B&Bs, What Does Your COVID Messaging Say? (or Not Say)

Covid Pop-up box example
COVID is an issue with lodging, whether you believe it is a real threat or not. Studies by industry experts have shown that a large majority of people traveling take it seriously and are concerned for the cleanliness and sanitation of a facility.

Recent news highlights that many hotels and homestays as well are not paying attention to standards even though they tout they are.

Where does this leave other legal lodging properties?

It leaves us with a golden opportunity to capture the market of people who are leery of traveling and are very concerned for their safety. While most B&Bs and other lodging properties are making a point somewhere on their websites of mentioning what they are doing to keep guests safe, Some are not. That needs to be fixed, especially if your property is implementing additional safety standards. Your potential guests won’t take the time to inquire, they will just go elsewhere.

Pop-up box exampleI did want to point out some things I am seeing that can be improved and adjusted with many of the properties that ARE advertising what they are doing. One of the biggest pitfalls I am seeing is the use of pop-up boxes. Pop-up boxes are great, I love pop-ups, BUT not so great for advertising what you are doing for cleaning and safety standards if that is the ONLY place you are letting guests know about it. I am seeing a lot of properties have these boxes, but nowhere else on their site are they talking about the additional steps they are taking.

As a guest, I may (or may not) bother to read the popup, once it’s closed, it’s gone. What if I have questions? What if I did want to now read it but now can’t do so because I’ve closed the pop-up? I am not going to search and I probably won’t bother to inquire, I’ll go elsewhere. I’d add the pop-up boxes that go on for over a page, the ones with the fancy script that’s impossible to read and the text that’s font size 6 where even with a magnifying glass it’s hard to read as ones that are not helping to properly let guests know what your property is doing. 2 out of every 3 properties with pop-ups only have the information on the pop-up. I’ve been tracking this as I look at dozens of property websites a week.

As a guest, and in normal times I am one frequently, I want to know what a property is doing to keep me safe. If I had to travel now, I would definitely stay in a B&B, with the caveat that I can find easily what the property is doing to keep me (and other guests, and themselves) as safe as possible.

While I do agree we don’t want to go overboard, think of how a guest or potential guest views your site to potentially make a reservation (looking at your Google Analytics would help as well), they land on your home page (and may not scroll down below the fold if that is where you have your safety information listed). Where else if anywhere is your safety information listed? Is it a separate page? Do people know to go there, ie is it under the same drop-down tab as your rooms? Does it have a brief mention on your rooms pages or your policies page or your reservations platform? Have you posted about it on Facebook or other social media? How many times? If it was only once, how about mentioning it every few weeks? Have you taken advantage of Tripadvisors ability to let guests know what you are doing additionally? What about Yelp? What about your Google My Business listings?

If your property is taking the extra time and added expense to enhance your cleaning and safety standards, please let your guests know about it. They want reassurance and you can advertise that you care, but you need to let them know you do in ways they will actually see and remember.

Instagram from the Web, Web Hacks for Innkeepers

A highway with the Words "The easy way" and an arrow pointing upIf you just want the Instagram hack, skip to the bottom links 🙂

I’ll be the first one to admit, I’m not terribly fond of Instagram, one of the primary reasons being it’s smartphone-based, and I really don’t like my cell phone much. 

To me it’s useful, it’s a tool I use for taking bad pictures (an iPhone 6 doesn’t take the best photos), getting texts from family and a few friends (mostly because I don’t give the number out much) and to check email in a pinch. Oh and I also use it a lot for Google maps and navigation.

What I don’t want is to be tied to it 24/7 like so many of my friends and family are, checking the damn thing several dozen times per hour. I am already on a computer working 12+ hours a day usually. Downtime is a good book, not checking Pinterest boards or scrolling through social media feeds. 

One of the other reasons I am not fond of Instagram and this from a purely marketing perspective as well as a time perspective, is most of the photos I have are desktop-based or I take photos with a digital SLR camera, which I love, and so most photos end up on my main computer. To post anything to Instagram by smartphone I would have to transfer them by connector cord or digitally and that seems like a waste of time, add in the fact that I have a million thumbs and it takes me 5 minutes to type in a text message in the first place, Instagram is not my fave rave.

About a year and half ago I came across a blog post talking about using Instagram from the web and was overjoyed, a way around having to post by phone! The hack was only for Google Chrome and I’ve been showing other people how to do it since then. It came up recently asking if I knew if you could post via computer with other browsers and I was not aware of how to but supposed you probably could.

With that in mind. I messed around online a bit and I found you can post with Firefox and Microsoft Edge. I would imagine you can with a Mac, but I don’t have one to test it on but did find this, if this is current enough and works, if anyone tries it please let me know. https://www.howtogeek.com/howto/12663/view-mobile-websites-in-windows-with-safari-4-developer-tools/ . I did not try it on Microsoft Explorer because quite frankly Explorer is not the safest browser and if you are still using it I’d encourage a switch to pretty much any other one out there.

Using Instagram from the web does have downsides, you can’t post videos, you can’t save drafts and you don’t have access to many of the bell and whistle options in the back-end of mobile-based Instagram and you can’t run ads on it unless you are doing it connected to Facebook. The plus side is you can set up an Instagram account this way, set up your profile, add a profile picture, follow people, comment and like posts and direct message people, PLUS you can post pictures directly to Instagram from a desktop/laptop-based browser. 

If you do want some options for scheduling Instagram posts and keep in mind I get biased by price (I prefer free) but I also don’t like software that glitches easily or often or customer support that is non-existent or takes forever to get back to you (Hello Facebook!). So with that in mind……

Buffer (Free and Paid)-I LOVE Buffer

Later (Free and Paid)-tried it more than a few times, glitched quite a bit

Hootsuite (Free and Paid)-tried it more than a few times, glitched quite a bit and I find the interface not the friendliest

Tailwind (Paid)-very good for Instagram and Pinterest

Posting cheat sheets in PDF:

Instagram from a web browser in Firefox

Instagram from a web browser in Google Chrome

Instagram from a web browser in Microsoft Edge

Have fun! And if you are a Bed and Breakfast reading this, don’t forget you can participate in the ALP Better Way to Stay Get Heads In Beds Initiative starting May 1, 2020. More information at https://betterwaytostay.com/campaign/

 

Keeping Your Sanity During the Covid-19 Crisis and Have a Good Laugh

Two people on a couch laughing at computerThis has nothing to with innkeeping or restaurants but it might be helpful to anyone who is experiencing sadness, depression or just, in general, being down in the dumps.

That, unfortunately, would be most of us right now, whether out of work, working at home or being stretched to the max and wishing they had invented cloning machines already (that would be me currently).

Ironically I’ve written more blog posts in the last few weeks then I have in months, writing even badly is therapy apparently when I’m stressed.

I count myself lucky that I belong to three Toastmasters groups who meet frequently and am welcome at thousands more clubs around the world as we all moved to virtual online meetings for a while. I get to see familiar faces, interact with them and generally have some fun and it’s excellent to do that but isn’t necessarily fulfilling my full need to interact and socialize with friends. I’m not a social butterfly but there are people I like to get together with and have a good laugh in an unstructured environment.

Last week was my papa-san’s birthday and while all of were social distancing, it’s not like we could go sing him a happy birthday, some relatives and I got on Zoom with him and did so, and then chatted for quite a while, and laughed and then went off on a tangent about science fiction (because we are all fans). What was supposed to be a half hourish call turned into almost 2 hours. I felt pretty good after that.

Today as I went to post some things on a client’s Facebook page, I see my aunt’s posted a meme, one which I can’t resist. “What’s your Dragon name: Your name backwards + the current mood + Hoarder of (the last thing you ate) and (item to your left)” and then I started to read the comments, *jane*The Frustrated Hoarder of,*jane*the Stressed Hoarder of,*john* the Anxious Hoarder of,*jane*the pissed off Hoarder of ,*john*the sad Hoarder of, *john*the tired Hoarder of etc and I “know” people are stressed, upset, stir crazy but for some reason that just hit home even more than usual.

Two people on a couch laughing at computerAfter the couple of weeks I’ve had, I said, “I need a laugh, badly” and posted on my personal page “Who’s online and wants to get together for a quick Zoom call and share a funny video together and laugh. I need a laugh right now. Direct Message me and will share my Zoom link”.

I only had a couple of people see the post and take me up it on but we watched a Carol Burnett Blooper reel on Youtube, together for 10 minutes and LAUGHED together. While I don’t feel 100% better (that would probably take some heavy-duty valium and a nice long Barbados vacation with lots of pina coladas at this point) I DID feel a damn sight better then I did before that.

Not everyone has webcams but most people do have smartphones, make a date with a couple of friends or a group of people and don’t talk (introductions maybe) and find some funny videos on Youtube or Facebook that you can screen share together and just laugh together. Use Zoom or some other application that works for you.

We are going to do it at least once daily and maybe more because laughter truly is the best medicine and seeing and more importantly HEARING someone else laugh is even more contagious then Covid-19 and that’s a good thing. Go forth and socialize and LAUGH!

Working towards future heads in beds

A followup post to Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You for Innkeepers.

I’ve had many innkeepers ask if I could give some additional ideas for what to post online on social media beyond the above idea, so here goes…

Well, let’s see, posting to get people to make a reservation for most inns and B&Bs is pretty much a given that it’s not going to help right now unfortunately 🙁

So….what is an innkeeper to do? Here we have a captive audience of people at home, many using social media quite a bit more than normal, what do we post…..

You can certainly post soft-sell posts, which reference your inn, people staying or coming to stay at your inn and upcoming events. But there is quite a bit more you could consider doing. The key is getting your name, your brand and your B&B in front of the eyes now.

  • What you are doing or going to do in the community to help. I know several B&Bs that have volunteered to help batch cook for soup kitchens. What can you or will you do to help. People love seeing people help the community and helping will come back in spades.
  • Testimonials and reviews from past guests.
  • Recipes you make normally (with lots of pictures) tie some quotes from past reviews in there too.
  • If you are learning a new skill or more “about “something (highly recommended) write about it!
  • Tips on recipes substitutions and also cooking recipes or tips that people can do with limited ingredients.

Local news (and other news) of people reaching out and doing something nice for others. Everyone needs the positive right now.

Example:
Image of Facebook post of a good deed

Photos of things in the inn, not necessarily rooms, but closeups and write a story about them.

Example:
Fern Image in a Frame with base of dried flowers next to it
This great fern print was given to us several years ago by an artist that stayed with us for several days, she had come to speak at our local Audubon about edible wild plants. We love the local Audubon which has some great ongoing programs for the public, so when you come to visit us next make sure you check it out! Sharon Audubon Center https://sharon.audubon.org/

  • Photos of outside the inn, wide shots and closeups too, as Spring comes, flowers and other plants are going to be coming up and blooming, sharing beauty is always a positive. People need it and will continue to need it.

Example:
Pansies in the Rain

  • Test recipes (if you are going to or can play with new ones) ask for feedback on posts, what do people think? Or just post the link and add some text.

Example:
Facebook Post

  • Do online cooking tutorials or demonstrations. Live stream it if you are up for it.

Example:
Screenshot of a Facebook Live video

  • Do you have other skills or other hobbies you can share online?

Example:
Facebook post of knitting

  • If you have dogs or cats (or other animals) at your inn and you are not already using them for marketing, now is the time.

Example:
Funny Dog Photo with Caption

  • Talk about some of the things you have in the inn and WHY you like them and use them. You use Molton Brown, do some posts about the products, give some history about it, tell people WHY you picked that line. You have a local painting company that you support, write some posts about them, help others and the return will come back when it’s time. (Don’t forget to take some pics from around the Inn)
    Molton Brown amenities

While I normally steer innkeepers away from being too personal in their posts, yes you want some personality to come through and be engaging, but not share TMI (Too much personal information, I had someone ask me yesterday what that meant), speaking from the heart is not going to hurt here. This is community time, not sales time.

I think one of the bright spots in all of this hardship and I am already starting to see it locally and across professions and groups, is more people coming together (while practicing social distancing which is ironic) and working together for common goals and the common good. I hope that when all of this is passed, that this continues.

What can you do to get ahead NOW?

  • Look through past posts on Facebook that were non-sales related or soft sale related and recycle them. Go ahead and mention it as a blast from the past post too if you would like.
  • Get ahead and write up posts for when this is over, print out some marketing calendars and pre-select when and what days and times you are going to post.

This will give you a basis for how many and what kind of posts to come up with.

This is something innkeepers should be doing anyway but practicing this now if you are not already doing it, gets you into the gear of when things are back to normal and then you will hopefully start doing it automatically.

If nothing else at least do the holidays, any big events that you are pretty sure are going to still be on, i.e. after August? September? And any posts for specials or offers you do every year.

