Graceful and effective competition and integration

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After perusing the message boards until 2 last night, thought I'd introduce myself and ask for input.  We're building a small (4 room, expadable to 6) inn in Panama, next to a National Park in a small town (pop 3000) - hopefully opening this summer.  I'm a biologist, and in time, we want to pair our lodging with rain forest tours.

I'm concerned about a lot of things, but right now,  potential competition with two other small inns that opened/ are being built in the last couple months take the cake.  

Is there a silver lining to this unexpected competition? 

While my DH is Panamanian, all others owning and operating inns (myself included) are expats.  There is a growing resentment and dependence within the community for these foreigners who come and buy land, drive up prices, and earn $.  I've read in some B&B advice books about throwing an open house for the community when opening doors.  With 3000 people, who do you invite?  Maybe I should just bake banana bread and go house to house .  Do you all have any thoughts or ideas on a good opening event or tips?

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Welcome to the forum where there is a world of knowledge available for those that love sleepless nights! lol

We had an open house for our B&B mainly for the neighborhoods surrounding us.  It brought us many new friends & set many minds at ease as to what to expect.  So this is a wonderful idea to let the community get to know you and your business. 

You may consider having a raffle as part of the open house (if legal there) where the money goes to a local charity or school you provide a grand prize.  Find a charity that is well known & loved. 

And Catlady brought up a very good point regarding the other innkeepers.  Once you get the open house behind you, contact the other innkeepers and invite them for Lunch, tea - what ever.  Try working together to provide referrals when full.  It will be good for business & you may find you make a great friend.  I wish this was how it works here in my area but it does not but hear it works for others here on the forum.  

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copperhead wrote:

Once you get the open house behind you, contact the other innkeepers and invite them for Lunch, tea - what ever.  Try working together to provide referrals when full.  It will be good for business & you may find you make a great friend.  I wish this was how it works here in my area but it does not but hear it works for others here on the forum.  

  Ahh...appreciate the staged approach that you and a couple others have suggested.  Raffles are a serious hobby for many small-town Panamanians, good idea!

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Welcome! Ditto to everything everyone else said. Make it a simple open house and limit the hours and then perhaps you can have another one maybe at christmas so the people can see your B & B decorated. Join anything you can maybe a group doesn't matte what whatever business "meetings" or open discussions are in town go to them. Intergrate yourself into the town and find you little corner or in other words find what you want to give your guests. And by all means invite the competition-you have nothing to hide and you will know who they are and what they are all about.

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 Welcome! I think others have already said what I would. When we opened...We got along wonderfully with the other innkeepers in our town. We all became best friends to this very day. We eat  drink and play together. (A group of about 6 inns then..things are different now unfortunately). The old adage you catch more flies with honey than vinegar!!! True in innkeeping as well I think. Good luck.

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Wanted to add that in my town we do 'play well with others'. We have a group website that shows availability and we all know each other's strong points so if someone wants a pool or spa, we know where to send them.

But you really need to know the big players in town without forgetting all the 'worker bees'.

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Exactly we have a cafe which is owned by Jenson Button the formula 1 driver when he came to open it he invited all the big wigs and mayor - none of whom have ever gone there again and no local people. The cafe is in a street of shops who could all order their lunch from there but cos he hacked them off so much no one will eat there and its virtually deserted. My friends who have cafe's in the next street have all their business. So thats not a mistake to make think carefully about who will be refering you business and build relationships with them. I myself go out of my way to help and refer business to the B&B's in my locallity but in reality i mainly refer to about 5 as they refer back to me. I won't go out of my way to help people who don't bother to help me.

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Good point on not putting all your eggs in the 'big wig' basket. You really do have to talk to and know a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life. An example is that because we don't have kids in school here, I don't know anyone at any of the schools. Probably missing something there.

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Another way to give back is to always shop local ie local butcher, wine merchant etc these people are all excellent ambassadors for your business in return. If you don't do meals I would try and work with local restaurants as you can send them business. Also quite often its the man with the title but the wife that makes the decisions so find out who the "Women in power are" they are usally the people you have to play nice with men don't give a monkeys about this sort of thing, can't remember your places name or make bookings.

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camberleyhotelharrogate@yahoo.co.uk wrote:

 Also quite often its the man with the title but the wife that makes the decisions so find out who the "Women in power are" they are usally the people you have to play nice with men don't give a monkeys about this sort of thing, can't remember your places name or make bookings.

  Good to keep in mind

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camberleyhotelharrogate@yahoo.co.uk wrote:

Another way to give back is to always shop local ie local butcher, wine merchant etc these people are all excellent ambassadors for your business in return. If you don't do meals I would try and work with local restaurants as you can send them business. Also quite often its the man with the title but the wife that makes the decisions so find out who the "Women in power are" they are usally the people you have to play nice with men don't give a monkeys about this sort of thing, can't remember your places name or make bookings.

On that note: Learn where things are that people will want and send them to those shops, restaurants, sites and ask the guests to tell them you sent them - offer to make dinner reservations and tell the restaurant you are making a rez for your guests. I created a turn-by-turn routing to take my guests to the sites, etc. The first time I met the owner of the winery (at a tourism function), I introduced myself and he said - you send me business!

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Good luck with the new venture! Generally, there is a breaking point with number of rooms. Do you feel that 3 places will mean not enough business for all of you or more business because it looks like a vibrant tourist community? From my perspective, we hit the breaking point when 2 new hotels opened within a year of each other. There was a need for more rooms here, but we passed that point with the second hotel. 5 B&B's closed, one hotel reduced its rooms by 50% and we still have months where we see only a few guests on weekends. Part of that is due to people wanting a pool in the winter. Part is due to brand name recognition with the hotels.

