We thought it would be really helpful to hear stories from other bed and breakfast owners about their experience. We have picked 10 questions that we think are important and have reached out to other B&B owners to hear their thoughts. If there are questions you think we missed please submit them at the end of this post.
We thought we would go first and answer these questions about our own bed and breakfast, Bailey’s Uptown Inn. Look for future posts from other innkeepers each week.
Top 10 questions for B&B owners
1.) How many years have you been an innkeeper and how many rooms do you rent? We have 5 guest rooms and we have been doing this for 10 years
2.) What is your best source of guests/traffic? We rely on free traffic and have built our web site so that it will rank naturally in google for local searches. We used to run google adds but we noticed that then we had two spots on the front page of google and we didn’t notice a difference when we stopped running the click adds, which were about $250/month.
3.) What would you consider to be your biggest mistake as an innkeeper? I have two – 1.) taking guests who book the same day. These guests have been my only source of theft i.e. stollen credit cards. They also result in more schedule juggling in my personal life. 2.) being stubborn about offering discounts. I lost guests calling in to make a reservation. Most people are happy for any type of discount so if they ask, I give them one now.
4.) What is one thing you wish someone would have told you before you went into innkeeping? You don’t have to be at your inn 24 hours a day and meet every guest as they arrive. I leave welcome baskets for guests, which I tell them about in their confirmation. When I first opened I tried to be there but guests don’t want to have to come at any certain time and you can spend a lot of time waiting for them. You still get to visit and help them but it might not be right when they arrive.
5.) What do you think is the most important thing for a new innkeeper to do and why? Get your web site up FAST. This is the main source of revenue and it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can work on it after it is live. Any delay results in a delay in reservations.
6.) What do you do to get guests to come back again? I offer them discounts or free upgrades to nicer rooms. Those guests are invaluable.
7.) What paid for sites do you list on do you think it’s worth the price? We list on bedandbreakfast.com and bbonline.com, which are the biggest and best directories with the most bang for the buck. They have all different levels of memberships and also a great gift card program. Make sure to pay for a listing that includes at a minimum and incoming link to your site. We have tried listing rooms on hotels.com, expedia.com and booking.com. The trouble we found with these sites is that the only traffic we got from these was when the town was booked up. These are dates that we would have been sold out without offering anyone a commission. We also found that most people who want a B&B don’t book on these sites so the guests we got were taking the room as a last resort when they wanted a hotel room. We found they don’t work for us.
8.) How do you try to get weekday guests? We have tried going around to local businesses in our area offering discounts (without much luck). We have also tried to offer discounts to guests who come to the area regularly to entice them to come back.
9.) What do you do to improve your online ranking in the search engines? One big thing to be aware of is that your page loads quickly. This means when people click through to your site is shouldn’t take many seconds for the photos and content to load. This can happen if you have a complicated design with photos that have not been properly sized. We can help you with that if you build a site using our method. You also hear people talk a lot about “key words”. This means that you want to use the words “Bed and Breakfast” and the name of your town on every page multiple times. This helps google to figure out that the information on your site is relevant to someone looking for a B&B in your town.
10.) What types of jobs do you hire out vs. doing them yourself? I hire out cleaning and handy man-type jobs. These are things that I don’t enjoy doing and I have found it is worth it to hire them out. I also use an answering service to cover the phones after 9pm so that they don’t wake me up unless it is a current guest. This has helped a great deal with my quality of sleep. Otherwise I get calls from people wanting to make a reservation at 10pm for the same night. I NEVER take those people.
If you questions we didn’t ask please share them with us.
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