Google Maps has some really neat features that lodging facilities can use and leverage, giving added value to guests (for free) http://maps.google.com/
You don’t need to be a programmer to create a custom Google map, just a few minutes of your time (yes I know time and innkeepers are in short supply, but think guest added value) or bribe a local high school student to do this with some munchies as an alternative.
Create a new account with: https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount?continue=http%3A%2F%2Fmaps.google.com%2F%3Fie%3DUTF8%26ll%3D37.0625%2C-95.677068%26spn%3D30.957823%2C54.492188%26z%3D4&hl=en&service=local or if you already have any type of Google related account, gmail, blogger, etc you can log in using that information at: https://www.google.com/accounts/Login?hl=en&continue=http%3A%2F%2Fmaps.google.com%2F%3Fie%3DUTF8%26ll%3D37.0625%2C-95.677068%26spn%3D30.957823%2C54.492188%26z%3D4&service=local
Sign in to and to the left side create a new map. You can create as many custom maps as you would like and they can also be imbedded into your website and other online applications including your blogs and the links can be used for emailing information as well.
Instructions and help can be found here if needed: http://maps.google.com/support/bin/static.py?page=guide.cs&guide=21670&topic=21676
Have a guest that would like to know where all the restaurants or quilt shops are in the area? E-mail them your map link.
You can create customized guest itineraries based on criteria that guests give you.
Have a couple staying for a three day weekend? They like antiquing, wine tasting and rare books. Create a map for them of local places to stop. Within Google Maps you can ask general queries like “restaurants, Salem MA and it will list the ones in the area, pick and choose which ones to add to your new map.
You can offer this as a free service to your guests or perhaps they are new guests and you have gathered this information over the phone or they are repeat guests that you have a file on, spend 5 or 10 minutes creating a custom map for them and have a loyal guest for life. In the age of try to discount everything to attract guests, consider that most guests want added value instead.
Some suggestions for custom maps:
- Wineries and/or Breweries
- Ski Areas downhill
- Snowshoe and cross country places and trails
- Snowmobile trails
- Bike Trails
- Hiking trails (starting points and ending points)
- Antique shops
- Dog Friendly places
- Farmers Markets
- Geocaching locations
- You have a bride coming to stay, mark ceremony spots
- Museums and Cultural Areas
- Things to do on a rainy day
- Boat launches, including kayak/canoe access
- Kids stuff including locations of local creamy stands and yes, MickyDs and kid friendly dining (delis, pizza places etc)
- Amenities (hair stylists, massage, etc)
- Hidden gems in the area (this might be one you reserve for email only)
For bikers, create a custom map with key points around your area, marking good safe roads for biking along with good stopping areas. You can mark roads by grade as well (different colors and markers are available) This can be done for hikers, cross country skiers and snowmobilers as well. Keep in mind Google maps lets you create lines on the map, so you can outline roads and trails.
A couple of samples of using custom maps for guests: http://www.highlandlakeinn.com/id38.htm and https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=114519601483977833210.000457a481352db13a284&z=10 and https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=218434813508835631806.000472a0bed52fd43b827 and https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=218434813508835631806.0004729fbe82dfc36e87b
Update: shortly after I wrote this, one of my newsletters came in and I saw on twitter as well that Google had released Maps for Cyclists http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/google-maps-adds-directions-for-cylists/
Lodging Marketing: https://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/marketing-for-lodging-resources/
Restaurant Operations: https://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/restauranting/