Rick Steves is a US travel writer and TV personality.
As the summer season winds down in Europe, exhausted B&B owners are no doubt promising themselves a well-deserved break – hopefully one spent tallying up increased profits thanks to the excellent weather that the UK, in particular, has enjoyed.
Of course even a good summer brings with it all the usual stresses, problems and experiences with the occasional rather, uh… “special” guest. So if you’re anywhere close to being able to put your feet up, why not take a look at the website of travel guru and all-round good guy Rick Steves. As before, we’ve cherry picked some of the greatest comments from his “graffiti wall” section, where travellers rave about just how great European B&B owners (that means you!) really are. It’s inspiring stuff and just the thing to pep you up if you feel like the recent high-season months have left you wilting somewhat…
Last time we discussed general tips and advice on how to handle an overbooking, gleaned from conversations with many successful B&B owners. This time, we’re focusing on the specific moment when you have to take a deep breath and pick up the phone to the customer…
Okay, you’ve got an overbooking. It isn’t nice, but sometimes these things happen to the best of us. So how do you handle it?
An overbooking doesn’t have to be the end of the world!
Dealing with an overbooking strikes fear into most people’s minds. However, that need not always be the case. There are several ways to minimise your anxiety and help ensure a positive outcome for all involved.
It’s worth remembering that the odd overbooking can’t always be avoided and can be an indicator that your marketing is working well! On the other hand, a constant run of overbookings can be an expensive, time consuming – and stressful – experience. Here’s some advice, gleaned from many conversations with successful B&B owners, on how to address the problem if it does actually arise.
“Here is an update from Torbay about how a group of small hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses is taking matters into its own hands and promoting accommodation on the web via an “all-in-one” comparison and online booking website. Torbay is a lovely bay in South Devon and the geographical area includes Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, also known as the English Riviera.
We always talk to our guests about what they want from a B&B and also about how they have found us. Quite a few use the big booking channels, like Booking.com and LateRooms, because they find the process of wading through 20 or more individual websites too daunting to contemplate. They like to see lots of photos to compare properties before choosing which one they want to stay in. Once they have narrowed down to the destination area or town, they want to be able to book on the same website. This is the strength of comparison and booking sites: the customer can compare and choose everything that is important to them (including price) on one, easy to use website.
Well, there have been rumblings about it for some time, but now it’s official. TripAdvisor – originally just a review site – is turning into a booking website, where travellers can check live rates and availability from all the usual suspects (Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia), as well as from B&Bs themselves. The first adverts proclaiming this change will be appearing on TV soon.
It may sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you have an online booking system that can link to TripAdvisor, it may even represent a big boost to your bed and breakfast business.
In a welcome change from all the woes that review sites like TripAdvisor sometimes cause for B&B owners, travel guru Rick Steves has created a great section on his website called “Heroic B&B Friendliness.”
Rick is an American author/television personality and a well-known “Europhile”. He is the host of the Public Television series Rick Steves’ Europe, has a public radio travel show, Travel with Rick Steves, and has authored various location-specific travel guides focusing on European travel. “Heroic B&B Friendliness” is basically a “praise-only” bed and breakfast review page, where Americans who have stayed in B&Bs and guest houses from Ireland, to the UK, to France, to Italy celebrate those great experiences.
The comments are truly inspiring to read. Here are a few of the 2013 ones…
How hospitality businesses can get the best out of mobile.
There’s a short but eminently clear and to-the-point article on – of all places – the State of Indiana local government homepage about mobile websites. In the “Tourism Tech Corner” of the site, Jeremy Williams not only does a superb job of explaining why a mobile website is becoming vital for any hospitality-related business, but also drives home the fact that it’s becoming morevital with every passing month, since use of smart phones for Internet browsing is growing at a tremendous rate.
There’s has been some interesting bed and breakfast-related stuff in the New York Times over the past couple of weeks. Nancy Galloway and Andre Laporte – a retired couple who run the Wedgwood Manor Country Inn (Crawford Bay, British Columbia) – took part in the newspaper’s regular “You’re The Boss” feature, which allows owners of small business to solicit advice from its huge readership.
Generating revenue of roughly $100,000 in 2012, the Wedgwood Manor Country Inn is undoubtedly successful, with its website attracting between 800 and 1,000 visits per month. It’s also listed on Canadian B&B sites like bbcanada.com and cabinrentalbc.com, at a cost of c$4,000 per annum (about 85% of their marketing budget.) None the less, Nancy felt that they could still do more and was keen to have fresh insight into her property’s web presence: “It is like having a great editor… You need someone who is looking at your work with a fresh perspective. I am too close to our site and the comments were quite helpful and we are taking many to heart.”
“I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. All these directory sites with “Gold”, “Platinum”, “Silver”, “Bronze” categories – as well as a free listing – are missing a trick. As I’m sure most people have realised, a “free” listing is worth about as much as you pay for it. So, they list you for free, then point out how few bookings you’ve got, because you have a free, low-priority listing, and press you to upgrade. Inevitably, you don’t, because you have only negative experience of their site and, as Clausewitz said: “Never reinforce failure.” I’ve got “Scoot” trying to do this with me right now.
Yvonne begins by describing the difficulties she found herself in just 3 years ago and how she overcame them: “My room occupancy rates were completely in line with ‘Europe wide industry statistics’ at 21.58% (the Europe average is 21.5% according to Bed & Breakfast.com) and I started to build up an overdraft. Then I started borrowing elsewhere to keep the ship afloat and bit by bit I edged into more and more debt.” However, by changing her strategy, she managed to stop the decline: “I started to increase massively my room occupancy rates, in fact so much so that in a year they soared from 21.58% to 37.68% a MASSIVE 74% increase.” Last year her occupancy rate hit 49.01%, which, she points out, is “almost unheard of in the B & B industry.”
A torrent of stats from theBandBer.com today, all about the impact of social media and mobile on the accommodation sector. The dominant theme is that big hotel chains are investing more and more heavily in these areas. We all know that the invaluable thing about B&Bs and guest houses is the way they offer travellers a personal, human-scale experience which the chains can’t match – while frequently providing the same modern amenities at a much more reasonable price. But where the likes of Four Seasons go, other properties, of whatever size/type, tend to follow, sooner or later (think online booking and publishing reviews on websites.)