Lodging providers typically do an excellent job of delighting guests with their comfortable accommodations, quality food offerings and luxury amenities. However, what guests experience during their stay isn’t limited to their on-site time at your property.
What happens off-site is a very important component of the entire guest experience and enhancing it is essential to improve ratings and increase new and recurring bookings.
To help guests have truly memorable off-site experiences, lodging professionals must partner with local businesses who will provide their guests with special offerings and attention. Curating these experiences starts with choosing the right partners and working with them to determine the unique offerings they will provide to your guests.
Curating Exclusive, Unique Offerings
Lodging providers should identify and arrange for activities that allow guests to experience the destination in a way that goes beyond what’s typically found online. For the best results, thorough research is needed before settling on partners.
Find unique local places for your guests to eat, shop, and have fun. Approach the business owner or manager and ask if they are willing to treat your guests to a special experience if you recommend them. From there, you can discuss and refine an offering that is exclusive to guests of your property.
“Anybody can make a recommendation, but when we recommended an activity, we wanted it to be unique to the guest and something that nobody else offers. For example, we had a package to visit the aquarium next to one of our hotels, and to make it exclusive, we worked with the attraction to have our guests not wait in line. Or at selected restaurants, guests at our hotel were given a free glass of wine when they arrived.”
~Ken Conklin, Owner and General Manager of Short Stay Florida, former manager three Baltimore Harbor Magic hotels
It’s About the Experience, Not Making Money
In most cases, lodging providers don’t directly make money from establishing local partnerships, but the experiences leave a positive, lasting impression on the guest which helps with repeat business and referrals.
Monique Greenwood, owner of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, says there is so much outside of her urban properties for her guests to do, that they don’t usually need extra help in finding events and activities. For this reason, she invests time in discovering new places that are off the beaten path and often curates packages which are exclusive to her guests.
“Making money from the package doesn’t matter to me because I know the guest is going to get more out of their stay from the experience. This way they come back again and again,” said Monique. And they often post on social media about the fun they had, which spreads the word about Akwaaba and brings in new guests.
For former Vermont Inn owner Megan Smith, local business partnerships helped to build future occupancy for her property.
“I had a partnership with a local hospital which was always recruiting doctors, so we would host them and get them down to the hospital and provide anything else they needed. Then when they started working at the hospital, those doctors always came back to our inn to host holiday parties or to refer guests.”
It was a win-win situation for all involved.
Choosing the Right Partner
Choosing unique local places is an important starting point for determining potential partners but perhaps more pressing is for owners of those places to provide a level of service on par with your property. Monique refers to this as being “on brand” with your offering and this is her primary criteria selecting business partners.
“Are they hospitable? Are they as professional as you are? The goodwill gets passed down onto to you, but so does anything bad that happens. Be thoughtful of who you are picking because they are a reflection of you. Also, determine what’s the win for the partner too. They can’t just be doing you a favor,” says Monique.
In addition to choosing partners who are on brand with your property, it’s always helpful to look for partners that will mention you on their social media platforms and in their newsletters. Sometimes a partner will tag your property when talking about a guest experience there. This can add thousands of additional eyeballs to your reach and is good for both businesses!
Letting Guests Know About Your Unique Local Partner Offerings
Guests want to feel like VIPs. They want insider information and fantastic off-property experiences when they stay with you.
For guests to truly feel special, only they should have access to your insider recommendations and curated guest offerings. Enticing prospective guests with some local recommendations on your website may be necessary but only your true guests should have access to the valuable insider information and experiences you provide to them.
The Frictionless Guest App is a digital concierge that helps your guests live like locals and is a fantastic way to let only your guests know of your local recommendations and the curated VIP experiences you offer to them.
The App helps you connect with guests like never before, saving you time and allowing you to curate the guest experience both on and off the property.
Diann will attend the Lancaster conference and delve deeper into how the Frictionless app transforms guest stays and skyrockets your profits.
Are you attending any of these conferences? If so, be sure to stop by our booth! We’re excited to assist lodging providers in redefining their businesses, increasing profits, and saving time.
After this whirlwind, we’ll be craving some turkey-time to refuel. See you there!
