Inn Consultants and Brokers Since 1993

Rick Wolf and Peter Scherman (that’s Rick on the left and Peter on the right) are both experienced speakers who have presented on a range of innkeeping related topics at the state, regional, and national level. They gather and analyze research for the Innkeeping industry and welcome the opportunity to share it with others. Contact Us

The B&B Team
 

Posts Tagged ‘travel trends’

V is also for VALUE-with a Bed & Breakfast

September 3rd, 2012 by Scott Bushnell

Mark Orwoll, International Editor of Travel + Leisure was interviewed this morning by CBS Morning Show who spoke to the hidden fees that surprise hotel travelers…and often cause that debate with the hotel front clerk that is uncomfortable for the guest and annoying for the clerk.

The Negotiator…”offer a lower price, you mamby-pamby!”

According to Mr. Orwoll, and due to the economy slump starting about 4 years ago, hotels started adding these fees to supplement the deep discounting they have had to do to keep their shares of the traveling market.  Such marketing efforts as Expedia, Priceline, and Hotels.com were reducing room revenues so the hotels resorted to other “hidden” fees to maintain overall revenues such as:

  • Internet fees (as much as $10-$20 per day)
  • Resort fees (what the heck is that?  Why should I pay for the spa and golf course if I am not going to use it?)
  • Mandatory valet fees (Can’t I park my own car and save the $20 per day?)

And we already know that the restaurants and gift shops in a hotel are not a bargain.

Bed & Breakfasts offer the full VALUE of free parking, free we-fi, free gourmet breakfast, newspapers, snacks and drinks, often wine and cheese gatherings, concierge services beyond the expectation in addition to striking up that personal relationship that is so important to the guest.

The lesson here for B&B’s?  Be sure these extras (all a part of the full guest experience) are on your website, on your marketing materials, and your reservation confirmations.  B&B’s have been offering such VALUE for decades and will continue to do so.  So let’s all be sure to take advantage of letting the traveling public know that the full guest experience is also at the best VALUE.  Scott

R is for Rates – To raise or not to raise, that is the question

March 5th, 2012 by Janet Wolf

The Gower Memorial - Hamlet Statue in Stratford upon Avon

Prince Hamlet

When it comes to rates, to increase or not has always been a brooding question for innkeepers and a subject of much discussion, especially in tough economic times. In a recent PAII Forum thread the subject of raising rates was introduced and many innkeepers took the time to give their opinions and express their own dilemmas when making this tough decision.

“Travelers don’t buy rate; they buy value.” Neil Salerno – Hotel Marketing Coach

Think about this statement…value over price. Let’s look at what value is and put aside the number crunching for now. There are three key components to consider when looking at your property and determining value. In analyzing your Inn and determining its value, you should include your bed and breakfast location (which cannot be changed), your facility inside and out (which can be changed and will lose value if not maintained) and your competition (which can also change and must never be ignored). All of these components should be honestly scrutinized when making the decision whether to raise your rates or not.

Location – A popular tourist destination will command higher rates. This is a given. A great location needs great marketing to keep its competitive edge. Participating in your Chamber of Commerce, local, state and national (PAII) innkeeper associations and tourist bureau can keep you informed as well as give you the opportunity to help in the marketing of your property’s location. Working within a vacuum is not good for your business. Other location factors to include are close proximity to attractions, restaurants and activities. Water views, mountain tops and other attractive surroundings should also be considered. Your market value will be on the high side if you are in a popular destination in an attractive setting with great marketing.

Facility – Your entire Inn must always be a work in progress. Upkeep, improvements, re-doing guest rooms and baths, keeping up with all sorts of trends, from marketing to décor, the list goes on. If your rates have not been raised in three years and you have done nothing to your Inn in three years then you can’t justify raising your rates, because you have not added any value to your facility. But, if you have consistently made significant ‘value added’ improvements to your property and have communicated them to your potential guests loud and clear, then you are in a much better position to raise rates. Travelers will look at a ‘new and fresh’ guest room and put a higher value to that room in comparison to another room that appears dated and tired. Don’t forget to present these improvements on your website, Facebook and all your social media! Your amenities will also help to determine your individual room’s rates. The more bells and whistles the better.

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Curb Appeal - A Cottage Suite at The Inn at Stockbridge, clean and pristine!

Competition – Positioning yourself properly within your marketplace is key. Knowledge of your competition will help you position yourself and determine whether your rate structure is competitive. Look at the rates of properties in your marketplace area that you determine are comparable to yours. If their rates are generally lower than yours, look deeper. What do they offer, i.e. smaller rooms and baths that appear dated, a property location that is not as attractive as yours, an inferior breakfast offering. Also look at the properties that have higher rates, again look deeper, are they offering more luxury amenities, and are they AAA Four Diamond or Select Registry? All of these offerings are perceived as having a higher value. If a potential guest determines there is value in what you offer then they will book even at a slightly higher price than your competitor.

There is also the consideration that the rates you and your competitors are currently offering are at the highest your market will bear. So if you don’t believe you can raise your rates at this time, what can you do to raise revenues? Creating and promoting special packages is a good way to accomplish this. “Packaging allows you to mask actual room rates with features which add benefits (value!) to staying at your Inn.” (Another quote from Mr. Salerno). The B&B Team is a firm believer in packaging as a great tool to increase your bottom line.

What next? Homework. Look at the three components and make lists of your strengths, your weaknesses and your opportunities in these three areas. This should give you an idea of the areas you need to work on and then make a ‘To do priority list’. Increasing the value of your Inn will eventually enable you to prudently raise your rates. When your occupancy starts to climb, when your revenue starts to climb from packaging and specials and better marketing of your Inn, these are clues that you are creating a demand and good value to your guests. When you are confident about the quality and value of the product you offer, then raising rates becomes any easy decision. No need to brood and ponder like Prince Hamlet. Determine your worth and take action.

Janet Wolf

 

B is for Fabulous Beds

October 14th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

Jasper Resting in His Nuzzle Bed

Ahhh!

The focal point of a guest room is the bed.  I have always proposed that the bed should be the utmost enticement for a weary traveller’s eyes, for it most likely is the first thing they see when entering the room. A major part of the experience you provide for your guest is the sleep experience. What I call the Ahhh factor.  A sagging mattress, tired pillows, wrinkled linens and out of date fabric patterns are not contributing to A Better Way to Stay.

In a recent issue of Hotel Business there was an article about The Benjamin Hotel, a boutique hotel in New York City that recently completed a comprehensive renovation. The general manager said, “When it comes to the guestrooms, everything we do revolves around sleep and a good night’s sleep is all about comfort.”  We all want that and the best innkeepers out there go above and beyond to achieve that high level of comfort. Besides the 500 thread count Egyptian cotton linens and sateen down duvets, this property also offers a ‘Sleep Program’ that includes recommendations for pillows, a sleep-inducing massage and a night time snack. That sounds like an opportunity for a great package to me!

Like so many fashion trends, dressing a bed changes with the times. The mutible decorative pillow look with huge down comforters and lacy canopies was a wonderful look, the important word here is ‘was’. In its place a bed with crisp, clean lines, white or cream linens accented with a splash of color is a look that we see more and more of today.

Take a look at these two examples of beds I believe any guest would love to fall into.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So why should an innkeeper change their look and feel of their beds on a regular basis as well as the overall look and feel of their décor? Guests expectations are constantly changing, whether it is Gen Y or the over 60 crowd. We all like new and fresh. All of us at The B&B Team believes it is very important that innkeepers strive to meet today’s consumer’s needs. A new and fresh design can increase your guests’ intent to stay thus increase your bottom line. That’s reason enough.

By the way, those fabulous beds belong to the Inn at English Meadows and Captain Jefferds Inn. I’m not sure who the cat belongs too, just thought it was a great shot.

Janet Wolf

What’s All this Stuff about Living Social and Groupon?

April 28th, 2011 by Scott Bushnell

A little more info to add to Jan’s post of April 6th.

It used to be the mantra in the B&B industry to NEVER discount your rooms.  You cheapen your image and could set lower price expectations for the traveling public for their next trip to your inn.  Well William Shatner in his TV ads and a multitude of Price Lowering websites and alternatives have already changed those expectations…so get over it.

Here are a few Mid-Atlantic stories that counter the old school discounting taboo:

A Full Service Inn in New Jersey, through Living Social Escapes, sold 225 vouchers offering two options to purchasers…a one night stay (voucher price $230) or two night stay ($380)including dinner, breakfast, champagne, chocolates, 2 martinis at the bar and 2 tickets to a regional attraction.

Another upscale B&B in Maryland sold 86 coupons through Groupon for one night, flowers and chocolates for a voucher price of $155, and a larger inn in Maryland, using Living Social Escapes,  is offering two nights, wine and chocolates for $157 (weekends) and $117 (weekdays) and sold 632 at last count.  They make their money on upselling spa services and gift baskets with each voucher at a 20% discount from usual pricing.

A fourth, very upscale inn in Baltimore sold 550 Groupons at $99 for a room with a value up to $250!

