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

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

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

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.”

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

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

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!

Photo by Breakslow on Unsplash

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

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

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.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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

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

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.

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

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

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:

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

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

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.

Photo by Cody Doherty on Unsplash

Less Obvious Tax Benefits of Owning a B&B

Less Obvious Tax Benefits of Owning a B&B

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!

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

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

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

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.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Frictionless TIP #5: Great Ideas for Innkeepers to Increase Revenue

Frictionless TIP #5: Great Ideas for Innkeepers to Increase Revenue

Remaining competitive in the innkeeping arena is no small challenge, especially in the face of multiple accommodation offerings, and Airbnb growing in popularity. One of the best ways to remain competitive, and achieve long-term business growth, is to maximize virtually every opportunity to enhance revenue.

Megan Smith, innkeeping expert and consultant, as well as the host of the popular “Inside Innkeeping” podcast series, recently offered the following revenue-generating tips:

  • Weddings:  Many people are looking for special locations – outside of the traditional banquet halls – for weddings these days. Consider hosting weddings at your property and develop revenue-sharing partnerships with local vendors (i.e., tent providers, caterers, etc.).
  • Partnerships:  Develop partnerships with local golf courses, museums, art galleries, wineries, and other attractions – where guests can get discounts. This also entices these businesses to refer guests to stay at your property.
  •  Reach Out to Businesses: Are there larger businesses in your area?  Perhaps hospitals? Reach out to the hospital recruiters to have their potential new employees to stay at your property while visiting for an interview.  From this, the hospital (or other business you reach out to) may ultimately end up hosting functions, like their holiday parties, at your property.
  •  Winery/Brewery Tour Packages: Orchestrate tours of local wineries and breweries in your area, where you find the local transportation to drive guests. This allows travelers to have fun and your new transportation partners will help send referrals to your property.
  • Host Outdoor Concerts: During the summer months, seek out opportunities to host live music at your property, which will provide entertainment for both locals and guests. This will also enhance the overall guest experience and make people want to come back to your property.
  • Host Family Movie Night: Consider hosting a monthly family movie night, where you put up a projector in a nice outdoor space on your property. 

Thanks to Megan Smith of Megan Smith Consulting for contributing to this Frictionless Innkeeper TIP by sharing insights during a Frictionless Innkeeper podcast.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash