How Bed and Breakfasts spot 3 opportunities for growth

In this article, I’m speaking specifically to small to medium sized hospitality business owners, where an intimate experience including interacting with the owner/manager/team members are some of the reasons guests are booking.  I call this “personality and emotionally driven hospitality”.  It’s not a well known term.  I made it up!   It describes the kind of experience smaller establishments have the power to offer, if they choose to.

If you run a larger property, offering a more generic, anonymous experience, you’ll need a different strategy, and that’s for another day.

Truth is, size doesn’t matter.  Who you are and who you want to attract does.

A recent survey discovered some discrepancies between what hotels think guests want and what they actually do want:

More and more travellers are looking for an “enhancing perspective” which means expanding their horizons on life, “liberation” which means freedom from their normal thinking patterns (doing something they don’t normally do) and “relationships” which means getting to know other humans.

As small to medium sized operators, we can really capitalise on the needs of the traveller.

To understand how we can do this, we need to go back to the good old days….

I opened my B&B in France in 2000 when there was no internet.  We spent a fortune on the renovations, beds, furnishings etc. and then opened the doors and waited.  We listed with the local tourist office and collaborated with other operators in the area.

We didn’t do any marketing, apart from producing some glossy brochures (huge expense) and distributing them in local restaurants, champagne producers etc.

But the biggest thing to notice here is that it was a strategy based on “hope” and it looked like this:

How to run a bed and breakfast

Then the internet arrived and everything changed.

We now had the power to talk to people we didn’t know, on our computers!

The challenge is that not many people have been taught how to do this effectively, and so they end up not doing it at all, or with poor results.

Enter the online travel agents

They spotted a huge opportunity and they positioned themselves between potential guests and the hotels and now they do the marketing for thousands of properties around the world and charge a commission for doing it

WOW! Wish I’d thought of it!

So the business model really hasn’t changed for the hotel, except that instead of “opening their doors” and hoping, they are listing with a gazillion online travel agents and waiting.

The internet is for everyone, not just the online travel agents.

We can’t deny that they bring bookings, but they should not be a long term strategy.  It’s just too expensive, and those commissions are never going to go down.

There’s also a kind of psychological grip involved, because you know that they can change the rules or even delist you at any moment and there isn’t a single thing you can do about it

Just because they bring bookings, doesn’t mean we can absolve ourselves of our responsibility to give guests what they’re looking for

Switching up your business model to the new 21st century model will change your life (and your business)

Here’s the model I have been using since 2010 when my little B&B suddenly became the only source of income for my family, and I had to transform it quickly from a hobby into a proper business.  I now help my clients to implement it in their businesses:

how to run a bed and breakfast

In this model, instead of relying on third parties to bring you guests, you or your team take responsibility, and reduce the commissions to boot.  You’ll also find a new power within yourself when you do this.  I’ve seen it so many times with my clients.

To make this model work for you, there are three crucial systems you need to have in place, and these systems represent 3 missed opportunities I see in hospitality all too often.

Missed opportunity #1

In order to position yourself apart from your competition and charge more, which is definitely where you need to be, you’ll need to think deeply about your guests needs.

  • Why are they coming to your area?
  • Why are they choosing to stay at your property?
  • What do they most ask about?
  • What are you/your team able to talk about with some degree of authority?

In order words, could you become a specialist – just a little bit?

Specialists always get paid more than generalists in any market.  Can you position yourself and your property as a specialist in something?  This doesn’t mean turning anyone away, but it does mean that those guests who are looking for what you have/know will magically be drawn to you.  You become an “expert in the eyes of your guests”.

The side benefit is that you, your guests and everyone involved will have that deeper, life enhancing and relational experience that travellers are now looking for, and you’ll have a lot more fun

Missed opportunity #2

Take responsibility for building a relationship with your booked in guests BEFORE they arrive.  This serves several purposes:

  • Once you’ve established trust, you can offer them more of your products and services before they arrive. This means you can plan ahead if you have a restaurant, spa, sports activities, tours, excursions etc, rather than waiting until your guests arrive and your team are too busy at the reception to give this and them the attention it needs
  • You’ll massively reduce cancellations, because your guests will be dying to meet you and your team and stay at your hotel and experience what you offer
  • You will have built emotional loyalty with your incoming guests that hardly anyone else bothers to do. This will set you far and away apart from your “competition” meaning you won’t need to worry about what everyone else is charging
  • You’ll get more rave reviews, referrals and repeat business – and who doesn’t want more of that?

Missed opportunity #3

If you’re sending out monthly newsletters filled with flashy pictures, a million things to click on and text about how wonderful your hotel is, and wondering why you get little or no response, then here’s the good news

Even though that used to work in the good old days, it doesn’t work anymore because although we might think we’re giving people choices, too much choice confuses people and a confused person never buys.  Less is more.

Here’s what you can do instead:

  • Create a compelling offer for your past guests to return. Just one.
  • Have a clear call to action.
  • Have a start and end date to your offer – this teaches people that they have to act if they want it
  • Follow up – once is never enough
  • Test and measure and use the data to create your next offer

This will require a bit of education around what your guests can expect from you, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t produce immediate results, but that’s no reason to give up.  Keep going with this strategy until you get good data about what works and what doesn’t.  Every property and their guests are different.

These are the fundamentals for ANY business, not just hospitality, but are so often overlooked, especially in hospitality where most owners are focussed on their comfortable beds, delicious breakfasts, stunning views instead of the human need for connection

All those are good, but none of it will mean anything if you don’t have your systems in place and the technology to deliver

This presents massive opportunity for anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone and implement.

Don’t let these opportunities pass YOU by

Yvonne 😉


Yvonne Halling helps passionate bed and breakfasts, guest houses, inns and small hotels to reduce commissions to online travel agents, attract more direct bookings, fill rooms in the slow season and charge more.   Pick up her free report “Make More Work Less While Adding Huge Value to Your Guests (and your bank account) by CLICKING HERE