On a flight to visit an inn this past week, I was reading an article in the USA Today (June 1) containing some interesting information about the big guys…the hotels…with information that also applies to the B and B industry. In his article “Hotels try to woo leisure travelers” Roger Yu relates some concepts of the changing travel marketplace and the evolution of the hotels (and WE should listen too!) to meet the change challenge.
First a few facts: According to D.K. Shifflet & Associates, a travel and research consulting firm:
- Leisure travel surpassed business travel for the hotel industry in 2004
- That gap has widened and by 2009, 54% of hotel travel volume is now leisure travel.
- Corporate travel has been slowly declining, and “it’s not going back” according to Shifflet.
- The Gen X (late 20’s to early 40’s) travelers are replacing the Baby Boomers and are traveling with their young families.
The hotels are watching the changing demographics and evolving to meet the new market. To entice the leisure traveler to their properties, focus is strengthening on FAMILY travel. Marriott is:
- Offering a Nickelodeon package to the kids with activity books and Nick bracelets
- Toddler care packages are awaiting the arriving family with squirting bath toys, fitted crib sheets, baby shampoos and nightlights.
- Spongebob backpacks with matching sheets and pillowcases are for sale in the gift shop.
The younger demographic is also demanding VALUE, a concept more wide-spread than just the Gen X-ers. Homewood Suites by Hilton (typically a corporate traveler mecca has seen a 50% increase in its leisure travel this past year) is revising its free meals program, and Kimpton Hotels will give away free sangria drinks and Wii video games in the lobby this summer…something for the parents AND the kids.
So what does that have to do with US in the Bed and Breakfast Industry?
Everything, if you are ready to keep your business growing!
B and B owners often cater to only a certain slice of the traveling market. They rely on the romance getaway, or traveling couple, typically Baby Boomers, to fill rooms. But this AGE-SEGMENT of the traveling market is declining and we must target the NEXT generation as well…and they’re traveling with their kids. Some target the corporate traveler if the inn is fortunate enough to have several large businesses or a college within a mile or two. But this segment is also in decline, and mid-week rooms are going to go empty.
Some ACTION Items for your Next Planning Meeting
- Is your Inn ready for a Tune-Up? Do your rooms and bathrooms appeal to the NEW demographic of the traveling public? Do you have Ipod docking stations, and have you replaced gramma’s old furniture with clean lines and Pottery Barn-type styling? People want to visit museums, not stay in one.
- Is your website ready for updating? Anything 2 years or older is a dinosaur that won’t be found by the new search engine algorithms. Do you have video of area attractions, or still relying on static photography of a bed? The next generation is ultra techno-savvy and will find you in ways OTHER than your organic website, IF you embrace social media (May 7 posting) marketing and email marketing.
- Are you still illegally restricting kids to age 12 or older? Talk to those inns who willingly accept children and find out what they do to make the family experience memorable.
- If all the inns in your area still restrict children, think of the ADVANTAGE you will have when they send all their family-travel referrals to you!
- Targeting and marketing for mid-week bookings in addition to your current corporate travelers will prepare to replace those declining mid-week business guests with others…such as quilting groups, elder travel with grandkids, or scrapbookers. I’ll bet there’s an inn in your area already capitalizing on this new trend.
The B&B Team is ready to help you with your Evolution Planning when you are finally disgusted with negative growth of your inn’s performance. The traveling market is evolving, and we BEG each of the inns in this industry to evolve with it. And it’s fun! And more satisfying than watching Spongebob!