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Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #20: Monique Greenwood, Owner/Innkeeper of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns and Star of Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Checked Inn” Reality TV Show (Part 1)
For episode #20 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Monique Greenwood, Owner/Innkeeper of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns and star of the television reality show “Checked Inn” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). In Part 1 of a two part podcast, she discusses her personal and professional journey, how she built the Akwaaba empire of luxury properties, and much more.
You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.
It’s not often that we find an innkeeper who has built a reputation to the level that attracted the attention of Oprah Winfrey. Monique Greenwood is a highly regarded innkeeper who developed the Akwaaba empire of five properties, and has parlayed this experience into an OWN TV reality show called “Checked Inn.”
Prior to reaching these heights of innkeeping success, Monique started her career in journalism and achieved her dream of being the editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine. In 1995, she decided to move into the innkeeping arena, and realized that real estate investments were the key to success.
With her business plan tied to her overall lifestyle plan, she ultimately wanted to own properties in areas around the U.S. that she loved. She started with the first Akwaaba property in Brooklyn, and eventually used its increased equity value to help fund the acquisition of four other properties in the U.S. Today, there are Akwaaba inns in Brooklyn, NY; Washington, D.C.; Bethany, PA; Philadelphia, PA; and Cape May, NJ.
The property in Bethany PA, called The Mansion at Noble Lane, is the “crown jewel” for Akwaaba, and ended up being the location for the “Checked Inn” reality show. It was built and formerly owned by the Woolworth family, and carries significance for Monique that goes beyond its incredible architecture. As an African American business leader, owning a mansion that is connected to a company that would not serve her grandmother during segregation is a reminder of how much she has overcome and achieved in her career.
In this podcast, Monique discusses her background, the growth of the Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, her book titled, “Having What Matters: The Black Woman’s Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want,” and much more.
- Monique’s background and how she came to be an innkeeper. (1:07)
- About Monique’s strategy for owning Akwaaba inns, and more about the properties. (2:05)
- How Monique made the transition from being a journalist to innkeeper. (10:07)
- Insights into her “Having What Matters” book, and how it has guided her success. (16:39)
- More about The Mansion at Noble Lane, and the newer Philadelphia property. (19:26)
We are very thankful to Monique for sharing her insights with us! You can learn more about Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns by visiting their website. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this podcast, where Monique discusses “Checked Inn,” as well as her philosophy regarding enhancing the guest experience.
Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #19: Monica Edwards, Successful Innkeeper and Director of the African American Association of Innkeepers International
For episode #19 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Monica Edwards, owner/innkeeper of Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast in Durham, North Carolina, and Director of the African American Association of Innkeepers International. She discusses her experiences of being a B&B owner for more than 20 years, as well as her involvement with various innkeeper associations during that time.
You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.
Monica Edwards began her career as an innkeeper somewhat unexpectedly in 1997, when she and her husband opened the Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast in Durham, North Carolina. Almost immediately, she chose to become involved with associations dedicated to helping the B&B industry and has continued to be a significant contributor to that cause ever since.
Monica continues to run Morehead Manor, while now also devoting her time to the African American Association of Innkeepers International (AAAii). Though only about one percent of all inns are owned by African Americans, AAAii is contributing to the success of existing owners and helping to build a community of aspiring innkeepers of color, with Monica at the helm.
In her 20-plus years as an innkeeper, she has learned that the guest experience is all about interacting with travelers through the entire booking process and sees herself as an ambassador for the Durham region. She excels at her craft, as is proven by her longevity and the fact that more than 90 percent of her guests book directly through the Morehead Manor website.
In this podcast, Monica discusses her career as an innkeeper, the mission of AAAii, how the role of B&B associations has evolved, and more.
- Monica’s background and how she came to be an innkeeper. (1:03)
- What she learned in her research about B&Bs prior to purchasing the Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast. (2:30)
- Some details about the Morehead Manor property. (3:19)
- Insights into Monica’s work with various associations. (5:09)
- How B&B associations have moved towards providing advocacy. (5:45)
- All about AAAii and the organization’s mission. (10:21)
- How Monica defines the guest experience, and what strategies she has used to improve it. (16:00)
- Current innkeeping topics that are most important to Monica. (19:30)
- Age demographics for guests who stay at the Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast and how they are trending. (22:08)
Remaining competitive in the innkeeping arena is no small challenge, especially in the face of multiple accommodation offerings, and Airbnb growing in popularity. One of the best ways to remain competitive, and achieve long-term business growth, is to maximize virtually every opportunity to enhance revenue.