The two largest companies, Living Social and Groupon, offer coupons to their memberships at deep discounts…often 50% or more.  They do mass marketing through their email membership databases usually targeted in a particular region or city.  Retailers and service providers have seen phenomenal traffic from the vouchers sold to these members.

Living Social has an “Escapes” section on their site specifically attractive to their travel membership.  Often, this is the section in which an inn can participate.

Here’s the general process:  A retail or service provider signs a deal with the service for a particular product or service having an identified value.  A discount to the purchaser is provided (50% off is usually the minimum…but negotiable with the company), and the coupon “drop” is targeted for a specific market.  The company sells the voucher, subtracts a commission (often 30%+ depending on the voucher price), and sends a net proceeds check each month to compensate the business.

Sound scary to try it?  Here are a few VERY IMPORTANT considerations when planning such a coupon drop:

  • Understand your variable costs.  Your fixed costs are those bills that you have to pay anyway…whether there is a guest in the house or not…such as the electric, real estate taxes, insurances and cable TV bills.  Variable costs are the extra costs when you have a guest, including:
    –  Food costs (take your annual food costs and divide by the number of room-nights sold…should be about $8 or $9).
    –  Laundry (use about $4 per room)
    –  Room amenities (shampoos, soaps, munchies, etc….perhaps $3?)
    –  Housekeeping labor and the withholding associated with wages (probably in the $10-$12 range)
    –  We won’t count the little bit of extra utilities a guest will use.
    –  Add a buck or two for the office supplies (confirmation letters, postage), wear and tear on the linens, etc.

This Variable Cost adds up to about $25-$30 for the first room-night…about $15 more for a second night’s stay.

  • Take the rack rates for the rooms you wish to dedicate to this effort…say it’s $160.  Divide that by two to figure in the 50% discount to the purchaser.  That leaves $80 price for the voucher in our example.
  • You can expect to pay at least 30% commission to the company.  They will also, most likely, charge you the credit card fee they have to pay (let’s say 2.5%).  That leaves $54 which is sent to you for each voucher sold.

    Then compare the proceeds you will receive with the Variable Costs you will incur…Worth it?

That is why inns are upselling other packages and services with their offer.  It increases the value of the voucher and ultimately the check received at a rate greater than the costs associated with the package.  But you must understand your costs.

On the good side of such an effort:

  • You can dedicate a time frame within which the voucher must be used.  Aim those dates to the holes in your schedules including the slow season and mid-week.  Stay away from the weekends and busy season when you will sell your rooms at your usual rates anyway.  You can put those restrictions on the voucher.
  • You can limit how many you sell so that you don’t have the risk of overselling for the time frame and angering guests.
  • Experience is showing a large number of younger couples taking advantage of the deals.  This is the NEXT generation of inn visitor…a valuable asset to the industry.
  • You will build your database with email addresses for future marketing efforts.
  • You can “hook ’em” with your hospitality so that they become repeat guests.
  • It seems about 20% of the vouchers will never be redeemed.  This is free income to you, but don’t budget it.

A few watch-outs from those who have used these programs:

  • The demographics of the visitors may not be your what you are used to.  They can be “cheapskates” (as one innkeeper put it), asking for other discounts and taking advantage of the free goodies you have around the inn.
  • “Sit by the phone” when the coupon drops…you will be swamped all at once.  One inn had a list of 60 callback names and numbers to get back to because the calls came in like a tsunami.
  • You will get calls from people trying to buy the deal after the vouchers sell out.  They saw it online and feel they have the right to book it directly with you.
  • The voucher holders tend to book early (as soon as they buy it) or late (just before they expire).  Be prepared with rooms for the procrastinators.

For those start-up inns or inns with very slow months of the year…I think it’s a valuable tool for cash flow.  Any other inns out there doing it?  Would love to hear your comments.    Scott

Travel Packaging-Wrap Up What You Do Best

October 26th, 2010 by Janet Wolf

Here in Kennebunkport we have a local family owned restaurant Alisson’s that runs a great business and has been doing it for about 30 years. When we have our Aspiring Innkeeper Seminars here in the Port we always treat our attendees to dinner on Friday to kick off our seminar. Alisson’s serves the locals and tourists alike with casual dining fare, great service and another important part, fun! They wrap up all three of these important components and do a fabulous job packaging what they do best.

As an example their October calendar offers live music on Wednesday nights and very reasonably priced comfort food specials. Their Tuesday nights have become very popular, packaging ‘Pub Team Trivia’ and $9.95 Prime Rib. Every mid-week night has a reason to go there. They continue to create new value added packages to keep things new and fresh and customers coming through the door.

There are many B&B’s out there that also do a fabulous job of packaging. One example of a B&B that does an unusually good job is the Munro House Bed & Breakfast and Spa in Jonesville, Michigan. Innkeepers Lori and Mike Venturini have created a wide variety of packages that wrap up what they do best. Just like Alisson’s, they have created a package for ‘any day of the week’.

In addition there are many of you out there that want to do more packaging but may feel paralyzed at the thought of where to start. Many of you also may feel  you would like to increase the number of packages you offer or do a better job of it. Help is on the way! The B&B Team and Joe Veneto, ‘The Opportunity Guy’, will be presenting two PAII pre-conference sessions; The Secrets of Packaging Success, Simplified.

The first will be a half day session on Nov. 15 from 1 pm to 5 pm at the PAII New England Conference and Trade Show in Nashua, New Hampshire. The second will be at the PAII 2011 Innkeeping and Trade Show, a full day session from 9 am to 5 pm on January 10 in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. For those innkeepers out there who would like some help packaging ‘what you do best’ we hope you will be able to join us for either one of these sessions. You will come away loaded with information, ready to ‘wrap’ those packages, make more money and have fun along the way.

Janet Wolf

Green Luxury

April 26th, 2010 by Janet Wolf

I recently read a great article written for Eco Salon, an on-line lifestyle blog featuring eco-friendly advice, entitled Trend on the Wane: Hotel Toiletries. The author, Kim Darby states that: "Luxury in the past has implied waste, but increasingly, luxury is being defined as what is most comfortable and thoughtful, not disposable.  I find it refreshing that luxury can now rest graciously in the same sentence with words like recycle, conserve and green consciousness."

As an Innkeeper I always hated throwing away so many little plastic bottles and barely used bars of soap. For a time we were able to donate them to a local women's shelter but were then told we couldn't do that any longer because of a new ordinance stating this practice was unsanitary.  The B & B Team is always looking for current information that we can share with our aspiring and current Innkeeper clients.  That is why I was so excited when I found Clean the World at PAII'srecent Innkeeping Conference in Austin. This program offers Innkeepers a great solution in managing their amenities waste.  Clean the World offers a Bed and Breakfast Partnership Program where Innkeepers simply collect used amenities and ship them to the Clean the World Recycling Center in Orlando, Florida. They then process the donations into products and donate them to countries that use them to help fight diseases caused by lack of cleanliness. All your staff time and goods donated are tax deductible and the organization will provide Innkeepers with quarterly statements detailing the amount of soap and shampoo donated during that period.

Another solution to amenity waste management is the use of refillable wall-mounted dispensers.  This practice has been used in European hotels for many years and is now being used more and more in the states. Many of the PAII vendors that supply amenities offer a limited choice of their luxury products in bulk containers. Innstyle offers Natura brand shampoo, conditioner and body wash in bulk containers as well as attractive dispensers.  Pineapple Hospitality offers a variety of 'green' amenities and dispensers.  Gilchrist and Soames and Greenwich Bay Trading Co.offer some of their luxury products in bulk containers as well. Some of the products are now offered in more bio degradable plastic containers as well as paper bottles.  As an example, Gilchrist and Soames offers their Beekind brand in the paper bottles.

I love the fact that Innkeepers now have more choices of 'green' luxury amenities to offer their guests as well as a great solution to managing amenity waste with the Clean the World program. We would love to hear from Innkeepers that have signed up for the Bed and Breakfast Partnership Program as well as what luxury green amenities you are currently using.  Go Lux Green!

Janet Wolf

Lake Lure… Carolina On My Mind

October 9th, 2009 by Janet Wolf

Ken Burns most recent documentary series, National Parks-America’s Best Idea, is a brilliant assemblage of stories full of mystery, suspense and adventure, definitely not a tired travel log.  In the last episode of the twelve part series that covers the years from 1945-1980, the focus is on the American tourist that is keen on getting out and exploring their country. There was a renewed sense of wanderlust in those post WWII years and vacationing in our national parks was the perfect place for young families to enjoy themselves easily and affordably.  Beyond 1980 and into the present, we see a renewed wanderlust, where today’s contemporary traveler is searching for meaningful getaways and experiences that promote togetherness among travelers and for destinations that encourage connections to nature, history, or culture. 

 
What better way to connect with nature than with a visit to one our treasured parks and rediscover what many US travelers have ignored over the past years as they trekked off to Europe or vacationed in high priced island resorts.  Yet beyond our National Parks, and often right next door, there are countless areas of quiet, peaceful scenic beauty that await our visits, places that renew our spirit and make that connection to nature and history so genuine.  There is one place that has been a retreat for the soul for countless generations of travelers from the Cherokee to today’s contemporary destination seeker, Lake Lure, North Carolina.

Janet Wolf

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