Visitor Centers - Rack Cards

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JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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Just curious about this.  Of course it pertains to each inn individually.  If you take walk ins, or not.  If you discount or not.

What is the benefit of spending $ on rack cards and putting them in visitor centers?  If you take walk ins, then I can see that. 

But if you do not want hotel-people or interstate-people, or same day-no-reservations-people, or those-wanting-discounts-people -- why put them in the visitor centers?

I am heading out after lunch to collect brochures from our visitor centers to bring back here (of things to see and do), but I have never had any bookings from them.  Perhaps cards were taken like the other dozen tourism cards, but tossed later on or left in a hotel room.

Sell me on the benefits please.  I am online at this visitor center which is the reason I belong to it, otherwise if it were only INSTORE I wouldn't.

Your thoughts? Your experiences with this?

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Morticia's picture
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OK, not a rack card in a visitor center, but a good story all the same...just had a walk-in who said a friend gave her our brochure. They are from Italy! My brochure went to Italy and here come the guests!

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gillumhouse's picture
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IMO having the rack cards at the VC is a way to let people know I am here. Not everyone has Internet. There are actually some people (like DH) who would never bother to get a computer. They do travel (they are the people who call the Tourism Division for info or pick it up in their travels), stay overnight, and spend money. It is also reinforcement - "Hey, I saw this one on....."

I do get calls from the Welcome Center about availability for tonight... This gives me enough time to get ready if I am not already - as in flip the room and get supplies if I had nothing on the books and went LAZY today. Keeping rack cards/brochures there also helps keep a good relationship with them - they need material to display and they really want quality places to be displaying.

JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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gillumhouse wrote:

IMO having the rack cards at the VC is a way to let people know I am here. Not everyone has Internet. There are actually some people (like DH) who would never bother to get a computer. They do travel (they are the people who call the Tourism Division for info or pick it up in their travels), stay overnight, and spend money. It is also reinforcement - "Hey, I saw this one on....."

I do get calls from the Welcome Center about availability for tonight... This gives me enough time to get ready if I am not already - as in flip the room and get supplies if I had nothing on the books and went LAZY today. Keeping rack cards/brochures there also helps keep a good relationship with them - they need material to display and they really want quality places to be displaying.

Here is my very bold statement.  Those who do not use the internet are NOT prone to staying in a B&B, but a hotel.

Just my nvho.  It happens, but like around here when we had the old order couple here for their wedding night, which in itself was amazing.  I am positive they would never go to a visitor center tho, either.  So I will stick with the cards being a PROMPT - eye candy to get them to our website. 

I will continue to put most of my eggs in one basket for marketing this B&B.  Time and effort and cost for 95% of the guests is what I do.

seashanty's picture
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i have them around locally ... at the area chamber of commerce office ... sometimes get calls from there ... and at the ferry ... and at the general store.  folks take a drive, end up in the area, decide they want to stay and look at the brochure rack.  and when someone calls and asks for a brochure, i slip a rack card in an envelope and send that along with a note.

 other than for walk-ins, it's just folks planning for 'next time'.

 

 

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I have rack cards at the local C&VB which is just blocks from me.  I have gotten one same day booking from them to date.  I was just there dropping off more (I had done a small first run of cards to make sure that I liked them) and the girl working in the center had NO IDEA what a bed and breakfast was about!!  After I talked to her about our rooms, she thought that one of our rooms would be perfect for a family with a bunch of kids.  Whaaaaat?  I guess she missed the part about historic house, no childproofing or kid gear.  She did not come here when they did a tour and I gave them treats.  These are the people that we are counting on helping to get us referrals Sad 

I went to the State visitors center a few days ago to pick up info for my brochure area and there was such an abundance of hotel/motel brochures/rack cards that it was overwhelming.  There were no B&B brochures/rack cards.  There is a new Microtel here with $65/night for single travelers and $75/night for a double.  It is clean and new & right by there off the Interstate by the Visitors Center. 

