It’s spring, the time of rebirth and renewal. We’re coming out of a deep recession, and every Innkeeper would like to make more money in 2010 than in 2009. How do you do that? Do the right thing. Be smart and courageous. And be clever in our brave new world. Read on to see what I mean.
There was a great piece recently in Hospitality News about a company that handles vacation rentals on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Eastern Shore Vacation Rentals has embraced “voluntourism” in a big way. In the off season, renters can get one free day for every three paid days for each day a guest volunteers with the local Habitat for Humanity. Not only does the company benefit by being socially conscious, but Habitat gets additional willing volunteers, and the vacationers get something to do that makes them feel good, and they save money in the process. Does anyone lose here?
Andon-Reid Inn Bed and Breakfast in Waynesville, NC is trying to raise money for breast cancer research by donating $1.00 for every new fan over 200 that they get by a certain date. They get the fans; the Susan G. Komen Foundation gets some money, Andon-Reid Inn looks great, and new fans can feel like they did a good thing, and it didn’t cost them anything! Do the right thing.
Timothy Coleman, a member of the HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory Board, wrote a great article called “How about a ‘race to the top’ for 2010-2011?” In an obvious reference to the Obama administrations plan for education, Mr. Coleman echoed the words of Bob Gilbert, President and CEO of HSMAI, that with all the discounting that has gone on the past year or two in the hotel industry in a frustrated (and largely unsuccessful) effort to fill rooms and make more money, it’s going to take a long time to get those rates back to where they should have been and should be unless property owners are willing to make the tough calls. That effort should start now by finding ways to increase rates ahead of immediate demand.
Travelers want an experience, right? Innkeepers are great at delivering that experience. And Innkeepers have been MUCH better than hoteliers at resisting the urge simply to cut rates but instead have added value and incentives. But your rates should still see upward creep. If you have a policy of raising your rates in small amounts every year, most people won’t notice it. And if you deliver on that promised experience, they won’t mind even when they do notice. Holding rates steady means losing income over time. So be smart and realize that your ADR is in your hands. Be courageous and willing to buck the trend. Lead the pack by raising your rates in 2010.
And then there was the article “Social media best practices for hotel marketers” on Hotelmarketing.com. Annemarie Dooling writes about the five basic tips to remember.
1. Make your “friends, fans, and followers” feel special by giving them incentives that don’t go out to the general public. It’s a compelling reason to become part of an inn’s social network. And you can employ “flash marketing” (short-lived specials just for recipients of the messages) with your “inner circle,” which makes them feel special, generating loyalty.
2. Create an open and transparent dialogue. When you respond to a negative review properly, you are doing this. Taking it a step further and contacting the complainer personally and offering to do something to make up for a deficiency (if it was there) and not wanting to remove the negative review. Honesty pays.
3. Give your friends and fans tools to spread the word. Find ways to engage your social media circle and post some of what they post on your blog/Facebook page, etc. Wouldn’t it blow away your guests if they happened to be tweeting about something they were doing while staying at your inn, and you knew about it (because you were also following them) and were able to do something special as a result? Try it; it could be fun. And they just might tell everyone what a cool thing you did.
4. Feature fans in your communications. If you’re adept with a flip video, ask to film some short “reviews” or interviews of guests and post them on your blog. If fans write about staying with you on their page, re-tweet or re-publish their remarks. Their bragging is better than you bragging, but you’re helping them help you spread the word.
5. Establish relationships on your guests’ terms. At The B&B Team® we’ve talked about the need to have a social media presence, because some people don’t check email but do look at their Facebook page every day. Likewise with Twitter or others who live by their RSS feeds (from your blog and others). And, by engaging and watching what your guests do, you may find even more ways to reach out and touch them in personal ways that just might blow them away!
Have a wonderful spring, and make 2010 the year to break all records! You just might do it if you do the right thing, are smart and courageous, and are clever at embracing the real world of social media.
What ideas do you have that are making a difference in your business? Let’s hear about them.