“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.
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.
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.)
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.”
You may remember us mentioning a while back that the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency ordered TripAdvisor to remove the phrase “reviews you can trust” from its homepage. After many frustrating years for hotel and B&B owners, the issue of authenticity does seem to be getting more mainstream attention.
Now, one of the largest hotel companies in the world is taking matters into its own hands, by verifying all (unmediated) reviews on its own sites against a database of actual bookings.
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…
Like most visual aspects of life, a bed and breakfast’s website is very much a personal thing. That said, there are certain practical additions that are absolutely necessary to ensure you give yourself the best chance of getting extra bookings. Here are a few strategies that – if done well – can make a real difference.
1. Great images help your customers relate to your B&B. These are so important it’s worth considering getting them done professionally. Start by identifying what customers like or love about your property and then try to capture that in images. For example, make a note if you really want to show a particular aspect of your property or area that is seasonal: it could be bluebells, a certain shrub in full flower or the autumn leaves in woodland nearby. Never underestimate the power of these images as they really speak to us on a deeper emotional level.
In our latest guest blog, Adrian Brown, owner of the Old Rectory of St James B&B in Telford, tells us how getting the most out of TripAdvisor brought success to his property within a year.
“Love it or hate it, we decided to make the most of Trip Advisor (TA) to help our business without paying them a penny, cent or groat. To be clear, this is not an endorsement of TA and it may not be right for you; it is a short account of what it did for us.
September 2010: The Old Rectory was ours and we promptly shut the doors and started much needed repairs and improvements. The house speaks for itself and had been much loved by the previous owner; it just needed a cash injection, which of course has to be recouped!