revenues 25% down

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Tom
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The past few years our revenues have held steady: holding our own despite a lot of high end hotel construction and the arrival of Airbnb in the area.  This year Air hit hard, and our revenues are down 25%  ;-(  Personally, I don't mind a little slowdown, but this is a bit too much.

For the most part, I don't see this is a result of increased direct competition -- I estimate that about 20% of transient lodging rooms here are on Air and HomeAway and the rest hotel/motel, but we are nicer than most Air offerings.  I see the drop resulting from a major change in how travelers in our demographic look for alternatives to traditional hotels.  Before, if you didn't want a hotel, you'd look for a B&B.  We used to have a few local B&B, but over half the B&B here when we opened 9 years ago are gone.  Real B&B are few and a search for "B&B" is just as likely to show chain motels, so the traveler looks to Air and we're not there. 

Last few years, our guests would have heard of Air, but never tried.  Now they have tried (and usually have had some really sketchy experiences): it's on their radar.  I am beginning to hear "airbnb" used as a generic for B&B, the way Kleenex and Xerox became generic titles.  A local realtor visiting our 8000 sf, 5 king bed, fully ensuite Inn told me "you have a really nice airbnb" (bite tongue).

I'll probably have to sign up, particularly as Air seems to be moving to accommodate professional B&B as well as the usual residential style.  And work on the web site, and join an allocator, and  ... 

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Another thing...use facebook for free! 

You can join local facebook groups.  You will find groups like "things to do around (insert your city)"  Join all those groups that you can. 

Then make a facebook post and choose the option to put your post in all those groups.  Its free advertising!  You will also find a ton of people "liking" your facebook page after you do that.

Just keep working the social media and you can really boost your business.

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I need to get a thicker skin. 

This happened today, right after looking at my February projections (soft), and doing my monthly calculations on Air revenues in my town (climbing fast).  A friend who's a real estate agent posted something on social media about a new Air rental in town, complete with 30+ photos, saying, "If you're coming to [our town], you MUST stay here! 

This is a lady who's regularly enjoyed the hospitality of our home, sat with us at our weekly knit night, attending the charity auction we host every year, attended our annual Christmas party, and even hit us up for donations and the like. 

I realize she probably didn't think of this as a competitor to us, but the headline, and the fact that we constantly contribute to our community while these Air carpetbaggers do nothing but run unlicensed, uninspected and unhelpful multi-unit rentals just galled me.

In my weakness, I simply wrote one word in the comments section: "Nope" 

 

Later, the owner of the unit wrote me a long message saying at first he was mad and now he just wanted me to know how much he respected our establishment. My friend has yet to say anything.

 

As I said, I'm not proud of it, and I will work to get a thicker skin. But for this morning at least, I'd had enough and had to say something. Even if it was a single word. 

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Air charges the guest $18 to stay at our place and charges us $5.  If the guest books direct neither of us gets those fees.

There needs to be a national advertising campaign educating the public that AirBnB has nothing to do with a real B&B and that people should book direct.

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I like the idea of an advertising campaign but it would be hard to somehow coordinate it among such a large number of small and independent properties.   I am wondering though if somehow within a group like this or even this group and some of the other groups on facebook that some of us belong to that we could craft some sort of consistent message which clearly depicts why it's better to book direct.     Phineas mentioned some great social reasons regarding contributing to the local community.  We try to educate every customer they will always get the best price and best service during the booking process if they book direct.

I'm thinking that if we can craft a generally standard and consistent message that instead of trying to collect money from 1000 small businesses and have some sort of advertising campaign, that maybe if we can put the message into the hands of the 1000 small businesses and each one of us consistently and frequently push it out through our email lists, or thank you letters, post it in our check-in spaces, put it on our websites, post it on our facebook pages and any place we can get it, including (until they stop us) responses to Tripadvisor reviews.  Hilton is pushing this concept of "book direct" through national advertising and we can piggyback off of that with direct contact to past and current customers as well as those who show interest in our properties.   What do you think?

 

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I think we all support the general idea, but perhaps all have slightly different ideas on the route to take. Just a start at this point, but have created a page on my site https://hiddenvalleymotel.com/going/ listing links to other smaller properties and suggesting folks book direct with those properties. My thoughts are that if we all made it easy to find similar small properties by listing links it might help.

