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…
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
A lot of statistics on subjects like online accommodation booking or the influence of social media on travel tend to hail from America, which always seems to be ahead of the UK when it comes to adopting new technology for business. However, it looks as if at least one innovation – the increase in the use of mobile devices like iPhones, Androids and iPads – is having a significant effect on the habits of British holidaymakers (and not just those who are going abroad.)