Is airbnb putting me out of business after 15 years? Because Something Is...

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Basil Fawlty's picture
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We have been up and running since 2005.  We are a smaller b&b - just four rooms - in Kitsap County, Washington State. We're an hour from downtown Seattle by the Bainbridge ferry.  We noticed in 2014 that a few properties in our area were on airbnb, and decided to join as a vacation rental as our guest quarters have their own kitchen.  We still booked smartly at our usual pace - we're near a lot of wedding venues with indoor facilities - but in 2017 something happened that disturbed us.  We noticed our b&b bookings fall precipitously in the spring and summer by nearly 50%.  However our vacation rental bookings picked up and we made just up to our usual earnings, but only just.  This year - are you ready for this?  We have no, and I mean no b&b bookings going forward starting now in March.  Vacation rental bookings, yes - but no forward bookings.  This is weird and scary for us.  Here's our website :  www.greencatbb.com   Is it the website?  Too old fashioned ?  the proliferation of now around 167 airbnb "hosts" in our part of the county?  The new casino hotel that just came in?  That we're not on any OTAs anymore?  (Trip Advisor and Bookingcom are DRACULA's CHILDREN) I would be grateful for any observations - and I can take the criticism, so don't be shy.  Thanks

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Basil, sure hope you are still around and reading this thread. 
I too do not think anyone here was trying to hurt your feelings in any manor.  But I understand how sometimes the truth hurts even when it is said with honey poured over it.

But instead of me looking at your site and giving advice that way, I instead will tell you a couple of things that I have had told to me from individuals from their presumptions of my place.  

The name of the city causes many to assume I am located on the water.  Some get mad after they arrive as they wanted to fish from my property, some ask when they call.  I don't mention any of that on my site, yet the assumption is there because of the name of the city!   
What we have done:  We put a google map of the area with our destination marked so people can see the distance to the water.  We have also made a list of nearby fishing piers and launches.  It hasn't solved the issue 100% but much better.  

Another caller stated 'I will take any room other than the one with that horrible, busy wallpaper'. The room has an ascent wall with a Monet style print wallpaper. I was heartbroken when I heard it.  When that guest checked in (had booked another room) she asked if there was any way to see that room with the horrible wallpaper.  When she saw the room she said it was beautiful and loved the decor, wallpaper too. 
What we have done:  We still have that wallpaper on the one wall.  BUT removed the photo from our website which shows that wall.  The bookings for that room have gone up substantially since the change.  What I concluded was that the picture did not do justice  to the wallpaper and when I had looked at the picture of the wallpaper, my mind's eye was seeing the beautiful view and not the busy ugly view the picture portrayed.

So in conclusion, what I learned is that I am too close to the subject to give an honest opinion of my site.  While the feedback may feel like a stab in the heart, listen to those that care about your success - and the people here want you to prosper. 

Best wishes! 
 

 

OnTheShore's picture
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Copperhead wrote:
...what I learned is that I am too close to the subject to give an honest opinion of my (own work)...

I think this is so true for so many -- whether one is their own harshest critic, or one tends to think overly highly of oneself, or somewhere in between -- you really have to step back and either reflect from a distance and/or be open to outside perspectives in order to truly see reality. But it can be scary and very hard to do.

 

Copperhead wrote:
While the feedback may feel like a stab in the heart, listen to those that care about your success - and the people here want you to prosper.

This too is so on the mark. I truly believe that everyone here in the Innspiring community really does care and indeed wants to see everyone here prosper!

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I think you also need to be aware of your strengths - Mine is SOOO not taking photo's they look dreadful When I take a picture of anything so I get someone in 

dumitru's picture
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Wow. 

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Lee2014's picture
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   My thoughts are keep it simple, sweet, and to the point.   Have the front page not so cluttered and add the information to other pages.  Most guests won't read it all and those who do, will read them on another page.  A picture is worth a thousand words!  Have nice clear pictures on the front page.  Don't be afraid to zoom in on an interesting spot in the house that other inns and air homes don't have.  Show me why yours the best for me out of everyone else.

   Air taking over?  Add all the rooms to air and even add a fee, to encourage them to book directly with you.  At check out hand them a business card and say about booking directly with you to save them money next time.  You will be surprised that they didn't realize they were paying more than the ones that booked directly with you.  I don't mention about their fee to me, its all about the guests.  A lot of people say that they booked our inn on air because everyone told them to use air but they weren't ready to stay at some strangers house.  When we first did air it was just college age people...now its from grandparents to students.  Its the new fad.

   Cheering you on!  

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seashanty's picture
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I can’t offer anything with regard to booking engines and air bnb

I can only view your site as a prospective guest so, if you are willing, please read my impressions

I can tell you love the grounds and garden ... but I want to see more of the inside of your inn than of outside. And it's winter now. I love the guest winter outside picture .. so I’d use it prominently somewhere right now. Or take one.

I would zoom in on the house and yes I’d adjust that picture so it looks level with the top of the page.