Because of the animosity that seems to be brewing, I would host an open house in stages. Invite members of different community factions to come at different times, leaving no one group out. You'll need to explain to different groups what you're doing and what you're not doing. If you do this and the ex pats just snub their noses, guess who's going to get business and who isn't.

It doesn't hurt to spread the wealth around where you can. If you look like you're just going to suck the life out of the land and then 'go home' the locals won't trust you. So, think of ways to give back. With the tours, maybe offer a couple of free tours to local schools each year. Things like that.

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Also wanted to add that 4 new hotels also opened up in outlying communities where we used to draw guests from. Obviously, many people don't want to drive an extra 30 minutes to stay here when they can be closer to their destination by staying in one of these new hotels.

So there is a breaking point. But, if the other places are small, it will take longer to reach that point.

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Yup, that's my concern.  The town was an unknown tourist destination 5 years ago with one ten room hotel.  It's grown since then.  Now, there are now 5 budget places (perfect for an inn we think - and so do these two additional inns in the past couple months).   Tourism is continuing to grow, my concern is if it will grow fast enough. 

I do want to be honorable, but also a good business woman, and I loved the thoughts of how to give back to the community. 

 

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CafeMae wrote:

I do want to be honorable, but also a good business woman, and I loved the thoughts of how to give back to the community. 

 

There may come a time you see others doing things that are not honorable. We see it all the time. What you have to do at that point is look at yourself in the mirror and decide if you can continue to look yourself in the eye if you opt for the 'shady' way of doing business.

Overall, in spite of the news stories, I think the good guys finish first.

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Overall, in spite of the news stories, I think the good guys finish first.

They sleep better...............

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I am an alien here. By that I mean I was not "born here". People from 3 miles away are aliens but at least mos everyone here still does know who their family is at least 3 generations back. My city has a pop of about 2300 (we had another funeral today - I spent most of my day today at the church helping with the lunch).

When we bought the house, I subscribed to the town newpaper so i would know what was happening here when we moved in. One of the Letters to the Editor was from the City Recorder (renamed to City Clerk in the new Charter) stating if you want to really know what is happening with the city government go to the meetings. And she told when/where. So i went. It was a eye opener of how difficult it is to run a City. I am now City Clerk.

When I opened the B & B, we had an Open House - open for a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon so the folks could come see what we had done with the house - everyone is dying to see it! I served plates of muffins, cookies and had tea and coffee. They came in the front door, went up thye stairs, wandered through (I had a friend upstairs to answer a few questions I think), back downstairs into the dining room to get the food, and through th ekitchen to go out again. Worked nicely. Since then, I have had a couple more "Open House" with a $1 donation that went to the Lord's Pantry Food Bank here in town. IF there is a food bank or a charity in town, you may want to work with them to use a tour of your B & B as a fundraiser for them as your Open House.

The locals have NO CLUE what a B & B actually is.  I found that by getting involved (started by going to one of the churches and attending City Council meetings) we are "accepted". I once said, we have been as accepted as any aliens will ever be accepted. The shopkeeper I said that to replied, "Oh, Kathleen, you are Shinnston." I told her how it really is - "No, if push comes to shove, we are shove." If you understand that and are not offended by it (NEVER EVER say ANYTHING about ANYONE because you will not know who is related to who or how and that person may be a total SOB but it id THEIR SOB.) you will do fine.

As for the "competition", try to be allies. Advertise together (it cuts the costs). I WISH we had another B & B in town - I have been trying to get someone to open another one. I look at it this way - you can have one anywhere but if you have two or more, there must be something there. You have no competotion BTW - no other B & B has YOU. You are what will make your B & B what it is.

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That was a great note.  The $ donation for future events sounds like a winner to me.  I could see something like that work well with the local elementary school and the PTA. 

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I never understand why some Innkeepers or townsfolk see B&B's or other new business as competition, with the economy the way it is, every town should be thankful that there are people willing to invest in their towm and bring in tax revenue and support downline businesses such as utility companies grocery stores, local labor etc

I did have a small opening party and I believe it was really good for me since the town apparently was not exactly enamoured with the former owners, something I did not find out until later. This also helped them get to know "me" - yes I am also a foreigner!

I invited my direct neigbors, the people from city hall, chamber of commerce, police and fire chief, council people etc. Oh and the local paper! So yes, go for it, don't forget to do a press release and good luck

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agoodman wrote:

I never understand why some Innkeepers or townsfolk see B&B's or other new business as competition, with the economy the way it is, every town should be thankful that there are people willing to invest in their towm and bring in tax revenue and support downline businesses such as utility companies grocery stores, local labor etc

I did have a small opening party and I believe it was really good for me since the town apparently was not exactly enamoured with the former owners, something I did not find out until later. This also helped them get to know "me" - yes I am also a foreigner!

I invited my direct neigbors, the people from city hall, chamber of commerce, police and fire chief, council people etc. Oh and the local paper! So yes, go for it, don't forget to do a press release and good luck

  Thanks for the well wishes.  I wish I had your calm when thinking of competition, and perhaps with time I will.  Thanks for sharing your guest list.

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I admit your contributions were among the culprits of keeping me up late   but well worth it.  Sound, grounding advice Joey

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Welcome to the forum!

Invite anyone who might refer to your inn over the others. Smiling

Sounds like a great venture there.  Sorry we kept you up til 2am, hopefully you came away with some good stuff tho, if you want the down and dirty of innkeeping you can to the right place.  

BTW There is resentment for anyone moving in a new community, you are always the new kid on the block, baking them banana bread would be a nice gesture.  

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