Megan Smith, innkeeping expert and consultant, as well as the host of the popular “Inside Innkeeping” podcast series, recently offered the following revenue-generating tips:
- Weddings: Many people are looking for special locations – outside of the traditional banquet halls – for weddings these days. Consider hosting weddings at your property and develop revenue-sharing partnerships with local vendors (i.e., tent providers, caterers, etc.).
- Partnerships: Develop partnerships with local golf courses, museums, art galleries, wineries, and other attractions – where guests can get discounts. This also entices these businesses to refer guests to stay at your property.
- Reach Out to Businesses: Are there larger businesses in your area? Perhaps hospitals? Reach out to the hospital recruiters to have their potential new employees to stay at your property while visiting for an interview. From this, the hospital (or other business you reach out to) may ultimately end up hosting functions, like their holiday parties, at your property.
- Winery/Brewery Tour Packages: Orchestrate tours of local wineries and breweries in your area, where you find the local transportation to drive guests. This allows travelers to have fun and your new transportation partners will help send referrals to your property.
- Host Outdoor Concerts: During the summer months, seek out opportunities to host live music at your property, which will provide entertainment for both locals and guests. This will also enhance the overall guest experience and make people want to come back to your property.
- Host Family Movie Night: Consider hosting a monthly family movie night, where you put up a projector in a nice outdoor space on your property.
With environmental sustainability being a major trend in virtually every industry, there is often a disconnect between marketing and reality. In other words, many companies claim to be “green,” but don’t actually follow-up on this promise.
Fortunately, there are innkeepers who are doing some very innovative things to minimize their impact on our planet – and are “walking the walk,” while also seeing financial rewards from their efforts.
The West Hill House B&B in Warren, Vermont is an example of this kind of property. As an electrical engineer by training, Peter MacLaren, owner and operator of the inn, has worked to make the property 100 percent solar powered.
In addition to this, here are some other “green things” West Hill House has done that are great ideas for any innkeeper to consider implementing at their property:
- Install charging points for electric vehicles
- Provide re-usable bottles to guests for water
- Offer composting and recycling to guests, in addition to doing so for the property’s operation
- Use low-power LED lighting
- Offer reusable shopping bags for guests
- Create green cleaning products for use at the property which are chemical free and safe
In addition to being a good thing for the environment, these efforts have resulted in goodwill from guests who appreciate the commitment to going green, while also yielding some significant financial benefits. For example, the B&B gets energy credits from local electric provider Green Mountain Power when it generates power from its solar energy operation. As a result, Peter and his wife pay virtually nothing for their energy consumption.
To learn more about the West Hill House B&B’s green efforts, please check out this Mad River Valley TV segment:
You can also view the video here.
Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #18: Linda Hayes, Renowned Innkeeping Consultant, Discusses Creative Investor/Innkeeper Start-Ups, Opening New Boutique/Upscale Properties, and Hiring GMs
For episode #18 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Linda Hayes, a renowned innkeeping consultant with ijk Partners, an affiliate of the B&B team. She discusses creative investor/innkeeper start-ups, the opening of new boutique/upscale lodging properties, strategies for hiring General Managers, and her perspective on emerging innkeeping industry trends.
You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.
When people think of innkeepers, an image often comes to mind of a couple leaving the grind of the big city to own, operate and live at their property. While this is often the case, there has recently been a rise of investors/innkeepers that are purchasing and renovating unique properties, some of whom don’t live on-site or manage the day-to-day work.
For individuals taking this path, many don’t come from hospitality backgrounds, and need the right guidance for helping them make sound decisions to develop unique boutique/upscale properties that generate a solid return on their investment.
Linda Hayes lends her highly-experienced advice to these complex start-up ventures to enable investors/innkeepers to develop successful properties. She also provides consultation services to aspiring innkeepers searching for existing properties and existing innkeepers looking to improve operational systems, marketing, and the selection/development of support staff.
In this podcast, Linda discusses the various consulting services she provides, the rise of investors/innkeepers, and how the lodging arena needs to move beyond being “merchants of sleep” to focus on providing quality guest experiences.
