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.