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Nearly three years ago, I first noticed AirBnB.com and questioned many professional innkeepers about the site. Did they feel threatened by it? Did they feel we should expose them for the obvious issues of supporting and promoting businesses that did not pay taxes and that had no concern for safety? I sent an email to the owners, questioning them on some of this, and of course never received a reply. Plus, I was ticked off that they co-opted our industry’s brand in their name – “BnB”.
Since then, the site has skyrocketed to internet fame, rounding up major funding and moving on the fast path to IPO (I suppose the brass ring for most internet start-ups). All the while, I’m wondering when…just when will something terrible happen at one of these apartments that are advertised on the site? When will someone question the sustainability of a web site that supports illegal businesses? When will someone cry foul on the tax evasion? Many cities have rules against property owners renting out rooms by the night or week without being either a licensed hotel or B&B of some kind. Looking back, I suppose I should have cried foul a lot louder and a lot earlier.
I have been talking about AirBnB at meetings of innkeepers all across the country for two years. My reference to them had to do with how ridiculously easy it now is for anyone to rent out a room in their pad to travelers, and we should pay attention to them as a new competitor. Many innkeepers would dismiss it and tell me that this really isn’t our competition; travelers looking to stay in someone’s apartment are not interested in staying in a bonafide, professionally-run B&B. I will concede that the typical AirBnB customer is not likely a perfect demographic match of the typical B&B customer. But, I have also told innkeepers that they need to do a better job to capture the Gen X and Y generations, or they will bypass us for something like AirBnB. If you go to their web site, you’ll see some pretty darn attractive places. Very seductive, although I wonder if they only showcase the nicest of the nicest properties on their homepage. Are many of the rest average apartments or worse?
Tags: AirBnB, Illegal, Vacation Rentals
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It’s a simple picture of a simple item found in my closet at the Lookout Point Lakeside Inn in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where I stayed last week. This is a plastic laundry bag, and its presence in my closet made me smile. Why?
I smiled because I rarely see such a thing at B&Bs and inns, and I see a lot of B&Bs and inns. A generic, plastic laundry bag hanging in a closet can be seen at just about any hotel, but it is a rarity at B&Bs.
I suppose I am a typical traveler, in that I bring more clothes than I end up actually wearing on a trip. This creates a little problem, because I now have dirty laundry and clean laundry, all of which needs to go back into my luggage. Sometimes I remember to bring a plastic shopping bag that I saved from a trip to my local grocery store, in which I can put my dirty clothes. But if I forget my own bag, the bag provided by the hotel or inn is a great thing to see.
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Anyone paying attention to the travel industry these days knows about the rise and success of the vacation rental as a popular lodging option. Sites like VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey and others have skyrockted in popularity. Many cities around the world are concerned with the increased use of houses, apartments, and condos as vacation rentals, possibly altering the culture of buildings and neighborhoods. Everyone in our industry knows that HomeAway bought BedandBreakfast.com last year, so it brought the vacation rental question into the forefront for our industry. But how are innkeepers supposed to see the vacation rental market? Friend or foe? Of course, it’s not so black and white.
Activities undertaken by the vacation rental industry and its major players may end up benefiting the B&B industry. For two years now, HomeAway has run commercials during the Super Bowl promoting the hotel alternative. Since B&Bs compete with hotels (and we do, for those who say we don’t compete with hotels), I like this advertising. It gets people thinking about alternatives to what can be the “cookie-cutter” experience. HomeAway received a big infusion of capital from Google Ventures not long ago, and they recently filed to become a publicly-traded company. The escalating scale and scope of this company will hopefully mean more propaganda to get travelers moving in the direction away from hotels.
Popular vacation rental web sites also provide another distribution channel for innkeepers to market their rooms, cottages, or cabins. Not all rental opportunities on these web sites are condos and entire houses – some property owners rent rooms as well. Many innkeepers have months during which occupancy drops to single digits. Vacation rental web sites may be a great place to experiment with renting the entire B&B out to groups for days or weeks at a time. I know several innkeepers who are having great success renting rooms on sites like HomeAway. Think about it this way – there could be some kind of corporate sales training or other group-type function happening near you, and people booking blocks of rooms may not be thinking “B&B” when doing their homework. But I’ll bet many are looking at vacation rental web sites.
Tags: Vacation Rentals
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On Facebook, is what I mean. I encountered an example of how an inn is simply not “with it” when it comes to social media. They’re missing the boat, and I wanted to share with PAII members about the missed opportunity at the Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Recently I attended the Bed and Breakfast Association of Virginia meeting in Charlottesville. I arrived by train and took a cab to the Boar’s Head Inn – a classic inn up the road a couple of miles from the UVA campus. I worked and lived almost across the street from the inn about 15 years ago, so I was excited to be back in the area. As I waited for the cab driver to run my credit card at the entrance of the Boar’s Head, I thought that I would “check in” to the inn on Facebook. The relatively new Facebook Places feature allows Facebookers to “check in” at various places, i.e. restaurants, parks, stadiums, hotels, attractions, etc. One uses his or her cell phone’s Facebook application to let their friends know where they are at that moment. It’s just a way of sharing news with your friends. Click here to learn more: http://www.facebook.com/places/
When I attempted to find the Boar’s Head Inn on Facebook on my cell phone, I couldn’t find them! I was hoping to tell the 700+ friends of mine that I was checking in, and maybe some of my local buddies might see that I was in town. But, because it appears no one at the Boar’s Head is on top of the social media side of marketing, they missed a golden opportunity for me to tell hundreds of people that I was staying there. To confirm my suspicion that someone is asleep at the social media wheel, I went to their web site and could not find a Facebook logo anywhere. No invitation to become a fan or “check us out” on Facebook.
When I searched Facebook for “Boar’s Head Inn” this is what appeared:
Tags: Facebook, Marketing
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