Bed and Breakfast websites: Part 1

Bed and Breakfast

So, you are running a B&B

There are a multitude of reasons why you might decide to buy an existing Bed & Breakfast business or start your own from scratch. Assuming you do all the required due diligence regarding location, market segment, seasonality factors, prevailing and predicted economic landscape and 101 more things – you should be right, yeah?

Well one of the most overlooked aspects is whether you, as an individual or perhaps a couple as a team have the required attributes to give the business venture the best chance of success. More than likely you are:

  • Adept at handling the pressure of self-employment and possibly staff,
  • Content to complete mundane tasks regularly,
  • Skilled at multitasking (stay with me men),
  • Comfortable in interacting with a range of personalities,
  • Are an enthusiastic advocate for your local area and love being in hospitality.

But is loving what you do enough?

Probably not unless you are independently wealthy and running the B&B is really just a lifestyle choice. But for everyone else, there needs to be fundamental viability based on the quality of your accommodation, an active visitor stream, good businesses processes including a focus on the customer experience and 3rd-party support for the things that you can’t do yourself.

The goal of any business is to be profitable. In hospitality, delivering an exceptional guest experience is the ‘product’ rather than just the rooms and breakfast. Getting this right will make you more popular, leading to return stays and referrals leading to profit with the right management and strategy. To make this a reality, and achieve a steady revenue income, you have to attract bookings.

Things you need to be doing regularly.

Understand who your ideal customers are.
Trying to appeal to all travellers will be costly and ineffective. If you’ve been running your B&B for a while you will have data on what type of people have stayed with you. Who are they? Where do they come from? How did they find you, Why did they choose you? What did they do while they were there? Some of the visitor markets include: honeymooners, families, eco-tourists, business people, special interest groups, budget conscious and luxury seekers. What market(s) does your location, your room standards, your food quality and your facilities best suit? Review, analyse the niche down and target those people in the places they hang out online.

Understand your market position.
Similar to understanding your target market, having a clear knowledge of your own property will assist in getting the right people to your place and avoid marketing to people who don’t suit what you have. Things to consider are:

  • Unique aspects of your property – what does your place have that no other B&B in your area has. Being able to stand out is crucial, especially in a crowded market.
  • Seasonality – is your geographic location favourable only in Summer or Winter? What can you do to overcome seasonality? i.e. appeal to warm-weather visitors if you run a alpine chalet?

Synergise with other local businesses.
Think about packaging stays with other local services. Talk to local restaurants about evening meal packages you can offer to your visitors in return for cross promotion. Or, tour companies who operate in your area as well as coffee shops, supermarkets and speciality stores who benefit from you bringing outside money into town. Ideally, all local businesses should be working together to grow their market.

Encourage and act on visitor feedback.
Always ask your visitors for reviews and use the good ones in your marketing. Even negative feedback can be extremely valuable when you seek to understand what the problem was. Often it’s a case of perception not meeting reality. The visitor was expecting something that was not delivered. Use this to analyse how your marketing assets such as brochures, advertising and your website are conveying realistic experiences.

Establish, display and review your policies.
Write, check and publish your policies and make them visible and easily accessible. This should be done during the booking process, during check-in and be available in-room. Policies, depending on your jurisdiction could include: safety, no-smoking, pets, minors, noise, refunds, check-in/outs and damages. Consider getting legal advice on these policies and the wider legislative requirements of running a hospitality business in your local area.

Get professional accountancy services.
Engaging the services of a qualified accountant is essential. They will keep an eye on your assets, liabilities, income, expenses, cash flow and balance sheet and taxation. Your chosen accountant will also advise on what system works best for your business to reduce the complexity of transaction tracking.

When getting ‘booked’ is a good thing.

Firstly, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) such as Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Hotels Combined et al. These organisations play a major role in how people find places they want to stay and provide a service to accept and process bookings on behalf of accommodation properties who sign up for their service. In return for this service they levy commissions which are deducted from the amount paid by the visitor. In Australia, Booking.com for instance, charge 12%. In late 2018 there was a significant revolt led by Dick Smith  on behalf of the hospitality providers. Some reform has been made but not enough particularly in regard to what prices providers can offer on their own websites.

Travel search engines such as Trivago have also jumped in on the scene but they charge the OTA’s on a per click basis for bookings made from their site. While free for the providers, the costs are no doubt being passed on by the OTA’s.

The reality is that B&Bs need to be found and until legislation changes or something else comes along they need to be involved with the OTA’s. All the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the world won’t be enough to push your website ranking to the top above the multinational OTA’s. Even paid Google Ads might not achieve the result and the bid price would be astronomical. However, the drive for a larger slice of direct bookings is a worthwhile pursuit, and there are some options.

Having a well designed Google My Business listing should be the first thing if not already in place. You may not appear high in the search results section but your business listing which includes a link to your website should appear on the right-hand side column.

Popular online Reservation Software options.

There are hundreds of these types of services to choose from but they generally have a common core set of must have functionalities including a ‘Channel Manager’ or linked to the Tourism Exchange Australia (TXA) which ensures that all booking sites across the internet are synchronised to avoid double-bookings.

Channelmanager.com.au – is an Australian-based site updater, booking engine, virtual credit card and front office system, 
all in one user-friendly cloud-based system that can be accessed from any device for your convenience.
 View their website for more information and pricing.

Cloudbeds – is designed to improve the lives of independent property owners including, but not limited to, hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, inns, vacation rentals, apartments, campgrounds and more.
View their website for more information and pricing.

Little Hotelier – an all-in-one reservation and accommodation management system specifically thought about, designed and built for Bed and Breakfasts, Guest Houses and Small Hotels; helping hospitality business owners and managers play the web professionally, saving on time and resource.
View their website for more information and pricing

The Booking Button – Independent hotels or hotel groups, that are looking bring more guests through online reach seeking technology that provides cost effective solutions to attract, and convert guests.
View their website for more information and pricing

V3travel – is part of the large Tourism Exchange Australia distribution network (as opposed to Channel Manager). They support both ‘on-account’ (typically the OTA’s) and ‘payment direct’ distributors (over 150 organisations). V3travel enables you to sell ‘real-time’ on as many distribution channels as you choose.
View their website for more information and pricing.

In Part 2 we’ll be outlining some strategies to get more direct bookings on your B&B website.

Bookings can also be offered and taken on Social Media platforms. Once you identify your target market and work out they are active on Facebook or Instagram, for instance, you can attract them to your page and show a prominent BOOK NOW button.

Time for a change?

Web design trends change very rapidly so it doesn't take long for your B&B site to start looking 'a bit last year' (or worse!)

Refreshing the design can significantly improve your online presence and boost your revenue.

Find out if it’s time to revisit and improve your B&B website.

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