You (anyone) want to be listed, send me a PM or send an email and don't share the connection with your forum name if you prefer, list me or not, I'll still add you to my list, it's a step in the direction you are suggesting.

There is also an existing website listing smaller independent properties and promoting direct booking, you may be already listed, a guest told me about the site and I found I was listed folks were happy to update my information. Again it might not send us a batch of new reservations tomorrow, but if we all promoted their site on our own sites I bet word would get around.

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Morticia's picture
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AIHP is setting up a 'Book Direct' campaign. If you find them on Facebook, you can get the details. I don't see it on their website.

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JerseyBoy's picture
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Very weird but the AIHP campaign message showed up on my facebook feed right after I read your message here.   The set up a website:  https://www.bookdirect.education/

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Same browser? Not weird at all...

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MidwestBB wrote:

Air charges the guest $18 to stay at our place and charges us $5.  If the guest books direct neither of us gets those fees.

There needs to be a national advertising campaign educating the public that AirBnB has nothing to do with a real B&B and that people should book direct.

I've asked guests why they opted to use Airbnb instead of booking direct. All of our info was in our listing. I asked if the additional charges weren't quite steep. One guest said she didn't pay anything more than the room rate. So, they don't realize it, or air lists it as some sort of handling fee. One particular guest used them for 2 weeks of vacation. That's a lot of souvenirs!

Others like the idea of 'belonging' to a 'disrupter.' (it's all fun and games until your parents have to move in with you because you put them out of business.)

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I just came across this thread and have a question for the folks listing their properties on the OTA's, but are not providing specific rooms.

We have 3 different room classes and 17 rooms but we list every room separately.   We have done this primarily because each of our rooms are a little different but more importantly we have 3 floors and 2 buildings.   There are no elevators.   We have always been concerned about guests booking a room and ending up on the 3rd floor without knowing it and not being able to climb the steps comfortably.

I would much rather use the option some of you are using which is  not to guarantee specific rooms leaving the ability to move people as needed but fear it will lead to more problems or fewer bookings.   

I am curious if anyone has tried both ways or if those of you who are assigning rooms are finding a lot of problems.

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We have (internally) removed certain rooms from the list. Steep stairs and no elevator got us some fairly Potty Mouth (auto filter)y complaints.

So. We list rooms as 'standard queen' and 'all rooms are upstairs.'

I do my best to give ota guests rooms in the first floor. However, even these rooms are up a 20 step flight of stairs.

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Thanks.  Some good suggestions.   Do you find being able to move the guests around very helpful? 

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   Yes!  

  We have moved guests because there were only two rooms on two different heat zones so we "upgraded" one guest to another room that was on the same heating zone as the other.  So we only had to heat that zone.

  We have moved guests since they were one nighter in a room that we could rent out the whole weekend so we moved them to a nicer looking room that was the same price range which already had two one-nighters in it for the weekend.  We put their original room back on and rented it out as well.

   We have moved guests just because they showed up nice and cheerful Sunday afternoon and boasted our tried selves, so we gave them our best room.  

   Its all about convenience for the innkeeper.  Do what works for you.  Act like you are doing them a favor and tell them your favorite feature of their upgraded room so they will be looking forward to their gift room.

 

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Convenience for the innkeeper! Gomez hates cleaning the only room with a bathtub. He'll give someone a $50 upgrade so he doesn't have to clean it.

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JerseyBoy wrote:

Thanks.  Some good suggestions.   Do you find being able to move the guests around very helpful? 

Yes. If we get a repeat guest who wants 'their' room it is good to keep them happy. Or, someone who needs a particular layout.

We've had 2 guests come back direct who first booked thru an OTA. But that's it. So, the direct guests get my best deal, and choice of room.

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Morticia wrote:

JerseyBoy wrote:

Thanks.  Some good suggestions.   Do you find being able to move the guests around very helpful? 

If we get a repeat guest who wants 'their' room it is good to keep them happy.

I have a single woman business traveler who, over a few years, has stayed in the same room 48 times so far! If "her" room isn't available, she'll reschedule her business trip to a time when she can get it, even if she has to put her trip off for a month. It's my smallest room, but I think she feels secure there, and she won't stay anyplace else!

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JerseyBoy wrote:

Do you find being able to move the guests around very helpful? 

Not related to OTA's, but I state that we reserve the right to move guests to a different room of the same or larger sleeping size as it makes for a more efficient use of space if we happen to be busy.

