To stand out from all the rest, ANY product needs its unique selling feature that will lure the shopper to its website, and ultimately make the purchase. Bed & Breakfast Inns are no different. Your search engine optimization efforts will get your site high on the results page of the search, and then the attractiveness, navigation, and functionality of the site will keep the surfer from hitting the back button.
But what makes your inn stand out above the rest? Professional photography is certainly a strong asset, as is the ease of providing the info the surfer is looking for…in an attractive and eye-appealing manner. But what will grab them..and then keep them searching for more info? Whatever it is that makes you special…that which makes you different from all the other inns…should be up front and central.
But that's not how we found this particular B & B. I can't even say we stumbled on it. Actually we flew (kinda) into it! Marilyn and I, along with cousins Sue and Floyd, had some time after the PAII convention in Austin. We hooked up our harnesses, helmets, and gloves, took a couple of minutes of training, and went Zip-Lining through the tree tops of Cypress Valley Canopy Tours. I've never hung in a harness on a wire over a gorge before, but we had a blast…especially for old people not used to this soft adventure stuff!
And then there it was. Suspended in the tree-tops at the end of the 4th zip, was one of the most unique bed and breakfasts I've ever seen. Not advertised…hidden in the back pages of their website…was Lofthaven. One room, with private (although hardly ensuite!) bath. Marilyn and I were immediately distracted from our zip lining adventures. You can only access the tree house from the zip line from this side. Once you check in, there is a nearby parking space and walkway past the bathroom, with its solar powered hot water heater (everything about this adventure is eco-friendly) for the shower. The room itself was very spacious…with queen bed, canopy which could double as mosquito netting although the room is fully enclosed with screened windows. There is a walkway around the room with a "porch", with a bench, looking out over the peaceful gorge 60 feet below. No need for a sound machine to lull you to sleep here! The babble of the brook below in the gorge, birds everywhere, and, absolutely no sounds of people, or cars, or neighbors…that is the sound machine!
The bathroom was complete with shower supplied by the roof top solar water heater, built in sink, commode and all the fine amenities of any B&B. It is a short walk across a rope bridge from the room…but no need to wear a robe! There's nobody out here!
When we finished zipping, the kind folks at the nature center gave us a golf cart ride out to the B&B. I tried to get a feel for occupancy performance. But I only got anecdotal info from the fellow behind the counter. Mostly filled on the weekends during the good weather season (March-November) and some bookings during the week. I estimate annual occupancy at about 25%. At $300 weekdays and $325 weekends, that puts annual revenue at about $30,000…not bad for an unadvertised little surprise in the woods! And what guest memories that can bring them back time after time and brag about it with their friends. You can't buy PR like that. BUT NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT IT!
Imagine what it could be if people knew they were here! If they were in the B&B directories, had B&B keywords in the right places on their website, marketed to past guests and included guest photos in their newsletters and blogs. If they would make this unique lodging adventure a dominant feature on their website, with pages of photos, TripAdvisor testimonials, Facebook links with friends and Twitter exposure, just think of the potential!
People should NOT have to stumble into this kind of adventure by happenstance. A lesson for all of us innkeepers…we need to take our message to them. Scott