Monday, February 7, 2011

Bed&Breakfast and the development of the Internet

I am getting exciting updates from LinkedIn, the group of  "Hotel Marketing + Distribution + Revenue Management ". The recent post was from Seth's Blog, something about the best customers. Scrolling down to January, 18, a post about Internet attracted my attention. The thought of how does the Internet develop in the case of small hotel businesses came up. Are those stages realised and used by modern inn-keepers?

Here is the model called "Nethierarchy".
Nethierarchy
Seth Godin suggests to start "reading" it from the bottom up.

Email is especially useful and most often used. Though it is an "asynchronous person to person connection", it is still commonly used by most of the B&B owners. Having worked in a B&B myself, I know how it goes. Most of the requests came by email. Although it makes a visibility of personal communication, it is not. Email messages are, to my opinion, mostly far too short to express any feelings (a lot of B&B want to be personal in their communication with their guests), and far too rarely used as such. Although I liked to add "You are welcome" and "We will be glad to see you", I know that those, working before me, have never done that. Another backdraw of the email, is time. My mother had to order a room recently. She mailed to a number of small hotels, and guess what, she was really irritated by necessity to wait for an answer for two of three days! And after all, she just called (to another hotel) and booked a room.

I am not sure about forums and threads being even used by inn-keepers. The only way that comes up to my mind is the feedback sites like TripAdvisor og Igougo, where one can actually reply to threads, but that rarely leads to conversations. The smart way to do it, is to go, lets say, to TripAdvisor Forum and start answering the appropriate questions. It takes time. And it takes an affort not to start advertising your hotel there. The posts should never look like a commercial.

Complex content creation - that is familiar to most of us. Talking about web-sites. Nowadays it is extremely important to have a web-representation of your business. The problem is that not everyone takes it seriously. How many times have I bounced against user-unfriendly and totally uninformative web-pages that simply scare potential customers. Think about your guests, where do they come from (which language the web-site must be in), age (are those over 60 able to find and read the information?), interests (can they find activities around, family facilities etc), and so on.

Shopping on Internet has become popular. How do the hotel-owners use it? The most common way I saw it, is putting a "Send a request" scheme on the web-site. The best way is to use a booking system with interface integrated into the web-site, but this one is the most costly one, used by most hotel-chains and of course hard to implement into the reality of small B&B. What to do? Join OTA (online travel agencies) like Expedia of Booking.com? Is it worth is?

The social graph is something we got when Facebook came to our lives. Although we have always had networks - people we surround us with, their friends, friends of their friends, and so on. With Facebook it just became visible and now one can actually trace others' aquaintancies (take LinkedIn and its connections). In the case of small-hotel businesses, that is the part that had been used before Internet, and must be used further. Reccommendations from the customers have always been the best way to get new guests to any B&B. Facebook just made it easier. Does your B&B have a facebook group?

Last but not the least - the "real time". Have you known that modern technologies are able to connect anyone to anything in real time? I am not talking of mobile phones and tablets which are being discussed by Mr. Godin. I am talking about reccomender systems, online booking engines, well yes, mobile booking ad information requests. The customer today does not want to loose time (remember my mother?), he or she wants to get all the information, confirmation and sometimes even pay at once, to have the security that all is arranged, and there is no need to think about it any more. Time is money, as never before.

The original article you can find by clicking on the link: One way to look at the internet, mobile, web and tablets

1 comment:

Bed and Breakfast Team said...

Concerning what was said in this article. Recently we have sent more than 600 e-mails to B&B's (taken from an oficial tourist guide), and about 100 e-mail addresses do not work! This makes the situation look even worse, since even the oldest amd simplest way of the Internet use is out of picture for more than 10% of the businesses. And I do not mention those in the guide who do not even have e-mail.