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egoodell's picture
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 We put them out since it's free for us to do so in our town. But we do so more for the wine tours as we often have a tour going with a couple of open seats so we do it in hopes of filling an already scheduled tour.

We require a deposit so we're sure of the tour guests, but will take "walk ins" if we're already one the way for that day. That way the only risk is the extra cheese and fruit we purchased for the tour guests.

Riki

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If you're not paying to display the rack cards, and you're printing them anyway for your own in-house use, then it's probably worth putting them out. It only takes a couple room nights to pay for the cost of the cards.

Like everything in this business, though, it depends on where you are. If you're right in town and those rack cards are going to bring you the kind of business you don't want (ie walkins), then maybe not such a good idea.

If you're in an area where people just pass through but don't return, then it probably won't net you people who are thinking ahead for their next trip.

In my area, the international visitors probably won't be back any time soon so the rack cards aren't there for them. But the bulk of my business comes from an urban area 2+ hours away and they do come back again and again. Case in point, 35 - 40 % of my business is repeat guests. So it is totally worth it for me.

Another thing to think about with visitor centres or chambers of commerce: do they receive and fulfill requests from people for travel material by mail? A couple of the associations I belong to will snail mail cards/brochures/booklets to people asking for it in advance.

JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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I also like to have rack cards here for guests to take after their stay. They tell me they'll pass them along to friends, post them at work, save as keepsake, etc.

That is entirely diff issue right there.  That is the BEST BANG for your buck on rack cards, hands down!

YES we should have something to mail out, give out and put with gift certificates, hand out to towns people, at functions etc.

But I am only asking about the visitor center rack card display and is it worth it.

JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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Now, when we are on vacation we love to get all the rack cards and accumulate them in our room and have coffee and review them all.  But the problem from our ownership standpoint is that we are already in a room.

Someone was on the other forum who wanted to start a B&B in Pigeon Forge. Remember?  Well when we were there I took all of those and being the place that it is (if you have never been to Hillbilly Vegas you won't understand) it is a discount haven.  Save $20 on a dinner show, Save $20 admission to this or that. 

The B&B rack cards were just that, rack cards.  I didn't feel like looking them all up, so I ended up putting them back where I got them.

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I always picked them up and kept them so that when we got home, I would look them up on line and then maybe stay at one the next time we visited in PF.

JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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catlady wrote:

I always picked them up and kept them so that when we got home, I would look them up on line and then maybe stay at one the next time we visited in PF.

There are so many lodging choices there that itis overwhelming.  I told myself when I am there I will visit a few places for next time, and never got around to it.  But it was 104 degrees and I was not in the mood.

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We don't encourage walkins but we're far enough from the highway that people will call first rather than trek out here on a whim. I don't mind phone calls asking about a same-night stay.

We have rack cards in the visitor centre, the chamber of commerce, the big provincial visitor centre further away, in restaurants and outfitters. But I don't pay anyone specifically to display the cards. If I'm paying anyone, it's to be listed on their website, and the physical display space is just gravy. Of course, I'm paying to have my rack cards printed so that is a cost. Seems to be worth it for me.

Rack card conversion rates are hard to track unless people show up with them in their hands or actually tell you. Earlier this summer I had a regular guest tell me they found us by our rack card. They had been in the area for the first time and stayed somewhere else, then stopped at the centre on their way home and picked up a bunch of brochures. On their next trip they stayed with us. Since then, they've spent around 30 nights here over the last 3 years. That's a good return on one little rack card.

I've had other people tell me they've picked them up while driving through. Or found them at restaurants. I had one couple tell me they found our rack card in the recycle box at the family cottage.

I also like to have rack cards here for guests to take after their stay. They tell me they'll pass them along to friends, post them at work, save as keepsake, etc.

Morticia's picture
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Good point. I pay to be at the visitors center and I stopped in one day to see what the display looked like. None of my rack cards were there. I asked at the desk. 'No, according to our records we haven't had them for quite a long time.' So why did no one ever ask me to bring more? I didn't notice any loss of business because of it.

