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.
Our local Chamber held its annual “tourism” meeting yesterday. It was the biggest crowd I have ever seen in my 7 years in this town! WHY? Because everyone is in the same boat and they all realize we need one another to make this season a success. There was so much optimism and excitement in the room. Everyone thinks this will be a great year for our town if we all work together!
Thanks for your comments. It sounds like your local Chamber and its members get it. We have the power to make this a great year. If we all carry a message and a feeling of optimism, it’s really quite contagious!
At last! Someone who agrees with me!! Thank you.
I had the best year EVER in 2008. When gas was most expensive, I was the busiest. I had more reservations on the books in mid-January 2009 for the Summer than ever before. My ONLY cancellation in 2008 after the manufactured crisis became “news” was not for loss of a job but for a change of job. People WILL travel. There will still be weddings, funerals, graduations, football games…. There will still be the “I have to get out of town!” Will it be closer to home? I do not know and do not care – they will still be filling MY beds!
What a breath of fresh air! We’re seeing a change in our reservations in the form of longer stays. Guests are staying for at least a week and isn’t that a great thing!!
I remain optimistic as well. We have only been in business for a little over a year now but our reservations are up considerably over last year. People may not be able to afford a two-week trip to Europe but they can afford a 3-night stay, or longer, at a B&B.
I enjoy reading your articles so keep them coming. Some good news from us-when we compared January/February stats for the last two years, occupancy is up just 1% but revenue was up 61%! We didn’t not offer an off season rate this winter; in fact, we increased our rates slightly plus sold a lot of extras to our guests. The results: we realized more dollars from fewer guests, turned fewer rooms thus lowering our expenses! We’re happy! See you at PAII!
Great article! just the kick in the pants we need to remind us that optimism is a key ingredient in a successful business.
Hooray for a reasonable voice! Optimism is indeed what we need. I’m growing weary of talking heads who exacerbate the bad news by treating it as if doom and despair are waiting in the wings. Retreating into a cave because it’s a little dark outside is counterproductive; the only thing you succeed in doing is making it a little darker. From what I’m seeing from some of our innkeeping friends, a little clever marketing is keeping them even with last year and, in some cases, actually improving the balance book.
Thanks for the optimism! I expect a great year in 2009!
Peter, Good for you! 40 years in schools taught me that those who expect good things get them and those who fear disaster reap that also. Gerry Shields
Thanks for your uplifting post.
I too am an optimist and when things get rough, I usually get into my “creative solution” mode. And that’s exactly what I did, after having zero bookings in January, 2009. It shook me a little, but not for long! It soon shot me into action.
I used the time to update my website, send postcards to my repeat customers, create two blogs (one business oriented forum for Innkeepers & one documenting life in and around my bed and breakfast. These endeavors actually filled me with positive energy.
AT NO TIME did I discount my rates; in fact, they were due to be increased, so I went ahead and did it. Gradually business has started to flow again. And my new encounters with blogging and social media have started to pay off. I’ve made lots of friends on line and have even gotten some business out of it.
Excellent thoughts all around! I firmly believe that we just have to be wiser and proactive. It is easier to adjust the course of a small business than some of the huge ones. Thank you Peter for this bright forward looking positive post. Would that we all move forward in 2009 with a positive attitude. Our guests need that from us.