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.
With environmental sustainability being a major trend in virtually every industry, there is often a disconnect between marketing and reality. In other words, many companies claim to be “green,” but don’t actually follow-up on this promise.
Fortunately, there are innkeepers who are doing some very innovative things to minimize their impact on our planet – and are “walking the walk,” while also seeing financial rewards from their efforts.
The West Hill House B&B in Warren, Vermont is an example of this kind of property. As an electrical engineer by training, Peter MacLaren, owner and operator of the inn, has worked to make the property 100 percent solar powered.
In addition to this, here are some other “green things” West Hill House has done that are great ideas for any innkeeper to consider implementing at their property:
Install charging points for electric vehicles
Provide re-usable bottles to guests for water
Offer composting and recycling to guests, in addition to doing so for the property’s operation
Use low-power LED lighting
Offer reusable shopping bags for guests
Create green cleaning products for use at the property which are chemical free and safe
In addition to being a good thing for the environment, these efforts have resulted in goodwill from guests who appreciate the commitment to going green, while also yielding some significant financial benefits. For example, the B&B gets energy credits from local electric provider Green Mountain Power when it generates power from its solar energy operation. As a result, Peter and his wife pay virtually nothing for their energy consumption.
To learn more about the West Hill House B&B’s green efforts, please check out this Mad River Valley TV segment:
At the AIHP 2019 Knowledge Sharing Summit & Marketplace, Steve Short, Founder & CEO of the Frictionless Guest App, participated in anInside Innkeepingpodcast interview hosted by Megan Smith.
Megan is a renowned innkeeping consultant, who also co-owned and operated The Vermont Inn for 13 years, and served as Vermont’s State Tourism Director. She also recently participated in a Frictionless Innkeeper podcast interview, which you can listen to here.
Listen to the full Inside Innkeeping podcast interview, which highlights how the Frictionless Guest App helps to enhance the guest experience, here:
You can also listen to the podcast at SoundCloud here.
Here are the key highlights from this interview:
A high-level overview of the Frictionless Guest App for innkeepers. (:53)
How innkeepers can inform guests about the app in their pre-stay email confirmations. (1:33)
How the Frictionless Guest App team helps innkeepers to populate their apps with local places to eat, play and shop. (2:07)
The history and evolution of the Frictionless Guest App. (3:50)
The size and types of properties that currently use the Frictionless Guest App. (4:32)
More about the mapping capabilities in the app. (5:24)
By offering guests an easy way to find recommendations of the best places to eat, play and shop – using any mobile device or desktop – the Frictionless Guest App allows guests to plan their trip starting at the time of booking and easily navigate to recommended places throughout their stay, so that hoteliers and innkeepers play a significant role in improving the experience of their guests.To learn more about the Frictionless Guest App, please contact us here.
The Frictionless Innkeeper TIP series is intended to provide practical suggestions to innkeepers. Oftentimes these ideas are provided by our guests on the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series.
If Bono was right in claiming that “music can change the world because it can change people,” then it seems reasonable that hosting live music at your property can enhance the experience of your guests.
With the rise of house concerts, where musical artists perform in an intimate setting, innkeepers are now presented with an opportunity to differentiate themselves by bringing live music to their properties. And while the idea of hosting musical events may seem difficult to coordinate or impossible due to limited space, it’s probably easier to make happen than you might imagine.
Wendy Collins, co-owner of The Mission Inn in Cape May, NJ, hosts a monthly concert series from October through April to offer her guests specialized experiences and gain more marketing visibility during the slower winter months. She invites singer-songwriters from the local area, as well as Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, to perform in the property’s common space, and offers desert and great food during intermissions.
Both the community and guests are invited to attend the performances, and she uses social media to promote the musical events. This has also created a “ripple effect” where the performers and attendees all share their experiences on their social media sites.
And it’s really paid off. Wendy has had guests return over and over again during the offseason to see the performances.
As both music lovers and supporters of independent innkeepers, we thought this was an excellent win-win idea that was worth sharing!
The Frictionless Innkeeper TIP series is intended to provide practical strategic or tactical suggestions to innkeepers. Oftentimes these ideas are provided by our guests on the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series.
Serving breakfast has been such an integral part of what innkeepers provide their guests since the earliest inception of the independent lodging genre that it’s literally infused into the name “Bed & Breakfast.” And while no one would logically suggest that innkeepers stop serving breakfast, it is worth reassessing the offering from the perspective of today’s guests.
Here are some questions that seems reasonable if you put yourself in the shoes of the guest: Why serve guests a one-size-fits-all breakfast, knowing that some of them prefer a much smaller version? And if a guest asks for a continental breakfast-sized meal, why should they pay the same amount as another guest who gorges themselves at the breakfast table? Finally, what if I don’t want breakfast at all?