- Linda’s background and how she has worked “full circle” in her initial career and the innkeeping world. (1:00)
- A rundown on the types of consulting services that Linda offers for investors/innkeepers and aspiring innkeepers. (3:15)
- Insights into her work with investors/innkeepers and how her experience owning and selling the Inn at Riverbend in Pearisburg, Virginia. (5:04)
- How Linda works in helping with the design, zoning/planning, and re-use of older structures that transform into lodging offerings. (8:57)
- The services Linda provides that enhance overall operations for property owners. (16:36)
- Insights into hiring GMs and partial exit strategies for innkeepers to bring staff to free up their time and resources. (20:40)
- Where Linda sees the innkeeping industry heading, the rise of Gen A, and how today’s travelers are seeking out unique experiences. (26:46)
We are very thankful to Linda for sharing her insights with us! You can learn more about Linda’s consulting services, by visiting her website.
Megan is a renowned innkeeping consultant, who also co-owned and operated The Vermont Inn for 13 years, and served as Vermont’s State Tourism Director. She also recently participated in a Frictionless Innkeeper podcast interview, which you can listen to here.
Listen to the full Inside Innkeeping podcast interview, which highlights how the Frictionless Guest App helps to enhance the guest experience, here:
You can also listen to the podcast at SoundCloud here.
Here are the key highlights from this interview:
- A high-level overview of the Frictionless Guest App for innkeepers. (:53)
- How innkeepers can inform guests about the app in their pre-stay email confirmations. (1:33)
- How the Frictionless Guest App team helps innkeepers to populate their apps with local places to eat, play and shop. (2:07)
- The history and evolution of the Frictionless Guest App. (3:50)
- The size and types of properties that currently use the Frictionless Guest App. (4:32)
- More about the mapping capabilities in the app. (5:24)
By offering guests an easy way to find recommendations of the best places to eat, play and shop – using any mobile device or desktop – the Frictionless Guest App allows guests to plan their trip starting at the time of booking and easily navigate to recommended places throughout their stay, so that hoteliers and innkeepers play a significant role in improving the experience of their guests.To learn more about the Frictionless Guest App, please contact us here.
Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #17: Megan Smith, Renowned Innkeeping Consultant, Discusses How to Increase Revenues and Improve Operations
For episode #17 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Megan Smith, a renowned innkeeping expert and consultant, as well as the host of the popular “Inside Innkeeping” podcast series. She discusses how innkeepers can increase revenues, improve operations, and remain competitive.
You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.
Remaining competitive in the innkeeping arena is no small challenge, especially in the face of multiple accommodation offerings, and Airbnb growing in popularity.
However, now is actually a great time for innkeepers to adapt to the changing tourism landscape by pursuing new revenue streams. For example, rather than swimming against the tide of short-term rentals, Megan suggests that many innkeepers consider embracing this change by putting some of their rooms on the Airbnb platform.
She also asserts that there are many great strategies that can help innkeepers greatly improve revenue generation. These include hosting events, mixers, concerts, and weddings, as well as partnering with golf courses, transportation providers, wineries, museums, and art galleries on referral arrangements.
Another idea is to co-brand and sell local products, as well as focus on your passions – offering surfing lessons as an example.
In this podcast, Megan, who also co-owned and operated The Vermont Inn for 13 years, and served as Vermont’s State Tourism Director, discusses how innkeepers can increase their revenues, improve their operations, and remain competitive:
- Megan’s background in the innkeeping industry. (1:05)
- Insights into Megan’s consulting work. (2:40)
- How innkeepers can leverage Airbnb. (4:23)
- Other consulting services and ideas Megan has shared with innkeepers to improve operations. (7:14)
- Some creative ideas and advice for innkeepers to improve their revenue. (11:20)
- Insights into how weddings can help drive additional revenue. (15:38)
- How to secure partnerships with local businesses to create revenue opportunities. (19:32)
- ·Why this is a good time for innkeepers to be creative and focus on differentiating themselves. (24:03)
We are very thankful to Megan for sharing her insights with us! You can learn more about Megan’s consulting services, by visiting her website.
