Frictionless Innkeeper
Ideas and Insights for the Innkeeper
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PODCAST: Elaine Herbert, Owner and Operator of the Yelton Manor, Discusses Why Millennials Are Her Ideal Guests

  

For Episode #7 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Elaine Herbert, Owner and Operator of the Yelton Manor Bed & Breakfast in South Haven, Michigan, who discusses why innkeepers need to determine who their ideal guests are, and why Millennials fit the bill perfectly for her property.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

 

A major component for developing a brand vision for any inn comes down to determining your ideal guest demographic. While it may sound cliché, different generations have personality traits, spending power, and guest preferences when they stay at independent properties.

Elaine finds that Millennial guests at the Yelton Manor Bed & Breakfast are ideal. She feels that these guests are trouble-free, respect policies and boundaries, and are warm and friendly overall. Conversely, she feels that Baby Boomers are not a perfect fit for her property, and have more specialized needs and demands.

In this podcast, Elaine shares her candid insights into why Millennials are the perfect guest for her property. Here some highlights from our conversation:

  •      The background and history of the Yelton Manor. (1:00)
  •      Elaine’s perspective on Millennial guests. (2:00)
  •      How Elaine markets to Millennials. (8:42)
  •      Insights into why Millennials want to stay at B&Bs. (16:50)
  •      Why trust is important for Millennials. (26:44)

As always, we would like to thank Elaine for sharing her candid insights, and be sure to listen to her previous interview about how Airbnb has ruined communities worldwide. You can also learn more about the Yelton Manor Bed & Breakfast by visiting their website.

PODCAST: Elaine Herbert, Owner and Operator of the Yelton Manor, Discusses How Airbnb Has Ruined Communities Worldwide

  

For Episode #6 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Elaine Herbert, Owner and Operator of the Yelton Manor Bed and Breakfast in South Haven, Michigan, about the negative impact of Airbnb on her B&B, community, and tourist destinations around the world.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

 

The impact of Airbnb on both innkeepers and their communities is not always apparent to most people, since much of the media focuses on how larger hoteliers deal with this competitive landscape.

The reality is that Airbnb can negatively affect innkeepers and communities throughout the world. As Elaine highlights in this podcast interview, the home-sharing provider has both challenged her B&B’s ability to thrive and had dire consequences on her community of South Haven, Michigan, where she and her husband have lived for more than 30 years.

The arrival of Airbnb has impacted South Haven in many ways — incentivizing long-term residents to sell their homes to investors, decreasing tax revenues in various forms, creating a tenuous and sometimes threatening local political atmosphere, and causing overcrowding by visitors with a penchant for partying — ultimately resulting in what Elaine describes as a true “battle for the soul of the town.”

In this podcast, Elaine shares her candid insights into how Airbnb’s home-sharing approach has changed the face of South Haven and impacted tourism-based communities around the world. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

  •      The background and creation of the Yelton Manor Bed and Breakfast. (:50)
  •      More about the Yelton Manor property and its extraordinary history of guests’ experiences. (5:52)
  •      Airbnb’s negative impact on the South Haven community and beyond. (9:30)
  •      How Elaine and other communities have fought to combat residential rentals. (20:50)

We would like to thank Elaine for sharing her candid insights about Airbnb.  We look forward to providing a future podcast where she discusses the appeal and her admiration of Millennial guests. You can learn more about the Yelton Manor Bed and Breakfast by visiting their website.

 

PODCAST: Debbi Fotsh, Owner and Operator of Woodridge B&B, Discusses Challenges Innkeepers Face with OTAs

  

For Episode #5 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Debbi Fotsh, the owner and operator of Woodridge B&B, located outside of Slidell, Louisiana, about the challenges and opportunities she faces in dealing with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

 

For many innkeepers, dealing with OTAs can be both a blessing and a curse. While these channels can help provide more booking opportunities, they often come with a price, which includes high commissions, lack of direct access to guest information, a slow payment cycle, and bookings coming from fraudulent credit cards.

On a more positive note, OTAs have the marketing resources and guest search traffic to help enhance overall bookings – especially during slower times of the year.  Debbi has a great amount of experience dealing with these issues and opportunities since 2010.

In this podcast, Debbi shares her candid insights on utilizing OTAs to the maximum benefit of innkeepers.  Here some highlights from our conversation:

  • The background and history of Woodridge B&B. (1:00)
  • Debbi’s experiences in working with OTAs. (2:40)
  • Debbi’s timeline in working, and not working, with OTAs. (7:35)
  • Fraudulent bookings and other OTA issues that Debbie had to manage. (15:23)
  • Why innkeepers need to do things on their own behalf when dealing with OTAs. (19:24)
  • Debbie’s tips for how innkeepers can improve their interactions with guests while working with OTAs. (27:16)

We would like to thank Debbi for sharing her candid insights about dealing with OTAs. You can learn more about Woodridge B&B by visiting their website.

PODCAST: Tom Werman, Owner of Stonover Farm, Discusses Transition from Legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll Producer to Innkeeper

   

For Episode #4 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Tom Werman, the Owner and Operator of Stonover Farm in Lenox, Massachusetts, about his move from world-renowned music producer to innkeeper.


You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

 

Innkeepers are often very interesting people, with many having previous careers that make the most exciting of corporate jobs seem mundane.

Tom Werman, the owner and operator of Stonover Farm in Lenox, Mass., is a prime example of this type of innkeeper. He is a former A&R record executive – who produced 52 albums – and is associated with some of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll that include Cheap Trick, Boston, Ted Nugent, Mötley Crüe, and REO Speedwagon.

In the early 1990s, the music landscape changed, and Tom found himself at a crossroads. Rather than embracing the new Seattle grunge sound at the time, he decided to leave his life as a record producer in Los Angeles, and moved to Lenox to establish and run a luxury B&B.

Today, Stonover Farm is an award-winning property that is less than a mile from Tanglewood and other attractions in the Berkshires. The property offers all of the beauty and serenity of a country inn, while providing all the conveniences of a first class urban hotel.

In this podcast, Tom Werman shares his story about moving from being a music producer to being an innkeeper. Here some highlights from our conversation:

  • Tom’s story about how he made the jump from being a music producer to being an innkeeper. (1:42)
  • How the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” inspired Tom to make such a dramatic shift in his career. (6:45)
  • How his attention to detail as a music producer benefits him as an innkeeper. (10:30)
  • More about Stonover Farm and Tom’s approach to innkeeping. (13:00)
  • How Stonover Farm is geared towards guests that see musical performances at Tanglewood, and other cultural attractions. (19:07)
  • Tom’s love of customized cooking and taking care of his guests. (24:30)
  • Tom’s view on overall breakfast trends for B&Bs. (27:25)
  • Why Tom likes to be accessible to guests, but gives them space as well. (31:21)
  • How Tom prices his offerings to best appeal to guests, and why this is ideal for his business. (34:40)

We would like to thank Tom for sharing his insights and special innkeeper story.  You can learn more about Stonover Farm by visiting their website.

PODCAST: Jim Belote, Owner of The Beall Mansion, Discusses Secrets to Running an Award-Winning Property

  

For Episode #3 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Jim Belote, the owner of The Beall Mansion in the St. Louis region, about what it takes to operate an award-winning B&B.


You can also listen to the podcast on blogtalkradio.

 

Being named one of the top B&Bs in the U.S. is an accolade that most property owners strive to achieve. The Beall Mansion, an Elegant Bed & Breakfast Inn, is the prime example of a B&B that continually tops these types of annual lists.

Recently, HotelsCombined awarded the property the 2018 HotelsCombined Recognition of Excellence, which is based on achieving the highest rankings on customer satisfaction through customer opinions online.

Based on an analysis of more than 1,000,000 hotels worldwide, The Beall Mansion scored a 10 out of 10, representing the top 3 percent of accommodations worldwide for customer satisfaction.

Previous 2018 Beall Mansion honors and awards include the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, TripAdvisor Hall of Fame, 50 Best B&Bs in America, and the Best B&B in Illinois (according to The Daily Meal).

In this podcast, Jim Belote discusses the secret to running an award-winning property.  Here are key highlights from this interview:

  •      The overall history of The Beall Mansion. (:45)
  •      The elegance of the property. (3:20)
  •      How The Beall Mansion was able to rank high with HotelsCombined. (5:00)
  •      The Beall Mansion’s secret for achieving high guest satisfaction. (7:00)
  •      How and why Jim and his wife Sandy made the shift to being innkeepers. (10:33)
  •      Jim’s joys and challenges of being a B&B owner. (19:20)
  •      Insights into the tourism landscape in the region. (20:50)
  •      The initial and ongoing restoration of the property. (21:54)

We would like to thank Jim for sharing his insights into the secrets of guest satisfaction.  You can learn more about The Beall Mansion by visiting their website.

PODCAST: Christine Boeke, Owner of Westcott House Bed & Breakfast, Shares Her Story of Becoming an Innkeeper After a High-Profile Media Career

   

For Episode #2 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Christine Boeke, the owner of the Westcott House Bed & Breakfast, who shares her story about leaving a high-profile media career to pursue the dream of being an innkeeper in Hudson, New York.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

 

Many innkeepers have backgrounds in the corporate world and make the leap to owning a B&B as a means to finding a more fulfilling way to make a living. The idea behind the 80s hit TV show Newhart follows this very premise.

