Inn Consultants and Brokers Since 1993

Rick Wolf and Peter Scherman (that’s Rick on the left and Peter on the right) are both experienced speakers who have presented on a range of innkeeping related topics at the state, regional, and national level. They gather and analyze research for the Innkeeping industry and welcome the opportunity to share it with others. Contact Us

The B&B Team

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How About Some Optimism?

March 5th, 2009 by Peter Scherman

It's been a long, cold winter, not just because the weather has been that way, but also because the United States and the World have been rocked by a horrible recession. Every time you turn on the TV, open a newspaper, listen to the radio, or read your news on the Internet (take your choice of venue), the doom and gloom are almost overwhelming. But guess what? I think everything is going to be just fine!!!

I have the reputation of being an optimist. Last fall when things were starting to get really shaky but "they" still hadn't declared us in recession, I was telling Rick that I wished they'd just tell us we were in a recession so we could get it over with. Well, we finally got it, and it's a doozy. The loss of confidence is startling, but it's not all unfounded. There were lots of mistakes made the past few years, and the pendulum is swinging far in the opposite direction. But success in all things depends upon optimism. And, as they say, this too shall pass.

The world is full of people who bemoan the failure that they feel has been thrust upon them; and there are those who have had stellar success by the sheer strength of their optimism and belief that they would succeed. Some good planning is important, and luck and timing can play a role, but without optimism no amount of planning will be enough. Optimists can sell ideas; pessimists just depress people. Enter the bed & breakfast industry to provide some of that psychic "care and feeding" that people who feel battered and bruised by the economy need. Innkeepers are the stars in the economic landscape, but the lodging and travel industry have been hit hard and are being hit even harder by a tone in Washington that suggests that travel is somehow a bad thing, at least for corporations.

There's a great article by Chris McGinnis entitled How I Saved 100 Jobs. It's a recount of the people he encountered traveling to a conference on business, people who needed people like him to have a job. There are a LOT of people who's livelihood depends upon travel, and, despite all the negativism, there are signs of hope and reasons to be somewhat more optimistic.

Peter Yesawich's YPartnership released their Insights February 2009 with results of their latest travelhorizons(tm) survey. This survey looks at travelers' near term intentions. Amazingly, the U.S. Traveler Sentiment Index(tm) shows an increase of 15.3% over the October, 2008 figures. While this is 3% below the sentiment index a year ago, it is a positive, optimistic trend. It says that travelers (those folks who stay at your inn) are feeling a bit better about leaving home. People want to and are going to travel.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting firm, did a recent study in Britain that would probably have similar results if conducted in the US. In the study they observed that 25% of travelers are trading down in their plans by staying someplace less expensive, taking a cheaper flight, waiting for a last minute deal, and cutting the length of their trip. But overall, the intention to cut back was less than last year. That's an optimistic sign.

Furthermore, PWC suggests that travel companies should hold back on discounting. We talked about this in our article, Innkeeping Success Without Discounting. "It is vital that companies hold their nerve, do not panic into cutting prices too soon and remain flexible in what they offer consumers." As travelers look to save, every innkeeper may benefit from the guests that are coming to them instead of staying at the more expensive place. So, instead of cutting your rates, think in terms of a new demographic coming to your inn. Of course, no one is "trading down" to the highest end properties, so they have to be more creative in attracting recession-weary guests, but some folks aren't going to give up the luxury they feel they need and deserve; they just might travel less often and for fewer days. So, this is another reason to be optimistic. Everyone who does a good job should be able to get a piece of the pie. Those who aren't doing all the right things aren't going to get as much business, no matter how much they cut their prices. A judicious blend of many strategies is the best course.

We are optimistic that 2009 is going to be a good year. It's really essential to feel the joy of coming to work every day, whether it's helping our clients be successful with our guidance or seeing the creative things innkeepers come up with that work. Optimism works. Look around you. It's everywhere if you open your eyes to it. And we need all that we can get.


