Statistically for every new B&B that opens, two close, plus a combination of the threat of Airbnb, an aging innkeeper population, and the fact that innkeeping as a profession is not something most people (and more importantly millennials) are thinking about as an actual career option. More inns are going on the market than have buyers for them currently.
Lets address B&Bs closing first, Airbnb is definitely a contributor to that, but not the primary fault, the population of people getting into as a second or third profession, and who have owned their B&Bs for years and want to get out is also a major factor in closing rates. Being an Innkeeper is not sadly looked at as a “I want to be one when I get out of college” option to most.
As I go through state by state doing research, I am finding some rather startling statistics, many of which I think are sadly contributing to the closing of B&Bs as well.
Issues with B&Bs
- The average room rate is about $135 per room (well above Airbnb rates even with the added fees) so they are not being competitive. I know B&Bs feel they should not lower their rates, but some may want to consider looking at their occupancy and then their individual room occupancy through the year month by month. The room(s) that get least rented, i.e. have shared bathrooms or are small etc, perhaps consider re-evaluating those rates, if the room has a low occupancy overall anyway how can it hurt? A head in a bed is worth money vs none at all.
- Over 60% of B&Bs have old outdated websites that are not mobile friendly, and another 22% have newer websites done in WordPress that are not responsive/adaptive, and don’t have a mobile friendly alternative site. (With more than 50%+ of people looking for lodging on mobile that’s a huge issue. There are some alternatives both for websites and mobile alternative options, if people don’t want, or in many cases can’t, afford to do a new site with a professional B&B website designer.)
- 86% of B&Bs don’t do packages or specials.
- Only 8% are doing email newsletters, which is a huge fail as email marketing is huge.
- 62% of B&Bs have no social media presence whatsoever.
- Of the 28% of B&Bs that do use social media, 12% of them have completely abandoned their social media profiles, but still list them on their website by way of links or icons. From a guest’s standpoint looking at an inn’s social media for the first time and debating a booking, that doesn’t look good. If you are going to abandon them, fine, just don’t advertise you have it. Interestingly enough, about 8% use social media but DON’T have links from their website to their social media accounts.
- Over 40% of B&Bs that do participate online (out of the 28% above) are lazy with their posts on social media. Promoting a special offer on their website and posting it to Facebook (fantastic!) Posting it with a link directly to the B&Bs home page instead of the page its supposed to reference with more information on it about the package itself (not so fantastic).
- 54% have not claimed their Tripadvisor listing and 63% have not responded to Tripadvisor reviews. Apparently some people just don’t care what’s said about them online, even if it’s losing them business………………….
- 78% have not claimed their Google Maps/local listings and more than 80% have not responded to Google reviews. See comment above…………
- I am currently working on statistics for how many B&Bs have claimed their Yelp listings, but at a semi-wild guess based on the number of B&Bs I’ve looked for on Yelp, I would guess it’s a rather small percentage that have claimed them. This is important because as the millennials become more of player in being guests/potential guests, I foresee they are more likely to post a review on Yelp than on Tripadvisor. Yelp also ranks high for SEO, so claiming and optimizing the listing (free, don’t go for the paid) is good for SEO even if there are no reviews on it.
- Many B&Bs are doing very little actual marketing with the exception of being listed on a state tourism website (generally at little or no cost).
I know innkeeping is a full-time job, but just like any other business you have to market it. Just because innkeepers work more hours a week/month/year than the average person isn’t an excuse.
Many B&Bs, especially ones with outdated sites with some god awful pictures are just relying on their website to make the phone ring and bookings to come in. If the site has tiny dark blurry photos (which many of the older ones do, a little collection curated yesterday from some sites below) vs well taken large format shots (like above), it goes without saying that guests are going to book at the ones with the nice photos.
If you can’t afford to hire a pro photographer, ask some photography students from the local college to come by for their portfolios, or a local starving professional photographer and tell them you’ll give them web credit and a link to their site, or take your smart phone and snap some new pictures, heaven knows they have to be an improvement on some of the sites I’ve seen lately. My biggest cringe? Brand new WordPress sites with bad, dated, old, dark blurry photos. Seriously?
An additional issue is many newer sites are not optimized with calls to action (book now) or are not laid out well, or more importantly link to reservation systems that are not user-friendly, and even worse not mobile friendly. If your website is mobile friendly, but your reservation links and booking capability is not, you probably (certainly) have a fairly high abandonment rate. Studies have shown huge abandonment rates in the booking process across the board. Have you tried to book your own B&B on your mobile phone? Have you? Is it easy? If not, you may want to revisit.
One in approximately thirty B&Bs has a web request form for contacting them (no email because they still believe that spammers scour the web filching email addresses) so unless you want to call directly (and some don’t even have phone numbers on them at all to contact) they are relying on contact forms for reservations or questions. Of the ones with contact forms, many don’t actually work (I’ve tested many from the front end and the back), so innkeepers may not even be aware they are missing out on potential bookings. If you have a contact form, when was the last time you actually tested it? And if you have, do you still test it once a month or more? Especially if it’s based on a WordPress plugin, is your plugin up to date, or even supported by new versions of WordPress? Check please!
Many B&Bs have auto-responders for their email that are unprofessional with odd fonts (Comic Sans in Pink for example), brusque language, misspellings or I come across this frequently, vacation or away notifications that are months old or even in a few cases more than a year old (a topic for another blog post). What are your auto-responders saying about you as a business? Do you even know?
Suggestions for B&Bs to address.
- Be proactive in your marketing. This is common sense, but I see many innkeepers waiting for the phone to ring instead of actively going after guests and potential guests online and offline. Yes I know there is only so much time in the day. Make time, it’s the difference between surviving and going under. If you feel overwhelmed, make a checklist, and tackle one small thing a week. Most of the items I listed don’t have to be and are not time-consuming to do. How long to check that your page links work? = 10 minutes. How long to check to see if your social media links A. work and B. are up to date (or not) and you should remove? = 5 seconds. Optimizing your Yelp listing? = 5 minutes or less. How long to check your auto-responder? = 2 minutes or less. Break it into bits.
- How to compete with Airbnb? List your inn and tweak the listing to appeal. There are a ton of helpful articles out there on how to make your listing stand out. Use them! And beyond that, up your customer service quota. What does a real B&B offer that an Airbnb host does not? Professionalism! Awesome Breakfasts! Terrific Hospitality! Safety! Cleanliness! and the list goes on…………leverage it!
- Go through the list I highlighted, are you doing all the things you should (or shouldn’t?) Look at your marketing or lack of marketing from a guest’s standpoint? All of it! From checking links working on your website to responding to guest’s reviews. None of this is rocket science, but look at the statistics above and see where you need to do some homework and spiffing up. If most of those are good to go, that’s fantastic, but check! Don’t rely on a guest to tell you that your request for booking on your non-mobile friendly website isn’t user-friendly, they won’t, they will just book elsewhere.