All four of The B&B Team (Peter and Peggy Scherman, Rick and Janet Wolf) had the pleasure of participating in the recent Select Registry Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia as vendors and speakers. Select Registry is an association of 400 of the top inns in North America known for their high quality, attention to detail, lofty standards, and the unique experiences they provide their guests.
At the annual conference there were a number of renown national speakers. Peter Yesawich, Chairman and CEO of Y Partnership, an integrated marketing communications company known for its strategic thinking, creativity, and innovation in marketing practice along with it co-authorship of the widely acclaimed National Travel Monitor, spoke about many of the trends in travel which we track and discuss frequently in this blog. In true Yesawich fashion he expounded about the impact of technology on travel, from planning to booking, and reminded us that in 1996 only 11% of Americans had access to the Internet at home. Today, 70% do, and this has had a profound effect on behavior.
Travelers in large numbers visit blogs and other social media sites like TripAdvisor to get reviews when planning a trip, and 66% are looking for new, unique, and personalized experiences. A renewed interest in family has increased "values" travel, while 70% of leisure travelers took vacations to celebrate a special occasion. While the struggling economy is having an impact by increasing anxiety levels, 71% of active travelers are still planning a trip in the next six months. A full 48% say their travel plans won't change. Among significant trends, Yesawich stated that 41% of travelers would select a "green" property, but a majority won't pay more for the experience. It is becoming an expectation that property owners be environmentally conscious.
Philip Wolf of PhocusWright was another of the great speakers at the conference. He astutely commented that for inns, the "size of your reputation matters more than the size of your marketing ability." Innkeepers have to focus on quality above all else and create an experience that is viewed (and reviewed) favorably in the marketplace. He spoke of "the perfect storm" of conditions where the innkeeping industry is experiencing the integration of Web 2.0, what he has called "long-tail economics," and the industry itself. Innkeepers need to integrate user generated content (UGC) into their websites and marketing, and must monitor reviews posted about their properties. Wolf also talked about customization and how Google can be used to gather information about your guests that will allow innkeepers to provide a unique, personalized experience for the guest.
Jim Miller, a hospitality marketing and leadership development consultant and founder of Jim Miller & Associates, gave an inspirational talk about change. We all know that our times are challenging, and the innkeeping industry is moving along at warp speed. He said that "change is transformation tragically delayed." When we don't change when it is demanded of us, we miss opportunities, and today the innkeeping industry needs to make a quantum leap of change to ensure survival in our new environment. Miller stressed five key steps: 1. Listen and learn; 2. Set up your intentions; 3. Come up with a plan; 4. Make the move and make it quickly; and 5. Communicate constantly. This is great advice for our times. "Only the paranoid survive," Jim said, and it's advice worth taking to heart the next time you worry about the future. Your instincts may be telling you it's time to change!
Rick and I were also pleased to address an audience at the Conference. In a presentation entitled "Attracting the i.guest In a Slow Economy, How to Identify the i.guest, Today's Contemporary Traveler… and Strategies to Attract Them" we brought a lot of the concepts discussed by Peter Yesawich and Philip Wolf at a 50,000 foot level down to sea level, where innkeepers can actually learn how to implement strategies to improve their business. We described how the i.guest, the intelligent, informed, independent, imaginative, Internet-savvy contemporary traveler who is involved with social media, communicates and makes decisions about travel. The importance of an inn's brand image and creating an emotional connection with your guests is essential to innkeeping success. Innkeepers need to learn how to develop the "anonymous trust" placed on reviews into a personal/business advantage by embracing the phenomenon and integrating it into your daily business and thinking. We discussed current market conditions for leisure travel, which is still holding up fairly well, and laid out strategies for attracting more guests in our current economic climate by focusing on a 250-500 mile radius, making your inn's website great, employing search engine marketing (SEM) and adwords, focusing on clean, functional, thoughtful and comfortable rooms, great breakfasts, and creating positively memorable experiences for your guests.
The B&B Team was thrilled to be part of this great gathering, and we thank Keith Kehlbeck and Select Registry for the opportunity.