Jim Belote, the owner of The Beall Mansion in the St. Louis region, considered these questions and has adjusted the B&B’s offerings accordingly. “We discovered that many Americans don’t eat full breakfasts,” said Jim. “As such, we developed a variety of packages for breakfast including a discounted continental option that allows guests to help themselves during a three-hour period. It’s all about the guest and providing the right experiences for them.”
It also comes down to the basic principles of choice and being fair. If a guest doesn’t want a big breakfast, then it seems reasonable to offer them other items that are less filling. And if they choose less or none, why not be fair and cut them a break with a discount to their overall stay?
This approach isn’t something that all innkeepers will consider taking but we thought it was an excellent idea worth sharing.
In our Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we share the stories behind how property owners became innkeepers, oftentimes discussing their challenges and the strategies they use for achieving long-term success.
Along the way, we sometimes uncover ideas for enhancing the guest experience that we believe are worthy of passing on to other innkeepers, so they can consider using them at their properties. For example, Christine Boeke, the owner of the Westcott House Bed & Breakfast in Hudson, NY, invites people who work at local attractions to have breakfast with her guests, so they can have an intimate conversation about the area.
“I often invite local business owners, such as gallery owners, store owners, antique dealers, and even the President of the Olana Partnership, to come have breakfast with my guests,” said Christine. “This allows our guests to learn more about the history and art in the area, and it gives them a positive feeling about Hudson, so they will hopefully visit us again.”
This seems like a great way of giving guests an opportunity to learn what’s going on in town and get some firsthand stories about some of the local attractions that make the area unique. Imagine that you are a guest whose passion is art and you get to learn about the local art scene from someone who is intimately familiar with the artists and their work. Can you envision a better way for your guest to get buzzed about your town and want to come back to take in more?
We believe this is a great idea that’s worthy of consideration by all innkeepers. Think about the places that make your area interesting and unique, and consider inviting someone from those attractions to have breakfast with your guests. Then watch as your guests soak in the conversation and get buzzed about returning to your town so they can experience more of the great things it has to offer them.
A brand promise is simple yet it influences everything from how B&B guests experience their stay to how they describe it to their friends and colleagues to how they comment about it on social media review sites.
Although many innkeepers don’t think of themselves as having brands that are on par with the Marriotts of the world, guests do identify your property in a certain way. It’s not a slogan or a mission statement … it’s an impression, a personality, and an emotion that connects with the guest
The key is being able to identify and maximize this brand promise. The components of a brand promise are simple to construct, but it does require thinking about the following:
It must be easy and memorable: Your brand promise should be very simple, and describe the experience you deliver in a memorable way.
You must be able to measure it: Whether it’s through increased bookings or positive Yelp reviews that align with the brand promise, you should be able to measure the impact of the brand promise.
It should include a future state: Guests are always buying a future emotion of how they will feel — anticipating a delightful stay — when they come to your property.
Here are examples of brand promises for a B&B:
· To provide a delightful and memorable experience for each guest.
· Delighting guests with the most memorable experiences.
· Memorable travel experiences that last a lifetime.
As you read the examples above, they are simple, easy to remember, and place the guest in a future state. With this in mind, it’s critical for every employee to fully understand the brand promise, and work hard everyday to bring it to life for guests.
By reinforcing the guest experience, a B&B’s brand promise can have a strong impact on business results. Knowing what your brand stands for, and delivering on that promise can help enhance overall guest loyalty and increase bookings.
Guest trust has always been one of the most important intangibles for Innkeepers. It’s not always easy to determine what factors into a guest’s trust equation, since it’s a totally individual assessment — one that is in the so-called “eyes of the beholder.”
A somewhat unique quality of trust may be that it is easier to determine when you have gained it than when it has been lost. Using the example of a car purchase … when a potential buyer walks out of a dealership because they lack trust, how likely are they to explain that is the reason they have decided to go elsewhere?
To continue with this example … a car buyer may lose trust if the dealership’s showroom isn’t clean and welcoming, or if a buyer doesn’t feel they can trust the salesperson giving them information about the cars they may be interested in purchasing.
Now, let’s shift this analogy to the Innkeeper. Guests tend to book their stays based on sound recommendations from friends and family, a previous enjoyable stay, or an intuitive sense of trust when researching and booking their rooms. So, when a guest books their stay, the Innkeeper already has a certain level of trust that has been established. What is essential from that point forward is how the Innkeeper will enhance and nurture the initial trust given to them by the guest.
It’s at this point that the car buyer analogy has meaning, though the goal for Innkeepers is not to sell, but to build guest trust — and ultimately, loyalty — by providing the best possible experience for all aspects of their stay, with the result being future bookings, recommendations to friends and family, and/or positive reviews.
With this goal comes the elusive question of what is important for an Innkeeper to gain guest trust and loyalty. And while our assumption is that every guest has their own unique way of assessing this during their stay experience, let’s attempt to identify some parameters by first breaking them down into two distinct parts — the On-Property and the Off-Property Experience.
