Someone once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We know the economy turned south many months ago, but many innkeepers in our industry report that 2008 was their best year ever. I also know many innkeepers are down in actual and advanced bookings. Yet I fear that many innkeepers are doing the same thing they did last year and the year before and crossing their fingers for good results. Are you generally doing the same thing you did in 2007 and 2008?

Every business in the hospitality industry to some extent crosses their fingers and hopes the customers keep coming. But crossing fingers is not all that successful businesses do. They try new things. They experiment. They take risks. The reach out to new audiences, who may or may not be receptive. They depart from old ways of doing business.

As we look forward to the rest of 2009, here are some thoughts for you to consider…all in the name of seeking different results by doing things differently.

1. Love them or hate them, embrace the online review phenomenon. Properties with reviews get double the traffic that properties with no or few reviews get. Don’t ignore negative reviews. Too often I hear innkeepers say, “I will not dignify that review with a response.” On the other hand, I’ve heard many innkeepers say they earned business from guests who were impressed with their response to negative reviews. Dignify them with a dignified response! Many innkeepers choose to ignore or be indifferent towards the online review realities. At the same time, those who embrace it (despite all the unfairness I know exists) are earning business away from their competitors. Plain and simple.
2. Don’t follow suit with the hotels and stop the amenities. While I hear that guests today are more interested in a good price than what amenities you offer, I still believe that the amenities they enjoy on site will keep them loyal to you and our industry. What new amenities could you introduce to supplant ones that guests might not value?
3. Are you engaging at all in niche marketing or other new marketing opportunities? Do you offer babymoon packages to expectant mothers, and have you checked out a babymoon directory? Are you GLBT-friendly, and have you listed on any GLBT directories, or optimized your sight or purchased Google Adwords to attract the GLBT crowd? Do you even purchase Google Adwords at all? Experts in the industry cite very good ROI when you wisely choose your key words. Have you explored the advertising opportunities on Facebook? An innkeeper friend of mine is telling me he gets more referrals from those ads than one of the major B&B directories. Have you tried your hand at being a pet-friendly inn? If you have concerns about moving in that direction, just talk to one of your peers on the PAII forum about how surprisingly good that business has been for them. Pet-owners will go out of their way to find pet-friendly properties, and will pay a premium. You could always try it for 6-months and go back if it doesn’t work for you. Take some calculated risks with marketing!
4. Have you checked out your competition lately? Have you asked a friend to look at your web site compared to others in your market and give you the brutal truth about how those sites might be better than yours? Along that point, when was the last time your web site had a facelift or an overhaul? Quality, well-designed sites are winning business they lost before their sites were updated. Many innkeepers who tell us business is good cite updated web sites as a major reason. I highly suggest you use someone in our industry to work on your site. Don’t use your nephew, friend down the street or anyone else who doesn’t intimately know the B&B business, effective B&B sites, search engine optimization in our industry, etc. Your money will ultimately be wasted, with few exceptions.
5. Seek out those $25,000 ideas, rather than sit back on your heels and hope this year is a good one. Where can an innkeeper get an idea that might make a major difference in her business? By stepping forward, rather than backwards, and getting on innkeeper forums and going to conferences, rather than staying home. The only place to get those $25,000 ideas, meaning ideas that will bring you new business or increase the repeat visits of happy guests, will be at thought-provoking events where you will be among thought-provoking peers. Sound like a shameless plug for the style="font-family:trebuchet ms;">Innkeeping Showstyle="font-family:trebuchet ms;">? You bet it is; but I contend you should go to any innkeeper conference in our industry. I’ve seen attendance down as much as 30% at state and regional innkeeper meetings this winter. Now is not the time to retreat and hope the $25,000 ideas arrive at your doorstep.

What are you doing differently that is producing results? What are you doing differently that you hope will produce results? Here is the place to share! You never know which idea will really make a $25,000 impact on your business.


Author: Jay Karen

Jay is the President & CEO of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.

Share This Post On