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Rather than list each room, why not list room type by floor? Ground floor (or first floor), Second floor, Third floor (and if this floor has a view list it as penthouse floor)

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In our case, each of our cottages is very unique (with different capacities, bed arrangements, etc...); there is really no way we could do a generic booking where we assign the guest to whatever cottage is available.... So to the extent that we list on 3rd party sites, we have to list by specific unit....

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OnTheShore wrote:

In our case, each of our cottages is very unique (with different capacities, bed arrangements, etc...); there is really no way we could do a generic booking where we assign the guest to whatever cottage is available.... So to the extent that we list on 3rd party sites, we have to list by specific unit....

We've got 'standard queen' as the description. One bed, two person max. You might get a king if all the queens are taken.

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I don't want my comment to sound like an advertising or something, but I do have to stress this: your website is very, very important!

For example I have some customers that were doing really, really well until ~2014, when they had a strong position on TripAdvxxxx... Things were going so well that they didn't pay any attention to their website almost since day one (for ~5 years at least). Then a small algorithm change on TA dropped them a little bit and things went downhill from there.

Now I have friends with two hotels in my hometown, where boo!k!ng has a market share of ~50%. They are doing well, over 70% occupancy for the year, but almost half of their individual bookings go through the OTA. They pay around 40K per year to boo!k!ng in commissions, and guess what? They don't give a Potty Mouth (auto filter) about their website. They have been out of Google completely for over a year and they don't care. They are making $X amount of money and they pay $Y amount to OTAs.

As long as the income is sufficient, people don't care.

When someone explains that you can be earning 1.25x instead of 1x, hoteliers and innkeepers are suspicious and full of skepticism. They ignore their own storefront (website) for as long as they can, until they have to start applying for multiple loans. And that's when people turn to website developers, like we are magicians or something. Your problems can't be fixed in a day, but you can surely start working on them TODAY.

So please, for the love of God, please start paying more attention to your websites.

There are so many ways you can do better, but usually you have to start early to see the benefits later, maybe 3-6-9-12 months from now. 

Don't wait for airbnb and other OTAs to just nudge you out of business. Anticipate!

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Hillbilly's picture
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We are way down and have decided to list with ex pe dia.  For those of you who list and have themed rooms are you able to move guests reservations around to maximize occupancy?  We are going to price our rooms all the same in hopes that we can do this.  Just wanted to find out if anyone else does or has tried this?  I'm nervous to use Air as I hear they do not populate their site but every 4 hours and this could lead to double bookings with expe di a or air.

 

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We have always sold the room individually, I sometimes think guests like knowing what they will get because when they check in to a specific room they immediately feel like they are where they should be and want to be. It may be more selling specific rooms but to me, that individuality of the room styles is what sets us apart from the big boxies. Sometimes, quite honestly, I may offer a guest an upgrade just to get them further away so my dogs don’t get excited with every noise they make (I’m sorry.. ) but I am surprised how many stick to what they booked even though the upgraded room is way bigger and nicer!

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If someone books thru an OTA and then calls to verify they got x room I let them know they can have x room if they book directly. Otherwise, the room selection is my choice and based on what is left at arrival. Some have panicked and said they don't want the room with the detached bath so I know they have looked closely at our room choices but opted to use BDC instead of direct booking.

And again, book directly for choice. Hotels do the same thing.

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Folks have their own reasons for liking a certain room, years ago mine was that a certain room at a motel we visited had its own little parking spot.

For business present day, I do state that I reserve the right to change a guest to an equal or larger room. Now our rooms differ by color and decoration, but pretty much uniform other than that, I will alway try to avoid moving someone that desires something specific, but it does give us an out if needed to use rooms more efficiently.

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We've had guests ask to downgrade too. I have a room that is particularly large and grand and have had guests ask about moving down to that room.

But the point here is that booking direct should be an advantage. If you want a specific room... book direct. 

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Hillbilly, I have been using OTA's on and off for years.  

I do not post all my rooms and I use generic room names "standard queen" "deluxe queen"  etc.  The pictures are of all rooms. 
If someone books, they get which ever room of that room type that has not been taken by those booking direct.   

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Copperhead wrote:

Hillbilly, I have been using OTA's on and off for years.  

I do not post all my rooms and I use generic room names "standard queen" "deluxe queen"  etc.  The pictures are of all rooms. 
If someone books, they get which ever room of that room type that has not been taken by those booking direct.   