Can you shrink the top header or have the text right on the image and move some of the links to under the pics or make them smaller so I see the images big and bold when I go to your site? My preference would be to see just your B.B. name, where you are and a link to book. On my phone the site works great but the header is huge and takes away from your pictures. Check it on your phone and you'll see what I mean.

I also want to see the breakfast room in the slideshow - where do guests eat right now in snow ...  I think I saw a guest picture of it?

Maybe some new room pictures ... focusing on different aspects of the room instead of trying to capture everything in one. But I wouldn’t worry about redecorating and updating rooms. I think it looks cozy. 

Especially I would highlight the fireplaces in winter! 

 

 

Generic's picture
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Incidentally, in the winter is when I feel the effects of Air the most. In the summer others have felt the effect more than I have. In the winter the prices are Air get so low that I don't think these people realize they aren't making money... they are subsidizing people's trips. I instead take the time off and serve those who appreciate my value and hospitality. I don't dilute the value of my product by going after the last dollar.

What have I done? Well, my product is different. I have a unique house. I have a location that is superb and many people rave about my breakfast, home made jam, etc. 

I'm on the OTAs, but I serve it up as a different product with different policies. If you book directly, I don't take a deposit. Book it through an OTA and I take the first night as a deposit that is non-refundable. Book through an OTA and parking is more per night (and prepaid) and you can't pick your room, just your type of room.

And I'll be honest, I have some specials that appear only if you book directly... for example, I may have a 3 day window and I'll set it up to give a discount if you book the 3 day window that won't appear elsewhere or if you book just 2 of the 3 days. 

And last year, I had one room that didn't sell direct for one of the busiest weekends of the year. As it the city was fully booked, I kept on putting up the price. Finally, a few days before the date I opened it up on the OTAs, added in the whole commission and it sold in a few hours. I mean, it went from $180 a night if they had booked it directly to $250 a night by the time I sold it.

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Anon Inn's picture
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WA too, in a rural area but not your county.  I put our inn rooms on Air three years ago.  We have two in-the-inn rooms as well as the vacation rental apartment that has been on Air since 2011.  What happened three years ago: our overall bookings went up and our small room I previously labeled the ‘plague room’ became the most booked due to Air. 

As they say: mileage may vary.  I am very up front on the Air listings (one listing per room or unit) that we are a traditional inn with full breakfast.  I even list the inn name so people could book directly.  I’m constantly amazed most would rather pay more with the Air fees.  Oh well.  I do like that Air deals with cancellations with no hassle on my part

Like you I am concerned about Air becoming a larger percentage of our bookings.  This will finally be the year for a website update with more attention paid to SEO.  I’m waist deep in another project right now so putting the web update off just a little longer.  

I suggest trying your inn rooms on Air.  You can always take them off if it doesn’t help.  

notAgrandma's picture
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Oops, forgot to mention OTAs in my looong response. Not listing on OTAs could be hurting your bookings. I hate them with a passion, but I do receive a decent amount of bookings through them. One year, Expedia made up over half my bookings during August, our 2nd slowest month. Do you know what percentage of your bookings were received via OTAs? 

One last item: pay close attention to your Google business listing. More & more guests are using Google as their primary source of info about your B&B. Some folks don't even bother to click on the "Website" button. Encourage guests to leave Google reviews. Post new photos to your Google business listing often to keep your content fresh & boost your SEO. Unfortunately, listing on an OTA is also a component of your Google listing. If you don't list on an OTA, your rates and availability won't show up in your Google business listing.

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notAgrandma's picture
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I'm hesitant to provide any feedback because I don't want it to be interpreted as "piling on", so please take my feedback with as many grains of salt needed! Your main question was in regard to Airbnb and whether it is impacting your business. I can almost certainly guarantee that it is because Airbnb is impacting all of us. I see that you're advertising on Airbnb. How long have you been on their site? Do you receive any bookings via Airbnb? The difficulty is that most traditional B&Bs have to charge higher rates per individual room vs Joe Schmo down the street because it's our livelihood, not just extra spending money. Have you thought of offering a "bare bones" pricing for single room rentals on Airbnb? Perhaps exclude breakfast and lower the rate? It looks like you're making good use of the "Cleaning fee" on your full house rental, which allows listings to show up as a lower rate in the search results, then the cleaning fee shows up in the price breakdown. Reduce your rate on the single rooms & tack on a $40 cleaning fee to make up the rate difference. (sneaky, but it works!) 

You will most likely have better luck with the entire house rental on Airbnb than the single rooms. However, your photos on Airbnb aren't really emphasizing the amenities that renters get with the entire house rental. Can they use the kitchen? If so, include one excellent photo of the kitchen instead of all of the photos of benches & statues in the garden. Pare down the number of pictures and focus on specific WOW factors. Show one great photo of the garden, one photo of the deck, etc. I recommend removing the 3 photos of a cat. Follow these same guidelines with the photos of your rooms. Have one great photo of the room, like the pic you have of the master suite that shows the bed, sitting area & fireplace all in one photo. No need to show it from 4 different angles. 