For the On-Property Experience, some tangible parameters that play into the feeling of comfort and ultimately trust are the cleanliness of your rooms, quality of your property’s furnishings, and the details you provide such as soaps, towels, and linens. The more intangible parameters revolve around the personable interaction and service you provide throughout your guest’s stay. Both are essential to building guest trust, fully within the control of the Innkeeper, and core to their mission.
For the Off-Property Experience, the Innkeeper has less control. However, this needs to be a core focus, because guests inherently rely upon an Innkeeper’s indispensable knowledge to recommend the best local experiences, thereby making their stay so memorable that they return or recommend them among their social circle. Because no matter how delightful a guest’s On-Property Experience is, their Off-Property Experience is likely to resonate heavily with their overall stay.
Prior to the existence of the Internet, independent Innkeepers had an advantage over larger providers because they were the only source of local information guests could get, through word-of-mouth. This has changed, with the advent of sites like Yelp and Google, and larger hospitality providers offering guests mobile applications that recommend local experiences.
The reality is that Innkeepers still have the best knowledge of Off-Property Experiences for their guests, but how can they communicate them? Listing recommendations on their website isn’t sufficient, because guests need a mobile app that helps them easily choose and navigate to these places. Yet most Innkeepers don’t have the resources to build their own mobile app to compete with the larger players in today’s digital landscape.
Our solution is the Frictionless Guest App, to provide Innkeepers with a way that their guests can easily find the best local experiences and thereby gain their trust. Our hope is that Innkeepers share our vision that they are the best source for this information and want to improve the Off-Property Experience of their guests.
One of the goals of running an Inn or an independent hotel is to make guests fall in love with the region, recommend your property to others within their social circle, and keep coming back to the area.
ForOscar’s Bed & Breakfast in Buffalo, NY, this is a major part of its business plan, which is to promote the city’s reputation for being “an underrated gem for travelers.” As such, the property celebrates the city of Buffalo by naming each room after famous architects from the area – aiming to give guests a real sense of the local culture and lifestyle.
Their goal is to create raving fans of the property and the area, which is also the approach for another local Inn – theInn Buffalo off Elmwood.
“My mission is to make ambassadors out of our guests,” said Joseph Lettieri, who owns and operates Inn Buffalo off Elmwood, in this recentBuffalo News article. “If you stay with us, my goal is that when you leave you tell your friends, family and colleagues, ‘What a time we had — this might be the best kept secret.’”
As most Innkeepers know, running a B&B comes with a world of both joys and challenges. It’s very easy to get tied up in the day-to-day management, which can take up any innkeeper’s time 24/7. However, taking the time to empower guests to become ambassadors for your region can pay major dividends in the long-run.
By providing unique experiences for travelers, it’s possible for them to leave your Inn with a strong sense of community, and a desire to promote your property (and region) to their friends and family.
This will ultimately translate into further bookings, and it will help your region prosper … where everyone wins in the end.
Many large hotel brands have been embracing the concept of training their staff to have a more personalized touch with guests through increased knowledge of their locale, as noted in this New York Times article. An integral part of this trend is the recognition that a hospitality provider and its workers can become an important part of the “local tourism landscape.”
While this strategy seems worthwhile – creating a more personalized experience by connecting guests with local offerings – it may prove to be a bit more challenging for larger hotel brands than independent innkeepers. For aside from the need to train and shift the cultural mindset, which is no easy task for a larger organization, a bigger problem is likely to arise with having staff learn and maintain their knowledge of the truly best local offerings.
For most independent hotels, Inns and Bed and Breakfasts, the challenge is much less one of knowledge – they are typically very aware of the local restaurants, events and other attractions that will delight their guests because they live in the community – than the ability to provide guests with the means to easily connect them to these local places. They often offer disparate online destinations where they make recommendations, such as their website and social media outlets like Facebook. Or they provide brochures, maps, and other printed materials once the guest has arrived for their stay.
Unfortunately, this approach will increasingly remove independent innkeepers from being a go-to source of knowledge when their guests want to find trusted local experiences during their stay. That’s because guests are shifting more and more toward the use of web and mobile sources of information for everything – especially when planning their travel or in the midst of it – yet smaller providers lack the resources to create a single mobile/web solution they can provide to their guests that makes it easy for them to find local experiences in their moment of need, regardless of time or place.
In the meantime, while larger brands may not have the inside knowledge of the local landscape, they have the resources to build mobile/web solutions that can connect guests to experiences. So, the inability of independent innkeepers to give their guests a useful mobile/web solution that communicates their recommendations heavily threatens one of the valuable services they have traditionally provided and used to build guest trust, community cohesion, and to differentiate their offering.
The Frictionless Guest App is a solution to this challenge. It’s a way for independent innkeepers to provide their guests with a mobile/web app that only shows the local places recommended by the innkeeper. It enables them to differentiate their offering by making their guests’ stay more memorable and also play a larger role in the local tourism landscape. The result is to build long-term loyalty with guests as well as with local businesses in the community.