Christine Boeke, the owner of the Westcott House B&B in Hudson, NY, fits this bill perfectly.  Coming from a high-profile career in media and marketing with Newsweek and CBS, she decided to make a career-switch to being an innkeeper about four years ago.  This has enabled Christine to follow her true passion, which is all about helping guests and travelers make memories in the Hudson region.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

  •      Christine’s background and how she became an innkeeper. (1:15)
  •      Insights into the history of the Westcott House. (2:30)
  •      More about Hudson and what drew Christine to the region. (4:27)
  •      Insights into other local businesses, and how Christine is a part of the Hudson Business Coalition. (8:25)
  •      Christine’s biggest joys and challenges of being an innkeeper. (10:25)
  •      How Christine creates truly positive experiences for guests. (12:20)
  •      How Christine has created a unique brand promise for her property. (16:03)

We would like to thank Christine for sharing her special story. You can learn more about the Westcott House B&B by visiting their website.

Why Your B&B Should Have a Brand Promise

A brand promise is simple yet it influences everything from how B&B guests experience their stay to how they describe it to their friends and colleagues to how they comment about it on social media review sites.

Although many innkeepers don’t think of themselves as having brands that are on par with the Marriotts of the world, guests do identify your property in a certain way. It’s not a slogan or a mission statement … it’s an impression, a personality, and an emotion that connects with the guest

The key is being able to identify and maximize this brand promise. The components of a brand promise are simple to construct, but it does require thinking about the following:

It must be easy and memorable: Your brand promise should be very simple, and describe the experience you deliver in a memorable way.

You must be able to measure it: Whether it’s through increased bookings or positive Yelp reviews that align with the brand promise, you should be able to measure the impact of the brand promise.

It should include a future state: Guests are always buying a future emotion of how they will feel — anticipating a delightful stay — when they come to your property.

Here are examples of brand promises for a B&B:

· To provide a delightful and memorable experience for each guest.
· Delighting guests with the most memorable experiences.
· Memorable travel experiences that last a lifetime.

As you read the examples above, they are simple, easy to remember, and place the guest in a future state. With this in mind, it’s critical for every employee to fully understand the brand promise, and work hard everyday to bring it to life for guests.

By reinforcing the guest experience, a B&B’s brand promise can have a strong impact on business results. Knowing what your brand stands for, and delivering on that promise can help enhance overall guest loyalty and increase bookings.

PODCAST: Michelle Heurung, Owner of the Lamberson Guest House, Tells Her Story of Tragedy and Triumph

    

For our premier Episode #1 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Michelle Heurung, the owner and operator of the Lamberson Guest House in Galena Illinois, who shares her story of tragedy and triumph.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

 

Living the dream of opening and operating a B&B comes with many exciting challenging and life-changing opportunities – many that are completely unexpected.

As the owner of Lamberson Guest House, a bed and breakfast in Galena, Illinois, a historic town with 32 B&Bs and a large Main Street area that has a diverse offering of local restaurants, shops, and other attractions, Michelle’s story is truly remarkable.

Having opened her B&B about 18 months ago, Michelle is relatively new to the world of innkeeping. She and her husband, Brian, fulfilled their decades-long dream of owning a B&B in Galena when they purchased the home that ultimately became the Lamberson Guest House.

After a whirlwind renovation, they opened their doors to guests just 4 months after they bought it. Then, only 6 weeks later, Brian – Michelle’s husband, partner, and the love of her life – passed away unexpectedly. Her story is one of passion, tragedy, community support, perseverance, and triumph, which she has been kind enough to share in this podcast.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

  • How Michelle got into the B&B business and purchased the Lamberson Guest House. (1:55)
  • Some of the early challenges that Michelle faced when she purchased the property. (6:11)
  • Insights into how Michelle handled the business in the wake of her husband’s death. (8:36)
  • How she has tapped into other business owners and the community in Galena, who helped her get through this tough time in her life. (11:54)
  • Her greatest joys and challenges of being a B&B owner today. (17:07)
  • What Michelle would have done differently in hindsight during this challenging time. (20:11)
  • How she got connected with the larger Galena business community. (38:50)
  • How her connections with local businesses help enhance her guests’ stays. (41:11)
  • How the Frictionless Guest App helps strengthen Michelle’s ties with area businesses. (43:51)

We would like to thank Michelle for sharing her special story. You can learn more about the Lamberson Guest House by visiting their website.

 

Why Guest Trust is so Important for Innkeepers and How it Can be Gained

Guest trust has always been one of the most important intangibles for Innkeepers. It’s not always easy to determine what factors into a guest’s trust equation, since it’s a totally individual assessment — one that is in the so-called “eyes of the beholder.”

A somewhat unique quality of trust may be that it is easier to determine when you have gained it than when it has been lost. Using the example of a car purchase … when a potential buyer walks out of a dealership because they lack trust, how likely are they to explain that is the reason they have decided to go elsewhere?

To continue with this example … a car buyer may lose trust if the dealership’s showroom isn’t clean and welcoming, or if a buyer doesn’t feel they can trust the salesperson giving them information about the cars they may be interested in purchasing.

Now, let’s shift this analogy to the Innkeeper. Guests tend to book their stays based on sound recommendations from friends and family, a previous enjoyable stay, or an intuitive sense of trust when researching and booking their rooms. So, when a guest books their stay, the Innkeeper already has a certain level of trust that has been established. What is essential from that point forward is how the Innkeeper will enhance and nurture the initial trust given to them by the guest.

It’s at this point that the car buyer analogy has meaning, though the goal for Innkeepers is not to sell, but to build guest trust — and ultimately, loyalty — by providing the best possible experience for all aspects of their stay, with the result being future bookings, recommendations to friends and family, and/or positive reviews.

With this goal comes the elusive question of what is important for an Innkeeper to gain guest trust and loyalty.  And while our assumption is that every guest has their own unique way of assessing this during their stay experience, let’s attempt to identify some parameters by first breaking them down into two distinct parts — the On-Property and the Off-Property Experience.

For the On-Property Experience, some tangible parameters that play into the feeling of comfort and ultimately trust are the cleanliness of your rooms, quality of your property’s furnishings, and the details you provide such as soaps, towels, and linens. The more intangible parameters revolve around the personable interaction and service you provide throughout your guest’s stay.  Both are essential to building guest trust, fully within the control of the Innkeeper, and core to their mission.

For the Off-Property Experience, the Innkeeper has less control.  However, this needs to be a core focus, because guests inherently rely upon an Innkeeper’s indispensable knowledge to recommend the best local experiences, thereby making their stay so memorable that they return or recommend them among their social circle.  Because no matter how delightful a guest’s On-Property Experience is, their Off-Property Experience is likely to resonate heavily with their overall stay.

Prior to the existence of the Internet, independent Innkeepers had an advantage over larger providers because they were the only source of local information guests could get, through word-of-mouth. This has changed, with the advent of sites like Yelp and Google, and larger hospitality providers offering guests mobile applications that recommend local experiences.

The reality is that Innkeepers still have the best knowledge of Off-Property Experiences for their guests, but how can they communicate them?  Listing recommendations on their website isn’t sufficient, because guests need a mobile app that helps them easily choose and navigate to these places.  Yet most Innkeepers don’t have the resources to build their own mobile app to compete with the larger players in today’s digital landscape.

Our solution is the Frictionless Guest App, to provide Innkeepers with a way that their guests can easily find the best local experiences and thereby gain their trust.  Our hope is that Innkeepers share our vision that they are the best source for this information and want to improve the Off-Property Experience of their guests.

How Two Buffalo Inns Create Guest Ambassadors for the Region

One of the goals of running an Inn or an independent hotel is to make guests fall in love with the region, recommend your property to others within their social circle, and keep coming back to the area.

For Oscar’s Bed & Breakfast in Buffalo, NY, this is a major part of its business plan, which is to promote the city’s reputation for being “an underrated gem for travelers.” As such, the property celebrates the city of Buffalo by naming each room after famous architects from the area – aiming to give guests a real sense of the local culture and lifestyle.

Their goal is to create raving fans of the property and the area, which is also the approach for another local Inn – the Inn Buffalo off Elmwood.

“My mission is to make ambassadors out of our guests,” said Joseph Lettieri, who owns and operates Inn Buffalo off Elmwood, in this recent Buffalo News article. “If you stay with us, my goal is that when you leave you tell your friends, family and colleagues, ‘What a time we had — this might be the best kept secret.’”

As most Innkeepers know, running a B&B comes with a world of both joys and challenges. It’s very easy to get tied up in the day-to-day management, which can take up any innkeeper’s time 24/7. However, taking the time to empower guests to become ambassadors for your region can pay major dividends in the long-run.

By providing unique experiences for travelers, it’s possible for them to leave your Inn with a strong sense of community, and a desire to promote your property (and region) to their friends and family.

This will ultimately translate into further bookings, and it will help your region prosper … where everyone wins in the end.