Steve Short, Frictionless Founder & CEO, and Randy Bangs of the Stewart Inn and Get Heads in Beds at the 2023 ALP Conference in Phoenix, AZ, discussing how the Frictionless App saves Randy lots of time.
Dr. Chris Gordon and husband Isaac Gordon, Owners/Innkeepers, of Go Getaway Bed And Breakfast in Munford, TN, explaining to Steve how excited they are to be using the Frictionless App.
Monique Greenwood, President & CEO of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, stopped by the Frictionless booth at the 2023 ALP Conference to provide a testimonial about the power of partnerships and how the app helps her guests Live Like Locals.
Do you ever find yourself wondering how to use certain features in the Frictionless App but can’t remember or aren’t sure where to start? Or do you simply want to reach out and say hi to fellow lodging professionals? Well, we’ve got some great news for you!
Join us for the 2nd Cup series of pre-scheduled Zoom calls, where you can get your Frictionless App questions answered.
The series kicks off on Tuesday, September 12th at 11:30 AM until noon ET.
Diann Turner will be there to assist and give instructions on how to utilize your app to enhance the guest experience and save you time! No sign-up required, the calls will be held monthly, so mark your calendars and set a reminder for the 2nd Cup Series!
It’s not only a fantastic opportunity to get your questions answered but also a way to learn from other lodging professionals who are creatively using the app.
Grab your favorite mug for that 2nd cup of coffee (or maybe even 3rd!) and hop on Zoom to connect with the community.
Whether you’re a seasoned user or a new one, you’ll find the 2nd Cup series a welcoming and informative space to enhance your Frictionless App experience. Diann is here to support you every step of the way.
So don’t miss out! Join us on Zoom for the 2nd Cup series and make the most out of the Frictionless App for your innkeeping needs.
The independent lodging industry event of the year, the 2023 ALP Conference and Marketplace, will take place from February 25th to March 1st in Phoenix, Arizona!!
This event will bring together hundreds of Innkeepers, Licensed Short Term & Vacation Rental Owners, and Boutique Hotel Operators for days of learning, shopping, and networking with some of the brightest stars in the industry. And we will be there!
The Frictionless Guest App is proud to be a Silver Sponsor for the event, so we encourage you to attend and look forward to seeing our clients and future clients there. Please stop by our booth and say hello!
CLICK HERE to register today and we’ll see you in Phoenix!
The Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association (MBBA) 34th Annual Innkeeping Conference is happening from Tuesday, November 1 through Wednesday, November 2, in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the Frictionless Guest App is looking forward to being there!
Speakers include innkeeping expert Carol Edmondson, who will be talking with new and aspiring innkeepers, and travel blogger Valerie Stimac (our latest podcast interview!), who will share tips to attract and connect with guests of all generations and provide them with the local experiences they crave.
To view the schedule and register to attend the conference go to the MBBA conference page. We hope to see you there!
Partnering with local businesses to enhance your guests’ stay is a must in today’s experience-based economy. Travelers want more than just a place to stay. They want to connect with a destination, and live like a local, through genuinely authentic experiences.
Lodging providers, to gain repeat bookings, need to identify and develop mutually beneficial offerings with local businesses in order to provide guests with high-quality local experiences.
Why it is Important to Have Partnerships
Since it will take an investment of your time to commit to partnerships with your fellow local businesses, it’s important to understand why you need them in the first place.
The ability to differentiate your property is vital in order to attract (and keep) guests.
It’s not enough just to have beautiful amenities and food on site. Complimentary amenities like breakfast and Wi-Fi have become commonplace and expected.
Partnering Enhances your Guests’ Experience
Guests want more these days. They desire high quality, curated experiences both on and off property.
Guests look to their lodging provider for ‘insider information’ about the local community. They want recommendations and tips for what to do, see, and where to eat. They want to know what’s special about your community and experience it in unique ways. They’re counting on you to help curate their experience during their stay.
Your business benefits greatly with increased ROI when you curate and customize off-site experiences for your guests that match the quality of what you provide on-site.
Forming partnerships with local businesses that can provide a unique experience will give your property the edge you need to compete with other lodging providers in your area.
“It is so critical we have relationships with our local business community. It works on two fronts. One, it helps to create a memorable experience for the guest because they are not going to stay in your property the whole time. They want to get out and discover the neighborhood where they are staying and live like a local. Second, it’s good for the local economy as well.”
~Monique Greenwood, Owner of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns
Partnering Increases your ROI
When you enhance your guest experience off-site you’re increasing the likelihood of repeat bookings.
Simply put, repeat guests are more profitable.
Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by more than 25% (Bain & Co)
It is 6-7X more expensive to attract new customers than to keep existing customers. (Kolsky via Huffpost)
A 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75% (Bain & Co. via Forbes).
“The partnerships we made with local businesses made staying at our inn special. They were my guest enhancement and my sanity. The relationships I made were not only beneficial for the guests, but they also really became relationships that I grew and made my life more fulfilled.”
~Megan Smith, Lodging Consultant and Former Owner of a Vermont Country Inn
Helping you Partner Effectively
The Frictionless Guest App is a digital concierge that helps your guests live like locals. It allows lodging providers to give guests their recommendations for the best local places to eat, play, and shop during their stay.
The App helps you connect with guests like never before, saving you time and allowing you to curate the guest experience both on and off the property.
A message from Steve Short, Founder & CEO, Frictionless Guest App
For lodging professionals of all types, the ability to advance educational opportunities in sales, finance, marketing, operations and technology is vital to long-term success. Unfortunately, pandemic challenges have made it difficult for industry people to gather and share best practices over the last few years.
At last, the time is coming for us to get together at the 2022 ALP Conference & Marketplace, which will be taking place in-person in my hometown of Baltimore – from Saturday, February 5th through Wednesday, February 9th! That’s right, folks, we’re only about one month away. So, if you’re thinking about attending (and you should be), NOW is the time to take action!
Born out of the 2020 merger between PAII and AIHP, the Association of Lodging Professionals’ (ALP) provides essential education, advocacy, networking, and professional development opportunities for lodging property owners and operators.
As the first official in-person event for ALP, the 2022 ALP Conference & Marketplace will offer a wide-range of educational opportunities for experienced, new and aspiring lodging professionals at the main conference, as well as at the marketplace – where vendors and service providers will be showcasing their offerings.
Over the course of five days, more than 60 presentations will be made by lodging leaders and experts about an enormously diverse number of topics that are relevant to our industry. I will be among the speakers, presenting “Mobile Guest Experience Apps – No More Outdated, Coffee Stained Guest Books” at 10:15 a.m. on Monday, February 7th, where I will discuss how property owners can take advantage of guest-facing mobile apps that enhance the overall guest experience (a passionate subject for me!)
Of course, it’s not all about business, and there will also be plenty of fun to be had with networking opportunities and social gatherings. A highlight is the dinner event on Tuesday evening, February 8th, which entails three hours of entertainment, open bar, and a Taste of Baltimore at the nearby American Visionary Art Museum. I’ve had the good fortune of being a member of the committee of volunteer Baltimoreans that’s organized this special event and they have done a phenomenal job to ensure that everyone will have a great time!
Whether you are an experienced, new or aspiring lodging professional, don’t miss out on the opportunity to gather with the best and brightest in the industry, and push your operational, marketing and sales efforts to the next level in 2022!
To learn more about the 2022 ALP Conference & Marketplace, please listen to this fact-filled, highly informative podcast interview we recently did with Kris Ullmer (CEO) and Erik Spence (Conference Planner and Trade Show Coordinator) of ALP or visit the ALP website.
Whether you are a seasoned lodging professional trying to emerge from the ruins of the COVID pandemic or recently starting out as a new innkeeper, success can seem nearly unachievable. And while the journey may be long and daunting, the good news is that you’re not the first to go down that road.
You can learn, if not be inspired from those who have faced some incredible challenges and emerged with successful lodging businesses. Take the case of Wendy Kelly, who we recently interviewed for our Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series.
Through uncharacteristic circumstances, Wendy and her husband became the owners of the Agate Beach Motel in 1990 with absolutely no experience in hospitality. They soon found themselves faced with one of the biggest challenges of their lives.