  • So, if you do teas start getting ahead of pre-writing your posts and when we are back and busy again, you have them all set and maybe a little extra time to get ahead on future ones too at that point
  • Get photos together, date them and label them, date the posts and put them in order, in a folder or folders where you can find them again and if you use the Facebook Scheduling tool, go ahead and schedule them in.
  • Write up your posts in MS word, Notepad, Google docs or however you want to organize them, there is no bad or wrong way to do this.

Example:
Every year in the Lake Sunapee Area of New Hampshire, we have the Annual Craftsmen’s Fair. Usually, B&Bs and hotels and motels in the area are completely booked up. This year (if it happens, fingers crossed) it will be August 1st to the 9th, 2020. Hundreds of master craftsmen will showcase their one-of-a-kind arts and crafts at the Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH.

This is the kind of event that most properties will post online about at least once if not more leading up to the event. So, to use this “as an example”.

The start date is August 1st. In a normal season an inn would start posting about this mid-summer and in this particular case (depending on how things are going) we will stick with this for this example. I as an innkeeper want to get ahead of the game, I either have photos from past Craftmans fairs AND/OR I can buy them from a stock photo company AND/OR I can reach out to some of the 100s of craftsmen who will be there and request permission to use some of their photos and make sure it’s noted that you will be giving them credit and a link back to their websites.

You don’t have to follow this order or format, this is just to give you an example of pre-writing up posts to get ahead.

First post: We are so looking forward to the annual Craftman’s Fair this year. Last year we had guests from all over Etc. Etc.
Art with feathers

Second post: write about one of the artists, or do multiple posts about the artists, make sure you link to their websites and social media if they have them, Etc. Etc.
Handmade jewelry

Third post, talk about something you bought for the inn last year from the fair (with photo or photos of same) Etc. Etc.
Handmade candle holders

Fourth post, By the way we fill up fast, make your reservation soon Etc. Etc.
Bed and Breakfast Suite

Fifth post, Every year we volunteer at the chamber booth, we love doing it because we meet so many people. Etc.
Chamber of Commerce outdoor booth

I find it easiest when you are ahead of this to split your posts into topics/themes and put them in different documents. I like to use Google Docs for this https://www.google.com/docs/about/ so you can create both folders for the documents and associated folders, but you can also have one central document (ie your marketing schedule) linking to multiple sub-documents.

Screenshot of a Google Doc

I also like to keep an online document in Google Sheets that link directly to websites or online tools that I use very frequently. Yes you can bookmark things, but I gave up when I had hundreds of things bookmarked and even putting bookmarks into folders was a pain because you had to remember which folder they were in. Using the Google docs suite (hey it’s free) to help get organized can be very useful for doing your online marketing. It is pretty much just like MS Office but even a bit more simplified. 

Screenshot of a Google Sheets

I do not know which direction things will take us in, but learning more about social media, how to use the platforms, have a strategy can be useful for any type of business, so if you end up going from innkeeper to realtor or another profession at some point, these are all useful transferable skills. In Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You for Innkeepers. I added quite a few links to other posts with resources, so if you are looking for something specific you may find it there and if you can’t find it please let me know and I will track something down for you.

Go forth and get ahead so you can get some heads in beds when the time comes. New Hampshire my home state just issued a stay at home order, so at least maybe I’ll get to catch up on some more blogs myself 🙂

And on a very personal note: I would pretty please ask, if people catch grammatical errors on anything I put out, please be kind enough to let me know by email or direct message instead of posting something in a forum. I do run these through grammarly and if time I ask someone else to proof them. I am dyslexic which quite frankly is non of most people’s damn business but getting snarky comments about a phrase “not being grammatically correct” tends to get me down especially when I am trying to help and working a bazillion hours overtime. ☹

Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You for Innkeepers

Stone Bench by a lakeRestore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You = READY

I was talking to one of my innkeeper friends this morning and she said, “It’s funny, we are very depressed because no bookings and everyone has canceled on us for the next few months, not sure how we are going to make it”, but on the bright side, and that I could relate having worked in restaurants for 20 years, this is the first time in 4 years they have had a weekend off.

We ended up talking for a while early this morning and she asked if I could come up with a list of suggestions, not just marketing, but some marketing direction as well as other thoughts, of some things innkeepers could do to be proactive in this very unexpected downtime. 