I'm on the kiosk at the same info centers (for an additional cost) so I may just let the rack cards lapse. Then again, the competition is all there. It pays to be seen where everyone else is even if it is only for the positive recognition it affords. 'Oh, I saw that place at the info center.'

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Fortunately, the folks in our local visitor center are really good about keeping the supply and asking for more. That is one good thing.

muirford's picture
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I have rack cards at our visitors centers.  I don't go crazy getting them out there but the ones that are nearby and the ones that might be on the way (like on the other side of the state but on the highway that comes near here) I have them.  I occasionally get last-minute calls from them, but really not very many.  I think people pick them up and use them sometimes, but probably a lot of them get picked up and then forgotten.

I differ from most of the advice posted here and I DO put rates on my cards.  My new rack cards have a Mon. - Thurs. rate range and a Fri. - Sun. rate range.  I think this helps set the expectations and people don't call if they're looking for a cheapie place or a big discount.  But that's my opinion. 

I can't track bookings from the state visitors center but I definitely get them from having my brochure in the local visitors center.  Got one last night that way - they had only read about the big hotel in town but came to the VC and got my rack card.  I've gotten bookings from my rack card being at a local outfitters and local restaurants, also.

Now, I can handle walk-ins up to a center point, so I'm not trying to discourage those.  Yesterday we went from one room booked to three between 1:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon.  You know, if I'm making breakfast for two it might as well be six.

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JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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muirford wrote:

I have rack cards at our visitors centers.  I don't go crazy getting them out there but the ones that are nearby and the ones that might be on the way (like on the other side of the state but on the highway that comes near here) I have them.  I occasionally get last-minute calls from them, but really not very many.  I think people pick them up and use them sometimes, but probably a lot of them get picked up and then forgotten.

I differ from most of the advice posted here and I DO put rates on my cards.  My new rack cards have a Mon. - Thurs. rate range and a Fri. - Sun. rate range.  I think this helps set the expectations and people don't call if they're looking for a cheapie place or a big discount.  But that's my opinion. 

I can't track bookings from the state visitors center but I definitely get them from having my brochure in the local visitors center.  Got one last night that way - they had only read about the big hotel in town but came to the VC and got my rack card.  I've gotten bookings from my rack card being at a local outfitters and local restaurants, also.

Now, I can handle walk-ins up to a center point, so I'm not trying to discourage those.  Yesterday we went from one room booked to three between 1:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon.  You know, if I'm making breakfast for two it might as well be six.

This is what I wanted to hear! Thank you.  I agree that a price RANGE would be very helpful.  I myself, as a vsitor to any state pick them up and put them down as it is WORK to discover the rate.  I owning a B&B, have no clue what the rate will be unless I call or look online, then I forget to do it.  Esp if ther ack cards are very elegant adn the rooms look gorgoeus, will that be $250a night?

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I don't have rack cards.  Nebraska has alot of rest stops along I80 (every 30 miles) and there are kiosk in each for people to look online for anything. I have had 1 german couple call me from a rest stop and stay with me.  To have my listing online with tourism is free.  Have to renew it every year.

I have an online brochure that can be printed on my web site. So if I need one for some reason, I print it from there.

JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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I have hosted the visitor center volunteers, had them here for a tour and special treatment.  Still nothing.  They LIKE our place.  I told them amazing STORIES of guests so they would recall our place.  No bookings from it.  Still getting the 95% from the internet.

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We did a brochure when we first opened. Then we decided...we are not taking walkins.  I left what was out there..but never took out any more. I did not want to encourage folks finding them in restaurants etc to think they could just show up. I did leave them in the visitor/ Chamber office...but only as a member perk. I figured people would maybe take them for a trip back sometime. But honestly, I could show no proof that they were even the slightest bit helpful. I would say 90% said they went to our website.

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