At the time, the property was far from being operational, with broken windows in the units, and yellow tape across some of the rooms because of previous drug activity. Through a vision of what she wanted the motel to be and pure perseverance, Wendy was able to turn Agate Beach Motel into an award-winning property. She has since purchased and renovated the Wall Street Suites, a top-rated boutique property in Bend, Oregon.
There are several lessons that we took away from our discussion with Wendy and the story she told us. Here are some that we hope will help and inspire you on your journey toward lodging success:
A vision is essential: Before you take any journey, you have to know where you want to go. You don’t have to have all of the details but you have to have a vision of what you want your property to be in the future. Without it, you won’t know how to get there or be able to persevere when you face the many challenges along the way.
Where do you start?: I remember seeing a business documentary where Wally Amos, the founder of Famous Amos cookies, was being interviewed about his entrepreneurial success. The interviewer wanted to get his advice for people starting out with a new business idea, so he was asked “Where do you start?” and I thought his reply was brilliantly simple: “You start from where you are. You start from right here, right now.” In other words, the current situation is what it is, so get with it and work with what you have. It’s the only way to determine how to overcome the obstacles in the way of executing your vision.
Process makes perfect: You can’t do it all yourself and the only way you can have others do things the way you want them to be done is to create processes and make them an integral part of your business. In talking with Wendy, it became apparent that she is very process-oriented and that mindset has contributed greatly to her ability to build a successful organization.
Make incremental changes: You want to create a property fitting of your own unique vision but you don’t need to reinvent the lodging industry. As you “start from where you are”, make incremental changes and keep improving over time. Start with industry norms and tweak them according to your vision of how you want to manage your property.
Pay attention to the details: You have to prioritize and work on what’s most important first, rather than getting weighed down by the details of insignificant things. As the “7 Habits” author, Stephen R. Covey, once suggested, don’t get mired “in the thick of thin things.” On the other hand, you can’t forget the old adage that “the devil is in the details.” If you implement processes that fit your vision, paying attention to the details allows you to incrementally improve them and get you closer to your vision.
Hire people based upon “soft skills”: Many of the people working for Wendy’s properties were like her – they started without any experience in the hospitality industry. While experience is sometimes necessary based upon the position, a service-oriented and wanting-to-learn mindset is essential. When hiring at my organization, we call these “soft skills” and have found them to be one of the most important factors in hiring successful people.
Keep the faith and persevere: Nothing of any real value in life comes easily. But if you stay faithful to your vision, you’ll be willing to persevere when the challenges sometimes seem insurmountable.
Wherever you are in your journey to make your vision a reality, learning the stories of people like Wendy Kelly can help inspire you during the toughest of times. Have a vision, start from where you are NOW, build detailed processes, hire caring people, and keep the faith.
It is often the most challenging times that spark a creative movement. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to heavily impact the lodging industry, it presents the opportunity for innkeepers and boutique hotel owners to develop new ways to differentiate their properties.
In late 2020, we published a series of COVID re-opening stories that provided tips and insights from innkeepers on how they have pivoted their businesses during the pandemic in order to survive and oftentimes thrive.
“Now is the time to shine,” says Christa. “It’s amazing that we have this golden opportunity to be more creative and different, and redefine hospitality.”
Here are some ideas provided by Christa, as well as some other innkeepers we’ve interviewed, intended to help you get creative and try to differentiate your property:
Find the one thing that makes your property special, and fully leverage that to current and prospective guests.
Host live music events.
Hold socially distanced spin classes outside.
Project creative visuals on your property to draw attention to it.
Find your passion and focus your property’s offering around it. For example, Dan Tatarka loves to brew beer, so he and his wife Terri have made beer the central attraction to the guests they host at WildManDan’s Beercentric B&B.
Hire video jockeys to hold socially distanced electronic music/art events.
If historic sites are close by, host a knowledgeable tour guide for breakfast with your guests and have them talk about it.
Partner with local crafts people and have them hold exclusive classes for your guests.
Thanks to Christa Freeland, an entrepreneur, former tech venture studio executive, and the manager of the Founder House Austin, for contributing to this Frictionless Innkeeper TIP. Be sure to also listen to our first podcast with Christa where she discusses how the Founder House Austin shifted from solely being a Bed and Breakfast to being part of a co-working and co-living space for entrepreneurs.