"Availability" as an indication of occupancy?

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Barliman's picture
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In developing my business plan for our new B&B, I'm looking at the current "availability calander" of nearby established B&B's.  Do you think this is an indication of their occupancy percentage?  There are maybe, 8 B&B's and some are doing around 40%, some at 50% and few in the 75% range.  Generally their lower priced rooms are "blocked" out first.  Is that normal?

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JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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 I had return guests convulge they planned on building a B&B in central Oregon then got caught up with too much other stuff, she opened a shop etc.  I don't think you are the same person.  Are ya?  I think it is a great place for a B&B.  Seattle/Tacoma and Portland are always heading to Central Oregon to fish, golf, hike.  Beautiful area.

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Barliman's picture
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Nope...twern't us.

Barliman's picture
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Okay, so its not a very reliable indicator.  It might be once in a while under certain conditions, but don't bet the farm on it.  A host of reasons it could be "skewd"  Got it!

At this point in our design, I don't see a huge difference in room size or ammentiies.  So probably not a huge difference in price.  We may add more rooms at some point in the future which would indeed have a different price/ammenity structure.  

Thanks All!

Barliman's picture
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A little clarification...

At this point, the design of the four guest rooms are very similar in our proposed new B&B.  Therefore, I doubt there would be a difference in our price.  This may change.  Other local B&B's have been created out of existing historical structures and have considerable differences in room sizes and ammenities, and therefore rates....($10 to $50).   The location is Central Oregon, although Lewis & Clark missed us by about 165 miles.

Your comments about knowing your market are intrinsic to the success of this venture.  A good portion of the Business Plan will be devoted to this very thing.  In fact, I doubt it will ever cease...getting to know and understand your market.  Your thoughts and comments are "jewels" to me.  Thanks, so much.

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Barliman wrote:

 The location is Central Oregon, although Lewis & Clark missed us by about 165 miles.

 

Yeah, well, they spent a lot of time and taxpayer money wandering around...

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gillumhouse's picture
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Be aware that your market - or what you thought would be your market - and actually IS your market may be totally different or change. Be prepared to change.

Since I am 50 feet from a rail-trail I thought biking/hiking would be my market and it was - for a few years and then I could see it tapering off.  I still use the rail-trail as a big draw - but it is the winery paired with it in a package that is the draw. I have found in the last few years that my Dec thru March business such as it is, is usually from horses traveling between Canada and points south (Carolinas or Florida). Covered bridges, motorcycles, whatever I can find in my area, is used to be my target market. I pick one each year to market to (concentrated market that is - I keep something going in each area at all times).

gillumhouse's picture
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Bree brings up a good point that was overlooked by me and probably all of us as we brought up our "dream B & B" that had it all. What are people looking for when they visit your area? If it is an area of hunting and fishing, all the elegance, heated tile floors, and whirlpool tubs in the world will not get those rooms filled - they are looking for the rustic lodge so they can be Dan'l Boone for the weekend (maybe not quite that basic but close). Knowing your market should be part of what dictates what you build.

Morticia's picture
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gillumhouse wrote:

Bree brings up a good point that was overlooked by me and probably all of us as we brought up our "dream B & B" that had it all. What are people looking for when they visit your area? If it is an area of hunting and fishing, all the elegance, heated tile floors, and whirlpool tubs in the world will not get those rooms filled - they are looking for the rustic lodge so they can be Dan'l Boone for the weekend (maybe not quite that basic but close). Knowing your market should be part of what dictates what you build.

More like Lewis and Clark given the location, but good point about knowing what the guest is in the area to accomplish.

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Bree wrote:

More like Lewis and Clark given the location,

How can you tell??

Morticia's picture
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Barliman wrote:

Okay, so its not a very reliable indicator.  It might be once in a while under certain conditions, but don't bet the farm on it.  A host of reasons it could be "skewd"  Got it!

At this point in our design, I don't see a huge difference in room size or ammentiies.  So probably not a huge difference in price.  We may add more rooms at some point in the future which would indeed have a different price/ammenity structure.  

Thanks All!

Are you a local where you are deciding to build? I mean, do these other B&B's know you? Is it a collegial town? Would they share info with you?

What you may want to do is vacation at the inns in this town to see what it's like from the guests' perspective. You can do a cursory walk-thru but you really need to kick the tires to see how it works. Is it REALLY spacious when you have all your luggage loaded up in the room? Is the carpet or wood floor the better bet? How do they present the food?