On Transformative Events and the Human Community

September 11th, 2009 by Peter Scherman


Today is September 11, 2009. We all remember this date eight years ago, but today as I was listening to many of the memorials and speeches and talking with friends and family about it, I was reminded about how our lives can be forever changed by transformative events like the attacks of 9/11/01. And many of the changes are positive.

Big, and I mean really big, events and periods, especially those that we view as terrible at the time of their occurrence, have a way of causing us to reexamine what is important in our lives. Whether it be an illness or death of a friend or family member, a stock market crash and harsh recession, or watching the attack of our homeland on live television, we always end up taking stock. Taking stock of what we think is important: our jobs or careers, whatever. And then, surprisingly, many of us decide that we need to do something else. Behave differently. Be kinder. Do something more meaningful. Worry less about some things and more about others. And it is this taking stock that has brought many people into Innkeeping.

Why? I think it's because Innkeeping is about people. Service. Kindness. Restoration. Many of you who believe that you want your life to be about more than just "making a living" and, instead, want to make a difference in other people's lives while still making a living, have chosen (or are considering) Innkeeping as a profession. At The B&B Team we're glad you think this way, because we have the good fortune of working with people who, in our humble opinion, are somehow a little bit better than many, more elevated, sharing a higher purpose.

After the attacks of 9/11, innkeepers across the country found their business upended. An initial flood of cancellations in many cases lead to new bookings by folks needing to get out, get away, find some peace and security. And where did they turn for that sense of safety and togetherness? To small inns. These weary and frightened travelers looked to innkeepers for solace, even as those innkeepers themselves needed some solace of their own. But in the serving, the sharing, the caring for, the feeding and smiling for the benefit of others, innkeepers found themselves uplifted as well.

Community is an overused word in this era of social media, but the community of humanity remains an enduring precept, one which transformative and often tragic events make us appreciate all the more.


The Joy of Porches and Guests

June 9th, 2010 by Peter Scherman

Every morning, spring, summer, fall, and winter, I sit on my front porch in my wicker rocker to drink my coffee. And every morning I take at least two photographs with the same settings of the same views. It’s kind of like an innkeeper recording the guests that pass through your doors. Now, you ask, what do photos of a front porch view have to do with guests? I see it like this.

If you were to casually look at any random sampling of the pictures I take every morning, you might not see anything particularly interesting. It’s the same view, day after day. If you looked at enough, you’d see that there are different seasons. And once in a while there’s a foggy morning that makes for a dreamy picture, and fall shows off some dramatic colors. But taken in their entirety, especially in chronological order, you can watch the seasons change before your eyes, and the small differences (and sometimes more impressive ones) of the mornings start to form a picture of what it’s like to have coffee on my front porch, what it looks like in my small corner of Virginia.

Your guests are a lot like those morning images. Individually, the majority of them are sort of like every other guest that you routinely host and make every effort to provide a good experience. After a while, it’s hard to distinguish one from the other, but they are the essential part of the fabric of your Innkeeping experience. There are those especially colorful guests who, like a beautiful autumn morning, are memorable, and you welcome them back with joy in your heart because they are, well, so beautiful and wonderful! They are your friends! And, of course, once in a while you get that horrid guest that sticks in your memory that you hope never to see again. They are like my pictures of snow piled high in my yard this winter! Rare, but they are also a part of the fabric of your experience.

So, when the time comes that I put together a montage of photos from my front porch that shows the passing of the years, the changing of the seasons, with the stunning images in amongst the many ordinary and the few I’d rather forget, it will be like you, an Innkeeper, reflecting on your time spent caring for the travelers who pass through your threshold. And in that moment you’ll realize that even the most ordinary and unmemorable of guests made up the largest part of your experience, punctuated by the divas and aggravated by the PITA’s. And you will be gratified to remember that you treated them all well, because without them, you would never have been an Innkeeper.