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 interviewed Monique Greenwood, owner of the Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, and learned how she managed a business turnaround for her five properties through community support and creative offerings.

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For Monique Greenwood, owner of the Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, and star of the television reality show “Checked Inn” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), being able to pivot quickly and think creatively has often been the key to her success as an innkeeper, which is especially important in today’s COVID-19 environment.

As an owner of five different properties, Monique had to deal with a three-month shutdown of all of her inns when the pandemic first hit in March.  Her portfolio is mainly urban-based locations with one of her properties, the Mansion at Noble Lane, being located in Pennsylvania’s Poconos Lake Region.

There was a dramatic difference in the bookings between the urban properties and the Mansion at Noble Lane.

“When COVID first started, we came to a complete stop in mid-March,” said Monique. “The first property to re-open was the Mansion at Noble Lane on Memorial Day weekend. From that moment until now, we have had 95 percent occupancy. Though our city locations have been much slower to return.”

Most of the guests staying at the urban locations have been locals looking to do “staycations,” with weekend occupancy around 80 percent, and slower during the week. Monique’s Cape May, NJ, location also performed well during the summer months.

For the urban locations, the Akwaaba team developed a wide-range of add-on services for guests, which includes in-suite breakfasts, picnic lunches for two, champagne turn-down services, as well as partnerships with local caterers for chef’s dinners and massage therapists.

As with other innkeepers we have interviewed for this article series, Monique was very proactive with communicating their COVID-19 policies through email marketing and social media. She also developed this landing page with a video of Monique discussing how they are keeping their full property portfolio clean and safe.

In addition, Monique found that the Black Lives Matter movement helped to contribute to an ongoing stream of guests that were motivated to support black-owned businesses.

“We had the Black Lives Matter movement happening at the same time as the pandemic,” said Monique. “Because the African American community, and their allies, were on a mission to patronize black-owned businesses, we had a rush of guests. And, we really appreciated this – it has helped tremendously.”

Finally, Monique was able to embrace a new revenue stream through her Shop at Akwaaba e-commerce site, which offers Akwaaba-branded products and other imported products handmade from African-American artisans – all “curated with love.”

“We decided to launch Show Akwaaba, and tap into the Black Lives Matter movement by selling products from African Americans,” said Monique. “It has been a great way to generate revenue when we could not put heads on beds. And as we go into the holiday season, we expect more people to shop online.”Be sure to listen to our previous two-part Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series with Monique here, and here.