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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.  

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.