Alright, so the news about leisure travel for 2008 isn’t great. In fact, it’s a bit alarming. But all is not lost!
According to the 2008 National Travel Monitor, as reported in Ypartnership’s recent article "Would If I Could," there are several reasons why 16% of leisure travelers plan to take fewer trips this year. There are those that you’d expect, like "Current economic conditions make it difficult for me to travel" or the "Price of gasoline is too high." While people’s Time Poverty continues to be an issue, economic issues seem to prevail this year more than in 2007. So, what’s an innkeeper to do?
Let’s look at it this way: the travel "pie" is made from a pot of blueberries. If you look around you, there are a certain number of inns who are sitting at the travel table, and each wants a piece of pie. Naturally, each wants the biggest piece! But, not only are there a finite number of pieces to go around, but the pie itself is slimmer this year. So, how do make sure you get your share? Or better yet, how can you get the biggest piece of a smaller pie?
Some would argue that it’s not fair for one inn to do really well while others around them are struggling. I’ve even heard that there are innkeepers who feel that referrals should be shared in an equitable way! Needless to say, this doesn’t wash with those bed & breakfasts that get the lion’s share of referrals. After all, these are the innkeepers who are delivering an exceptional experience day after day, week after week, season after season. They are also the ones who have figured out how to reach their guests who are increasingly weary, worried, and wondering how to spend their hard earned dollars. When things are tight, people do like to splurge once in a while, and travel close to home, to a B&B for instance, is a great way to go.
So, dust off your thinking cap and put on your spectacles! Look at your inn’s "experience offering." What separates you from other bed & breakfasts in your area or region? How is your marketing? Does that website need some tweaking? New pictures? SEO? Are you engaging your future guests? Do you understand your guests and how to market to them? If your revenues are declining, or you’re worried that they might because of the prospect of fewer travelers, now is the time to increase your marketing budget. You absolutely cannot cut back or you will ensure a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you been doing some creative things to attract leisure travelers in a declining market? Is your piece of the pie bigger than everyone else’s? Tell us about your successes (but you don’t have to share the recipe)!