So here goes…….

Are you READY?

In popular Prepper jargon, we have reached S.H.T.F. status (S.H.T.F: Sh*t hits the fan (alternate: stuff hits the fan)) for the innkeeping industry. 

I would prefer to think of this as W.A.A.I.T.T. (We are all in this together and “wait” as in this to shall pass). 

Well, what to do in downtime? Back in 2012, I had written, Why it pays to sleep around for bed and breakfast owners,  I bring this up because I had wanted to do a follow-up article late last year about a place I had stayed at that was top notch but having the owners/innkeepers/management stay in each room would have taken it up even one more notch. 

Needless to say, it’s one of several hundred blog posts started and life (as an innkeeper you can relate) and work got in the way of writing it fully. But every property can up their game a bit.

Now: Step One, Take a vacation in your own inn, but use it to fix things, observe things, make them better…..

While your inn is either closed to the public or does not have reservations I would challenge innkeepers to pack their bags for a two-night minimum stay including incidentals, i.e. your big bottle of shampoo and can of shaving cream, go ahead and pack it so you are not using the in-room amenities, but also because it’s not like TSA is going to nab you for bringing anything over 3.4 oz. ?

Pack as if you were going on vacation and also as if you were going on a business trip, cell phones, cords, laptops, the works.

With one prerequisite, you need a notepad in the loo and a notepad in the main bedroom and any other rooms (example a suite with sitting area) with writing utensils, and no it’s not in case you run out of toilet paper. ?

Unpack or get comfortable just like you would if going to stay at another B&B. Then observe, REALLY observe. See those small ding marks on the baseboards? You’ve cleaned and dusted them a million times and noticed them but not “really” noticed them, fix it now. 

This is what the notepaper is for, make notes if you can’t fix something right at that very moment and make sure you get back to it and do it this time.

In the bathroom is there room for your makeup case and your partner’s knickknacks on the sink and or shelf? Is the lighting really “that” good? 

When you take a shower, can you reach the towel rack easily and is there a place to hang it to dry that works?

I’ve lost track of places that have hooks galore in the bathroom but oddly enough there seems to be some sort of magnetic polarity between the hook and towel as they never seem to want to stick together…… Make notes, now is the time to move that rack, etc.

Breakfast time. Go make breakfast as if you would for guests, then go BE the guest, sit at every seat and every table and eat and observe.

If you have a purse, bring it, is there a place to put it or can you hang it on a chair? If you are going to go out right after, bring your coat, is there room between chair and next chair to put it comfortably? And observe, observe, observe. 

This reminds me of a friend who had an inn up here in NH, she had glowing reviews but very occasionally an odd one, not bad just a little odd. We did the dining room flow test (i.e. how people move around and spatial distance between tables and chairs to walk as well as check sightlines, one table of two had a viewpoint from a guest’s perspective right into the little bathroom that adjoined the dining room. What do you see? Test every chair and every point of view.

Wait…..before you take a bite of the food you made, whip out your cell phone and take a slew of photos, be one of those obnoxious Instagrammers.

And make a note, is the lighting good enough for decent photos? If not, what can you do to fix? Bonus, now you have extra photos for marketing……..Food Photography Tips for Bed and Breakfasts might be helpful if you want to up the visual game a bit.

Now go clean up…….or don’t, remember you ARE supposed to be on vacation so do it later. Make it a working vacation. Go take a walk around your neighborhood. I don’t know how many innkeepers I’ve talked to that either have never actually walked to what is around them for a several mile radius or they go out and they walk, but just to walk, i.e. go out and get exercise, but don’t actually take a lot of notice of what is around them.

Take your phone with a full charge and go and take A LOT of pictures, make some notes, actually see and observe the lovely things locally to you that you probably never noticed before. The hidden springhouse covered by wisteria, the small park bench hidden behind the bushes. That great little antique shop (now closed because of the crisis but will reopen) but you never knew or noticed because they don’t have a presence online. Take MORE pictures and don’t forget to wave to your neighbors and share a smile.

Go back to the inn, rinse, repeat for a few days.

Now do a deep clean of the room, wash all linens and suggest bagging them in plastic until the next usage. Document document, document the cleaning of the room so when we get through this and reopen, A. you are all set to go and B. You have proof (take some pictures too) that the room has been deep cleaned and sanitized and that you, the innkeeper were the last person to stay in it.

