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.)
Google are warning business owners, including hotel and B&B owners, that “fake glowing testimonies” written by reputation management companies on Google+ Local pages will be taken down.
Google+ Local used to just be called Google Places. It’s essentially just normal Google search with a location slant. These local search results appear anytime an online user combines a search item with a geographical modifier, i.e., “B&B York.” The results appear as a listing and as pins on a map. They are sorted by their relevance, which is determined by how close each B&B is to your current location when you search.
As part of its continuing effort to convince people that it really can generate the sort of profits that will justify its huge stock market valuation, Facebook is now trailing its latest wheeze: Graph Search. But what is it and what might it mean for owners of B&Bs, guest houses, cottages and independent hotels?
The fundamental motive behind Graph Search is this: exploiting Facebook’s one billion-plus user base to provide you with results that are appropriate to you, based on what people you are already connected to have liked (or, to be more accurate, “liked”) in the past. So, for instance, if you’re travelling to London and want B&B recommendations, Facebook will serve search results for B&Bs that friends (and friends of friends) have been to.
This may sound at the moment like one of those obscure tech stories only of interest to geeks. But given that so many properties are now reviewed on TripAdvisor, irrespective of size or type, it could have far reaching implications for everyone, from huge chain hotels to tiny B&Bs.
In news that surprised few commentators in the tourism industry, TripAdvisor has finally announced that it’s introducing a test version of “metasearch” for its users. This new service will cover both desktop and mobile versions of the site.