“Any ful kno” (as Nigel Molesworth used to say) that one of the most effective ways to get an economy out of a slump is to boost exports. One way to do this is to devalue your currency and make exports cheaper (exactly what Greece, Spain etc can’t do right now). But another way is to avoid taxing the hell out of the revenues generated by whatever it is you’re exporting – regardless of whether it’s a product, or, in the case of B&Bs, a service. High taxes on UK accommodation stifle the recovery, pure and simple.
Right now, bed and breakfast owners have a rare chance to help the country in terms of both exports and domestic consumption. Staying in a B&B – especially a rural one – is often one of the most delightful experiences for visitors to the UK: it gives them an invaluable chance to experience domestic life in another country without sacrificing anything in the way of comfort and modern amenities. B&Bs are also a crucial generator of jobs and GDP in the local economies that we so desperately need to stimulate (in order to stop the UK becoming, business-wise, “London… and everywhere else.”)
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.
Getting found is a big issue for the owners of B&Bs, guest houses and small hotels these days. Once upon a time, just having a website gave you an advantage. And if that website was even half-decent – with relevant, albeit thin content – you had a good chance of performing well in Google’s “organic” (i.e. unpaid) search results. Google advertising itself was also much more affordable.
A well thought out, attractive website and a reliable, easy-to-use booking engine are the fundamentals to getting more business for your B&B. But how do you make potential customers aware of your existence? The traditional way is to advertise. This can still be an effective strategy, but it needs to be targeted.
Here are a few suggestions for getting the best out of your advertising…
Julia Cox runs the South Lodge B&B with her partner, Colin. The South Lodge is the only accredited 5-star accommodation in or around Milton Keynes and is ranked #1 amongst 130 Buckinghamshire B&Bs on TripAdvisor. Writing exclusively for theBandBer, she shares her secrets for attracting business guests and keeping them happy.
“It’s probably a well-known fact that if your B&B is in an area that attracts business guests they can be a really good source of custom: reliable, grateful for home comforts and out all day! For the regular traveller it’s a huge relief to avoid staying in a faceless hotel where a freshly made breakfast and a quiet night is rare. Since opening South Lodge four years ago, at least 40% of all my bookings are business travellers. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to guests chatting over the breakfast table, vying for ‘who’s stayed here the most’!