In case you haven't been paying attention the past few months if you are a member of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), there is a lot of very good information coming your way on a weekly basis through PAII's email newsletter. Being a bit of a trend junkie, I really liked one recent article, "Ten Trends in Technology That Will Shape How We Plan and Execute Beyond 2008"by Dave Berkus.
Without addressing every point in this post, there are a few that are worth highlighting. Trend #1, "The growing scope of the Internet," could have been written today or ten years ago. It seems there's no end to the evolution of the Net. Berkus quotes Charles Giancarlo of the San Francisco Chronicle who said in 2006, "In three years, twenty typical California households will generate as much traffic as the entire Internet did in 1995." While this is astounding, it's not surprising. I used to run my business from a "desktop" application (i.e. it resided on my computer). Today, my entire contact management system with nearly 6,000 contacts, including all attached emails, copies of letters sent, etc., is through a browser-based system, which is to say, all that information resides on a server somewhere else, and I access it from any computer with a browser. I think I'm generating a bit more traffic today than I did in 1995 when email and some web surfing were about it. Witness the same for inn operations and online property management systems and booking engines. Many of us live on the Internet today, just to do our work, though we forget that it amounts to "traffic" each time we click the mouse.
Trend #2, "The Paradise of Choice" is a bit like an embarrassment of riches. Consumers today simply don't have to "put up" with too much that they don't like. If it's not working for them, they can go somewhere else. Berkus points out, as we have many times in presentations about the i.guest, that "over 69% of consumers research online before a purchase. 62% look online for peer reviews [e.g. TripAdvisor or bedandbreakfast.com]. And 39% compare prices across suppliers before purchase." Do you think your B&B is the first and last a potential guest looks at before booking? If your website doesn't grab them, if it doesn't load quickly, if it isn't easy to navigate, and if they can't book it now, they just might move on to another inn's site.
Trend #3, "The audience is the network" addresses the democratization of distribution and search. We talk all the time about how anyone can voice their opinion on the web and be heard across the globe, sometimes to our dismay. But this is really a great thing. If travel agents have had to become "the specialists of complex knowledge" to survive, innkeepers have that same opportunity with a blog, for instance, and an intimate knowledge of your community and what is happening in it. What better place for a potential guest to get the latest scoop on restaurants and events than from you, the local innkeeper? If you provide that information to a larger audience than your bed & breakfast guests, you become a key thread in the network. And, in the process, you are increasing the visibility of your inn by creating greater search visibility through "mastery of keyword placement, prodigious use of blogs and other previously non-traditional exposure resources…." So, step out on a limb and get creative. Do you have a blog? Is it working for your business?
I'll address some of Dave Berkus's other trends in my next post. Stay tuned!