Well that makes me feel a little better. At least you can move them around so to speak to get the most out of the calendar.  So do you use myall cator  to populate your RK calendar?  If so, how does the systems know what room to populate in your RK?  Not sure that makes sense.  Hahaha.

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We have 3 types of rooms and have it set up with generic descriptions for the OTAs. I move them around at my will... but RK sets it as a sale of a specific room.... I just move it for personal convenience.

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Oh thank you so much.  That's very helpful.  I thoughts that's how it would work but I wanted to make sure.  So you just tell guests that they will be assigned a room at check in? 

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Hillbilly wrote:

Oh thank you so much.  That's very helpful.  I thoughts that's how it would work but I wanted to make sure.  So you just tell guests that they will be assigned a room at check in? 

  Sorry I didn't get back to answer before Generic chimed in but I do it the same way as Generic mentioned.  It works, and has worked for me for years.  

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Absolutely. And I sometimes get a call (or email) asking for a specific room, at which time that we tell them that rooms aren't assigned until the morning of the reservation. We have even moved them around to give our direct guests upgrades.

We also get requests for things like "low floor" or other specific things, to which we reply that it's not an option that we offer and usually we offer a way out to cancel.... we find that those people are problematic anyway.

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All of our rooms are different. Give very generic descriptions and put the guests in whatever rooms you want. IE - standard queen room. That's all I say. Sometimes you get a queen, sometimes a king. Luck of the draw.

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Yep, we use Air for our benefit and require pre-approval - and choose not use "Instant Book" option for the very reason that most who use Air have no clue how an actual B&B runs, they do not understand the fun it is when they actually engage with others instead of secluding themselves in between their coming and going (mostly millennials!), and besides my calendar only syncs one way...oh well - keeps it manageable anyway!

Since we require pre-approval, this way when a guest requests dates, I can reply with my pre-set script of how we are  a fully-functional, professional Bed & Breakfast and then go on to list the basic amenities, our unique features, that we serve a fresh, multi-course breakfast each morning, (again which some folks had no idea we served breakfast before I started sending that info...!?!)  and welcome them to our "community" of travelers for the dates they request. I can't put in our website in the response, but have been know to mention there is a savings if they book directly through our website (and had a few mention to us upon arrival that they did that and saved!)

I like the idea of imposing the B&B name on our photos!!!

It ends up being about 20-25% of our bookings...so we'll take it.

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I have a photo of the building that includes our sign. Pretty straightforward.

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I just say who we are in the title!  Air hasn't made a peep.  I

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If you want to be found, you've got to show up where people are looking...

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We use airBNB to our advantage.  For example, I have a picture on AirBNB of our B&B where our B&B Name is displayed in text overlaying the picture.  Air can't suppress that text.  So it acts like a free Ad.  A lot of people will find us on air and then google and book direct.

We will be adding "experiences" on air where people can book a room and have an experience (like eagle watching).  The experience will allow us to double the room rate and make more money by throwing in the add-on experience.

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MidwestBB wrote:

Air can't suppress that text.

I'll bet they could suppress it if they wanted to, once they notice it. Instead of your inn name as text on the image, how about putting your website URL so people can go book directly through you. I'll bet they'll suppress that in a heartbeat!

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I do not bite my tongue when someone refers to my property as an Airbnb. I'm more likely to bite their head off. Air b nb coopted our business name and trashed it. I don't let that slide.

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I am singing the same song Tom.  

I have been blaming the Air and other STR properties for this as well, I do feel they are a large contributing factor but this summer it took a nose dive even more with the Google changes, especially in the maps searches.  

Since Google has gotten in bed with the OTAs and have changed their algorithms, map distance setting, etc., we are not being seen in search results as often as we use to be.   So we are seeing a decline in website stats as well. 

 If you use TA's Tri pCon nect you should be showing along with those OTAs, that is if your property is in the perimeters Google has set for the map in your search area.  - or at least the $ flag will show with your location dot for those that will move the map search.  

Other Google changes are affecting organic results too such as http vs https and now Google is using Mobile first for results and if your site is not responsive you are getting dinged.  And by responsive it means that your site needs to transform to mobile (same site just different format), not a different mobile responsive site.  

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We've been with air for the past 3 years, first two years I could count the bookings on two hands, this year a big jump, in the busy season probably around 30% of our bookings.

Gotta move with the times.

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