I say this because you can build the 'perfect' B&B but it may not be what guests want in your area. Or it may lack the touches they are looking for.

How do you know your amenities will be what the guests are willing to pay for? (Just asking so you think about it. I don't care what the answer is!) And what do you mean that there's no big difference in room size and amenities? Do you mean among the existing B&B's you're talking about or between them and what you envision for you? If the latter, think again. You have the chance to blow the socks off the competition. Why be the same? (Other than providing the amenities your area requires.)

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Where you need to go to get this information is to your county tourism office.  They most likely receive the Smith Travel Research report for your area.  This will provide you with the occupancy % for your county accommodations - combined.  In fact, I would ask for a years worth of data so it would provide you with information when you can determine your high and your low seasons. 

Do not bank on what you see on the availability calendars for all the reasons listed already.  For some reason there is a B&B near me that has Webervations on her site but it NEVER shows occupancy....all rooms always available.  Now I know for a fact that she has bookings but to just look at her site you would think her occupancy was 0%. 

As far as what priced rooms book first...in my case it changes depending on the time of year.  Lately, it is our least expensive booking first - could it be the economy, the time of year, the reason for the visit.  One thing is mostly contant in my area - business travelers are looking for reasonable accommodations - per diem while a romantic getaway will book the best room possible. 

egoodell's picture
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 Our higher priced suite always books first. Whirlpool tub.

Riki

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I agree with the other comments as well....

Speaking as a relatively new start-up myself, your initial occupancy will not (generally speaking) be as high as the established B&Bs in your area.  People have to start finding you!  Even with a professional web site, the right marketing, and good reviews...it will take awhile. 

I had a guest tell me a while ago that they thought that we were closed when they went on line & it appeared that all rooms were booked, and they knew that we were new.  In fact, all rooms were booked by guests!!  Assumptions are not good in this business

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seashanty's picture
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my most popular rooms were the most expensive rooms ... i was able to charge more for those rooms because they were so popular

i blocked off rooms sometimes when i had no help and was too spent to clean eight rooms.  i blocked off a room and the one beside it when we had to repair floor tiles in a guest bathroom.  i blocked off rooms when i had someone innsit so i could attend first a graduation and then a wedding. i even blocked off rooms here and there when i first opened so it would seem i had guests (i had NONE)  but it worked out fine because i took walk-ins. 

JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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 PS this is why I do not have a week or 2 week calendar unless we are super busy.  I know it is a pet peeve of some, but I do nto want this big span of dates to appear on the rooms with so much availability.  Guests needs to put in the date and see what is open for those dates.  In season I will put the weekly or monthly avail chart up.

JunieBJones (JBJ)'s picture
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 Why would you look at their avail calendar for occupancy?  The only person who can tell you their occup is the innkeeper themselves, and they won't, that is their business.  

  1. don't assume they keep it updated
  2. don't assume they don't have grandkids visiting over the holidays
  3. closed off a room for reno's
  4. a long term business guest
  5. blocked them off just because they feel like it

 I am going on holidays and blocked it off.  

swirt's picture
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Here is another thread where this topic came up.  http://www.innspiring.com/node/614

In general I lean toward giving potential guests the info they need to make decisions.

Morticia's picture
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It's a tough one. Around here, in season, I'd say it's a very good indicator. Off season? Anything goes! Vacation, down time, repairs, room to hard to heat, etc.

However, I do know one innkeeper here who uses the avail chart to figure out all of our incomes for the year. It's one of the negs to having online avail that your comp knows all.

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Lots of variables here and you have to consider you will be a new start up. So you numbers won't be comparable at the beginning.  On average, and I do say average...Occupancy is about 40% for B & B's.  And I would not trust on line availablity calendars to give you that information. We always blocked out days we were closed, on vacation, or just didn't want to take guests...so you would assume by looking at our on line calendar we were full...WRONG...DON't ASSUME.

gillumhouse's picture
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Availability depends on many factors. Season - is it high season or low for one.

If I am going away, I just block everything on my calendar. Sometimes rooms are blocked for renovations. Most times for actual guest reservations. Usually for guest reservations I hope for my inn.

What is important what that much variation (IMO) is what are the differences in the inns? Location? Amenities? Packages? Facility?  Rates?You have to look beyond calendar. My most expensive room books first - it has the private bath! I have heard many inns say their most expensive rioom books first.

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