Now go on vacation in another room, rinse, repeat.

And do some of these other things while you have some downtime in between having weekends off for the first time since you became an innkeeper. I say that tongue in cheek, but I reference what my friend the innkeeper said to me at the start of this post….

 

  • Work on a cookbook.

 

  • Do some videos, do A LOT of videos, small 1-2 minute clips, virtual tours are good, do a video walkthrough of your inn with commentary or some videos of the area, with commentary. Learn how to leverage Youtube. A great resource for learning Youtube is Youtube Creator Academy, it’s free and it’s super helpful. 

 

  • Test some new recipes out, take LOTS of pictures. If you don’t have the ingredients or don’t want to use up food, hey you have to eat anyway, but if you don’t want to experiment now, go research some new ones to try when you are back up and with guests again.

I love to find new recipes or at least in my case, some ideas from:

And many more, both Taste Cooking and Epicurious have great email newsletters with recipe suggestions.

  • Create a marketing plan for the rest of the year and start compiling content and pictures. We hopefully will be over this by midsummer or hopefully sooner, what holiday can you target and get pre-prepared for right now?  

One of the biggest complaints I hear from innkeepers when talking about planning their marketing and social media, is “we don’t have time”. You do now, take advantage of it!

How to Write a Social Media Strategic Plan for Bed and Breakfasts and Planning Ahead for Your Bed and Breakfast Promotions might be helpful.

 

  • While restaurants and other businesses may be closed or operating in a limited capacity, now is the time to make those good relationships and network, pick up the phone, learn a new skill and try video conferencing. Making those valuable connections and do some deals so that when everything picks back up, your inn and the businesses you and your guests engage with are all ready to rumble.

 

  • Do a deep clean of the inn, and I know some innkeepers are not able to find cleaning supplies, do some outreach to a local restaurant who may be closed or operating in a limited way, do they have some cleaning supplier (or even food if needed) they want to barter or sell?

 

  • Put a plan in place for if this happens again or something like it. While it’s too late to get business interruption insurance, for example, investigate who offers it and rates and be prepared. 

 

 

  • Take some time and educate yourself so you can better help your business and be more informed and less likely to be snowed by an unscrupulous company Google Analytics Academy for instance is free.

 

And most of all, while we are all supposed to be practicing social distancing, it doesn’t mean you have to practice social isolation. Reconnect with some old friends online, make some new. Start some virtual networking meetings. An innkeeper told me they are now doing virtual tea parties as well as virtual happy hours, sounds like fun to me!

Coronavirus, threat or opportunity for the B&B Industry?

Image of a SWOT analysisThreat or Opportunity? I’d say a bit of both. People are scared. I’ll admit I am one of those people that has that nagging feeling in the back of my skull going, “pay attention, pay attention!” and I admit we are prepared to go for several weeks if under self (or otherwise) quarantine if need be. But we prepared for that in advance because we have been through situations like being out of power for more than a week in below zero temperatures several times among other life events. It only takes one life learning lesson to forever be ready for this.

 

Families and businesses need to think about these things, up here in New Hampshire, while we are less likely to have a major earthquake (it could happen) we could have floods, we could have forest fires if we have another severe dry season. A business needs to be prepared. I won’t parrot the hundreds of websites telling you what you should have to stock up on because Google is your best buddy for that, please don’t go and buy up all the toilet paper in the store, others need it to (bonus for innkeepers though you probably already have a pretty good backstock) but regardless of whether the virus scare affects your property or not, this is a good reminder that you should have those supplies in place anyway.

 

The virus scare if you think about it, isn’t any different from a major tornado, flood, hurricane or earthquake affecting a property. A bit better actually, any of those listed can result in a loss not just of business revenue but of a property itself. At least this is just lost revenue, your property could have washed away in a flood…… Not to make light of this but to put it into perspective.

 

I think lodging facilities have some opportunities here that they should take advantage of.

 

One is educating the public about how a B&B is also your home, you as owners/occupiers/innkeepers are good about sanitation over and above a hotel or motel or Airbnb anyway in a normal situation. I’d much rather stay at B&B normally anyway but especially right now rather than a hotel not just by choice but because I’m pretty sure it’s a heck of a lot more sanitary then your average hotel is at the moment.