Follow these guidelines with your webpage, too. Since your page is hosted by Acorn, I'm not sure how many changes you can make without being charged for them. It's excellent that your webpage is mobile friendly, and the navigation menu is great. However, there's way too much text and a lot of random photos. Mobile users are looking for brief descriptions. No one is going to scroll 4 pages down on their phone to read all that text. The same trend is happening on desktops. Pare your descriptions down to the main points. Your main header scrolls through a TON of photos. Pick your best 5 high-resolution photos. Show the outside of the house, one room, a breakfast, and maybe the common area. Here's a website that's a good example (not mine, but also designed by my web host): https://www.hilltophousebb.com

 

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I would also look at are the OTA's you are no longer using hijacking your B&B name - this has been a big problem for others I know who have pulled out of using them - click the link and it takes you through to exp or BOO and it just says no availability ie implying you are full and the guest looks no further

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Jcam wrote:

I would also look at are the OTA's you are no longer using hijacking your B&B name - this has been a big problem for others I know who have pulled out of using them - click the link and it takes you through to exp or BOO and it just says no availability ie implying you are full and the guest looks no further

THAT is why I would never list with them. They word it in such a way that they are telling the truth - No availability known - which they do not know because you are not listing. Of course, they do that with mine also because I do not list with rhem. In that respect, it makes no difference.

Basil Fawlty's picture
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Well, leave it to this webpage to cleave to its snarky response mechanism. I said I could take criticism , but insult and snark are not helpful.  For those who responded with honestly helpful responses, - thank you.  For those who took an opportunity to denigrate - bugger you.  

Generic's picture
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I think you are reading too much into what people are saying. I don't see the tone that you are suggesting. I think people are trying to be helpful and truthful, sometimes to a fault.

dumitru's picture
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Why would anyone here have the intention or the benefit of "denigrating" you? 

You asked if we see something wrong with your website and the way you present the property. People took a look and explained some of the things that "pop out". When you look daily at something - you stop noticing a rusty hinge or a hole in the wall. That's why people ask outsiders for feedback. 

Why get so defensive when people provide you free, honest feedback?
Could this defensive attitude be affecting your business?

JimBoone's picture
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Website:

Let's say my daughter fusses at me and says some of my photos need to be rotated slightly so the main portion looks level. My choice is more pages with less info on each page, but that's just me.

OTA's:

Did you use them and get booking in that manner in the past, if that your change or a portion of the change? Is there other promotion that you can do to get your name in front of potential guests?

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Jim & Maxine

 

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for me and As an owner I prefer people be honest with me 

(1) picture of the property is wonky - to me looks a bit amateurish and do it yourself I would feel concerned that property is run that way - most of the other pictures are much better.

(2) all that info on the home page is a bit much - maybe a booking for groups page? to get some of that off.

(3) do you want international visitors? if so we don't use Vacation rental - We use the phrase Self Catering - make sure its in there somewhere so we know what it is you are selling.

(4) from the pictures it looks like you do weddings? if so there is no information about this anywhere

 

Basil Fawlty's picture
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Thanks for the feedback.  

dumitru's picture
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The photos, the outdated website and the errors on the website are what would keep me away (unless I really needed this location).

P.S. I would address the "Cat" part on your homepage. Maybe a small sentence as to why the name.
Do you have cats? Many of them? Is the place stinking of cats? None of that is mentioned on the homepage... 

Basil Fawlty's picture
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No seriously - thanks for the supportive feedback.  

Basil Fawlty's picture
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Many thanks, and no the place certainly does not stink of cats... Whoa.

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Also there seems to be a link to pictures of owners quarters? which doesn't work - but not sure why its there at all? why is your personal private space relevant to their stay? 

dumitru's picture
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Just to be clear, I didn't mean to sound negative or aggressive, but I expected to find out the story behind the name. Usually people are happy to explain how they came up with a great name Smiling

P.S. I had a cat and my mother has 5 cats. I know how a place can be when there are cats around. That's why PERSONALLY I would be interested to know (before booking) if there are cats in the house.

Basil Fawlty's picture
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08/08/2010

no of course not.  

 

Not negative or aggressive at all.  

 

what was your mother's house like?  did that affect your posting?

gillumhouse's picture
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Me too because I am allergic to cats.

Basil Fawlty's picture
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Goodness, that statement must affect your bias.  But thanks for the comment.

Basil Fawlty's picture
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Oh dear.  Thanks for the heads up.

Generic's picture
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Well, there are lots of factors, but start small... floral patterns are definitely out, so update the rooms and bit and get some new pictures. Check your rates compared to others. The OTAs do help us, but we are careful with how, when and why we use them. Most of our summer books well before we even give them inventory. 

What are you known for? Why should people stay with you?

Basil Fawlty's picture
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Its a mystery.  Good questions, though.  Thought we had the answers, but time to take another look.

 

Many thanks.

Green Cat

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