“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.”)
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.”
In this new GUEST BLOG, Craig Stewart, co-founder of online reservations company Freetobook, share some advice on making sure that your bank isn’t ripping you off when it comes to credit card handling charges.
“I won’t make any friends in the banking industry for saying this, but here goes…
If you already have a deal which is bad or average then it’s worth shopping around now. You could save money, as your bank may be taking advantage of you.
One of the issues we return to time and again on theBandBer is online reviews. They’ve come to dominate the thoughts of many accommodation providers. The good ones give you a warm glow. The bad ones keep you awake at night. The fake ones send you into a rage.
When we first started covering this topic, there was relatively little good, consistent advice out there on how best to respond to feedback on review sites like TripAdvisor and various social media channels. With this in mind, we’ve frequently tried to offer helpful tips ourselves, in order to bring some clarity to the issue.
Several times already at theBandBer we’ve reported first hand on accommodation owners’ experiences of Groupon and other daily deals sites. The consensus so far seems to be that flash sales can be useful when it comes to boosting your property’s profile, as long as you don’t expect to make any real money out of it.
None the less, the fact remains that many BandBers have always been wary of this kind of sales technique. And now it seems that their scepticism is fully justified. When it floated on the stock market in November 2011, Groupon was valued at $20 per share, but that valuation has now sunk as low as $2.60. More pertinently, it has also started to move away from its core business, instead using the huge customer database it has built up to sell “vacuum cleaners, mattresses and other overstock merchandise,” as Stephen Jones of Tnooz observes.
We reported several times during 2012 on the importance of having a website that works well on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. It’s easy – and perfectly understandable – for owners of B&Bs, cottages and guest houses to feel that this is an issue that only affects the big chain hotels at the moment. But, in many cases, whatever affects brand-name properties will affect smaller independents soon after (look, for example at online booking and social media) and the speed at which changes are filtering through the whole accommodation sector is increasing all the time.
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…