 

Two, yes revenue may and probably will go down for the next few months as travelers are canceling vacations and business trips, but this presents a unique opportunity to capture eyeballs online. If I had to self-quarantine and I could not work at home for whatever reason, I will be in the category of what are most people going to be doing and spending time on if stuck at home or elsewhere? On Social Media of course.

 

The average innkeeper does not have a ton of time to leverage social media because they are working 24/7, think of this as mud season in New England, it’s the slow time of year when you can get caught up with things. Funny enough and lucky enough at least for New Englanders its almost mud season, so the timing could be a lot worse.

 

Use this opportunity to start pre-writing posts, take more pictures of your breakfast and your property and planning out some marketing for the rest of the year. When and I will stick with “when” everything is sorted out, people will want to get out and resume normal activities, including putting those vacation plans that got canceled back into consideration. Getting in front of their eyeballs when they are literally a captive audience is a great opportunity.

 

If you don’t know how to use a social media platform, Google is your friend, but so are the channels themselves, there are so many free resources out there to help a business owner better leverage themselves online. Take the opportunity to educate yourself a bit more instead of letting stress overwhelm you, as that doesn’t accomplish anything (aside from weakening your immune system) so one more reason to keep yourself occupied. Again not trying to make light of the situation but being realistic.

 

So what happens if it doesn’t blow over, what if we have a major pandemic? I don’t know, no one can know but isn’t it better to be proactive for when it does blow over rather than saying if it doesn’t?

 

There has been a lot of articles reiterating the same thing, wash your hands, sanitize, etc, yes please do all of those but not many articles out there as yet with actual good suggestions on how and what to do to weather this situation. Here are two recent ones of note that I would suggest a read through though because I think they had some good ideas for innkeepers to take note of:

 

How Can Hotels Survive the Coronavirus? Some good advice if your property is concerned: Six lessons emerge. All of her touchpoints are important but I think Be wary of broad-scale discounting and Don’t cut your marketing budget (and I’ll add to this, even if you are not spending money, the marketing budget is your own time, it’s ROTI, Return on Time Investment, boost that, not cut it) are two things to take special note of.

 

Does Your Property Have A Coronavirus Strategy? Is another suggested read. Of note here (and he also recommends staying away from the deep discounting) Mandate a “single voice policy” for all employees and departments (yourself) and Provide honest and up-to-date information regarding the situation in the hotel location/destination are both important for a property to note.

 

ALP has published several blog posts with resources and we will continue to keep it updated with new articles and resources as well.

What else can you do in the interim, I personally love the Beechmere Inn’s approach to this, educating their guests about what the facility is doing to help protect guests, but I also had a question raised by an innkeeper client of mine, “Well what happens if you still have a guest catch the virus (at your inn) or a guest infects others?” Will I get sued?” “Americans are so sue happy, what do you think?”. I’ll be honest I don’t know if someone came to stay at an inn and they were sick with any kind of issue and infected others the impetuous should be on them, but I am not a lawyer.

 

If you did everything you could to protect guests you did all you could. I’ll take a recent example of the first case diagnosed in New Hampshire for this. The person was told to stay home, he did not and went out and went to a private event and infected at least one if not more (news developing apparently) people, the facility this happened at is handling this well and being proactive. But that kind of thing is just stupidity at its finest and you can only do what you can do.

 

I don’t believe in fear-mongering and I don’t think it helps if innkeepers are posting all over the place about this, but I don’t think it hurts to help educate guests now and in the future about the safety of your facility, it can be done in a polite and in a no scare tactic way manner.

 

When life goes back to normal, people are probably still going to stay fairly local, so if you have not yet invested time into researching and targeting the staycation/localcation market, now is a good time to spiff up on that as well. Use this as an opportunity to get your property out there. Run a SWOT analysis on what your B&B can do to mitigate and potentially profit from this long term when we recover from this, and I’ll stick with the “when” not the “if”. In the famous words of Yoda (if he was a marketing guru) “Marketing Never Stop”.

And as an additional note (updated 3/11/2020) I take this very seriously, my own business along with many others besides just the hospitality industry is, and will continue to be, affected. Having several large projects put on hold for an indefinite period of time IS very concerning, but I am going to use this as an opportunity to learn and increase my knowledge of things that can help myself and my clients in the future. If we go down the rabbit hole of depression and inaction, when recovery time comes around, it makes it that much harder to rebound when it’s time.