the fabric of who we are,” said Lori Pennington-Gray, Director of the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative, in this recent CNN article. “There’s this innate desire to travel and explore, and when we’re asked to stay home and not engage in that part of our life it becomes more evident how important it is to us.”

Americans also want to feel confident in the safety of their destinations. With short-term rentals, it’s not always clear how well hosts are cleaning the properties, and if there are long enough disinfection periods between guest stays.

Again, it may be a leap but we believe that travelers are more likely to trust innkeepers to keep their properties disinfected compared to short-term rentals or larger hotels, because innkeepers are concerned with their own health while spending time at their property. In addition, innkeepers often have hands-on or oversight responsibility of the actual cleaning and disinfecting that happens at their inn or B&B.

For innkeepers, there’s an opportunity to reinforce this trust and show how you have the guest’s best interest, and safety at heart. This can be achieved through embracing the best cleaning and disinfection strategies available (see our recent post about this topic here) and openly communicating your approach to your current and prospective guests.

So, while the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on independent innkeepers, we’re hopeful that there is a trend toward people who want to get away and are willing to drive a reasonable distance to visit an independent property. And though we can expect demand to vary with the ebb and flow of the news cycle, we’re optimistic that the elevated trust that travelers have in innkeepers of smaller properties will have them choosing to stay at inns, B&Bs, and boutique hotels above other lodging options.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #27: Jim Meade, Owner/Innkeeper of Bear Lodges and Author of “No Cooked Breakfast” Discusses his Non-Traditional Approach to Innkeeping

For episode #27 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Jim Meade, the owner and operator of Bear Lodges, and author of the book “No Cooked Breakfast,” who discusses his non-traditional approach to innkeeping.

Editorial Note: This podcast was recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can also listen to this podcast at our Libsyn Directory.

In the innkeeping world, it’s often assumed that things need to be done in a certain way. From serving breakfast to continually socializing with guests, these are all great things to do – though this may not be the ideal path for all property owners.

For Jim Meade, the owner and operator of Bear Lodges, which is comprised of Bear Mountain Lodge, Bear Meadows Lodge, and 131 Main Street – three non-traditional B&Bs in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania – he chose to do things his own way.

He is also the author of “No Cooked Breakfast,” a book that offers a practical guide infused with a personal narrative about his life before, during, and after opening his B&Bs. The book also offers guest feedback from their in-room journals – and it shares his philosophy about why he does not offer a cooked breakfast. The book also discusses how following your own passion can lead to success as an innkeeper.

Following are highlights from our interview:

  • About Jim’s background as a fisheries research biologist, and how he transitioned into being an innkeeper. (1:30)
  • About the Bear Lodges portfolio of properties. (4:03)
  • What drew Jim to innkeeping, and how his non-traditional approach to running his properties came about. (8:12)
  • What Jim offers to guests instead of providing a sit-down, cooked breakfast. (11:20)
  • About Jim’s book “No Cooked Breakfast.” (16:40)
  • Jim’s tips for aspiring innkeepers, and why following your own passion is important for achieving long-term success. (25:04)
  • How Jim defines the guest experience, and what strategies he has used to improve it. (31:40)
  • The most important questions he would ask a leading expert/consultant in the B&B industry. (34:36)
  • Age demographics for guests who stay at his properties and how they are trending. (35:30)

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

Frictionless Innkeeper TIP #7: Marketing Your Property as You Re-Open

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

As the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, and the summer season is upon us, many innkeepers are developing strategies for re-opening their properties.

In addition to properly disinfecting your property (see our recent podcast), the right digital marketing efforts can help to expand awareness and drive future bookings for guests.

According to Kent Schnepp, CEO of Odysys, while there is no silver-bullet marketing campaign that will restore your business to the pre-COVID levels, there are three key areas that innkeepers should focus on right now as they reopen their properties:

1)   Foundational Marketing: Focus on understanding your ideal guest, and then market to them based on what originally attracted them to your property. Once you understand the guest, the next step is implementing SEO, local search marketing, email marketing and content development efforts.

2)   Co-Marketing Strategies: Now is also the ideal time to seek out co-marketing partnerships with businesses in your area – such as joint podcasts and other content marketing efforts with local wineries, restaurants or regional associations. This allows for these partner organizations to jointly market your destination and region first, and then you can focus on marketing your property.

3)   Learning New Digital Marketing Skills/Tools: While innkeepers are most likely busier now than they were two months ago, it is still recommended to use any remaining COVID-19 related downtime to learn new marketing skills. This can include focusing on learning how to best leverage Google Analytics, MailChimp, and even do a complete website refresh.

Thanks to Kent Schnepp, CEO of Odysys, for contributing to this Frictionless Innkeeper TIP by sharing insights during a Frictionless Innkeeper podcast.

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. The company also hosts the InnSpeak Podcast.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #26: Teresa Luttrell, Enliven B&B Innkeeper and the “Queen of Hygiene”, Provides Amazing Suggestions for Truly Effective Cleaning in the Post-COVID-19 World

For episode #26 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, and Teresa provides some amazing cleaning and disinfecting tips for innkeepers looking to re-open their properties this summer.

You can also listen to the podcast at Libsyn Directory.

With various U.S. states launching new COVID-19 guidelines for businesses to re-open, many innkeepers are developing strategies for opening their properties for the summer season.

Providing guests with the utmost confidence that their properties are clean, disinfected and safe is paramount for innkeepers. And, traditional cleaning strategies are just not enough in these challenging times.

As a pioneer in owning a chemical- and fragrance-free inn, Teresa Luttrell, the owner of Enliven Bed and Breakfast, provides a deep-dive take on what innkeepers can do to keep their properties safe for guests – from hard and soft surfaces, air, drains, and much more.  Her kids have dubbed her the “Crazy Hygiene Lady” but we prefer to call her the “Queen of Hygiene.”

Teresa also runs chemicalfreeinns.com, a new online information resource that provides information on the best cleaning and filtration products for innkeepers.

Following are highlights from our interview:

  • About Enliven Bed and Breakfast, and Teresa’s background as an expert in cleaning and disinfecting for keeping guests safe. (1:21)
  • What biofilms are and why innkeepers need to embrace disinfection strategies for removing them. (3:55)
  • About Hypochlorous Acid‎ and why it’s a breakthrough cleaning ingredient for disinfecting surfaces, removing air-borne pathogens, and why it’s not harmful for guests. (11:34)
  • Tips for cleaning surfaces through advanced steam vapor systems. (19:56)
  • How much time it will take for innkeepers to use a steam vapor system to clean various areas in a property. (25:55)
  • How much it costs to use a steam vapor system, and what solution is best for smaller inns. (30:52)
  • What innkeepers can do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through the air. (35:55)
  • Overlooked areas of an inn that should be cleaned and disinfected. (41:42)
  • Why hygiene is the new luxury when it comes to innkeeping today. (43:42)
  • How Teresa can help other innkeepers through her chemicalfreeinns.com website. (44:15)

We are very thankful to Teresa for sharing her insights with us!  Be sure to listen to our previous podcast with Teresa here, and can learn more about Enliven Bed and Breakfast by visiting their website.

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, of 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.