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.
“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.”
In our latest GUEST BLOG, Sarah Murison, owner of the Two Rose Cottages B&B in Midhurst, West Sussex shares the things that keep business guests coming back to her bed and breakfast.
“Two Rose Cottages Bed and Breakfast has not been open long, and so far most of our guests have been business people: mainly, but not only, business women. I asked them why they chose us, and they told me about nine services that have turned this little bed and breakfast into a home-from-home for the business traveller.
Booking.com’s rise in Europe seems to be unstoppable. Though they may sometimes resent its dominance, it has offered big new opportunities for independent hotels and B&Bs in particular. Smaller properties that can’t rely on the “brand” advertising of a large chain are able to use Booking.com as a platform to massively increase their visibility. They frequently pay a pretty big cut for the privilege, but there’s always the opportunity to convert Booking.com customers into repeat, direct bookers.
There are signs, however, that Booking.com is trying to control hoteliers – and squeeze them financially – more and more. Some of its strategies are outlined by Pedro Colaco (president of GuestCentric) in a recent guest article for travel tech website Tnooz…
Travel marketing gurus have been predicting the demise – or, at any rate, the weakening influence – of Internet search for a long time now. They argue that the trend of customers finding accommodation through social media recommendations is on the rise, while the traditional method of typing a search term like “B&B in …” into Google is declining.
However, as the wonderfully named Max Starkov (of hotel marketing company HeBs Digital) points out, the true picture is mixed at best: “In spite of all the new and trendy digital marketing initiatives and formats that overwhelm hoteliers nowadays, the reliable old search engines generated over 55.6% of website revenue for (our) client portfolio consisting of thousands of hotel properties… Google in particular dominates hotel search; results provide deep and relevant information, the best mapping and directions, extensive customer reviews via Zagat’s acquisition and now provide real-time hotel availability and pricing via Google Hotel Finder. No other meta search or travel site comes even close to match the richness and relevancy of hotel information provided by Google.”
It looks as if 2013 will be another challenging one for owners of B&Bs and other independent properties. With that in mind, we’re offering you the chance to download “Over 50 Tips to Boost Your Online Bookings”, a FREE EBOOK that… well, it does what the title suggests really, providing a whole range of advice for bed and breakfast owners on how to thrive in the modern, Internet-driven world.
It has been produced by our friends over at Freetobook and it is an invaluable, 43-page tutorial that takes you from the basics of creating a website for your bed and breakfast, to marketing yourself online in a cost-effective way and using channel management to bring in extra business from Booking.com, TripAdvisor and others.
Online booking isn’t voodoo. There are lots of private companies out there who manage to provide it to B&Bs in an efficient and cost-effective way (indeed, some of them even do it for free). Yet it seems that the moment government lumbers onto the scene, costs rise and efficiency plunges – all covered up by bureaucratic double-speak.