Historic Boutique Hotel Provides Curated Guest Recommendations for Best Local Places to Eat, Play and Shop in Greensboro, North Carolina
ALEXANDRIA, VA – August 12, 2019 – The Frictionless Guest App has announced that The Biltmore Greensboro Hotel in Greensboro, NC is using its app to enhance the overall guest experience through curated recommendations of the best local places to eat, play and shop.
With a storied history that dates back to 1903, the boutique hotel began using the Frictionless Guest App in May, and has seen enhanced guest satisfaction through the use of the mobile app.
Brian Coleman, GM of The Biltmore Greensboro Hotel, believes in providing very high-touch services for guests, and finds that the app fits perfectly into his vision of always being there for guests.
“The Frictionless Guest App is an extension of our personalized, face-to-face guest services and the response has been highly positive,” said Coleman in this podcast interview. “In addition, the technology is very easy to use and setup, and it allows us to essentially be with our guests when they are not on the property.”
By offering guests an easy way to find recommendations of the best places to eat, play and shop – using any mobile device or desktop – the Frictionless Guest App allows guests to plan their trip starting at the time of booking and easily navigate to recommended places throughout their stay, so that hoteliers and innkeepers play a significant role in improving the experience of their guests.
“We are proud to have a boutique hotel with such a storied history as the Biltmore Greensboro using the Frictionless Guest App to give their guests an easy way to find the best local experiences,” said Steve Short, Founder & CEO of the Frictionless Guest App. “Brian Coleman is a GM who has transformed his hotel’s culture to become service-obsessed, which has led to phenomenal booking and revenue growth. He has the amazing desire and ability to see things from the perspective of the guest, so the fact that he embraces our app and has made it an integral part of the Biltmore Greensboro’s approach toward improving the guest experience indicates that we are helping lodging providers with a significant need that has previously been neglected.”
About the Frictionless Guest App
The Frictionless Guest App provides innkeepers with an easy way to recommend the best local offerings to their guests, so that guests have great experiences and community places thrive. For more information about this software as a service (SaaS) offering that is available to innkeepers and hoteliers of all types, visit frictionlessguest.com.
The Frictionless Innkeeper TIP series is intended to provide practical suggestions to innkeepers. Oftentimes these ideas are provided by our guests on the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series.
If Bono was right in claiming that “music can change the world because it can change people,” then it seems reasonable that hosting live music at your property can enhance the experience of your guests.
With the rise of house concerts, where musical artists perform in an intimate setting, innkeepers are now presented with an opportunity to differentiate themselves by bringing live music to their properties. And while the idea of hosting musical events may seem difficult to coordinate or impossible due to limited space, it’s probably easier to make happen than you might imagine.
Wendy Collins, co-owner of The Mission Inn in Cape May, NJ, hosts a monthly concert series from October through April to offer her guests specialized experiences and gain more marketing visibility during the slower winter months. She invites singer-songwriters from the local area, as well as Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, to perform in the property’s common space, and offers desert and great food during intermissions.
Both the community and guests are invited to attend the performances, and she uses social media to promote the musical events. This has also created a “ripple effect” where the performers and attendees all share their experiences on their social media sites.
And it’s really paid off. Wendy has had guests return over and over again during the offseason to see the performances.
As both music lovers and supporters of independent innkeepers, we thought this was an excellent win-win idea that was worth sharing!
Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #16: Rob Fulton, CEO of AIHP, Discusses the 2019 State of B&Bs Report and the Future of Independent Hospitality
For episode #16 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Rob Fulton, CEO of the Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals (AIHP) about the upcoming AIHP 2019 State of B&Bs Report and the future of independent hospitality – in part two of this two-part podcast series.
You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.
The Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals (AIHP) is a nonprofit organization that represents, supports, educates, and advocates for independent hospitality professionals to enhance their personal satisfaction and business success. Founded in 2015, AIHP has seen phenomenal growth over the last four years and continues to gain traction as a key voice for independent lodging.
Last year, the organization issued its in-depth “B&B’s UNBOUND – The State of B&B’s in the U.S.” study, and is gearing up to launch 2019 version of this study. The updated report will dive deeper into topics around everyday operations, occupancy levels and financial efforts at B&Bs – to allow AIHP members to benchmark and compare their businesses to their peers.
AIHP is also working to help B&Bs best manage some of the most significant changes impacting the future of the industry. For example, the organization is continually seeking to level the playing field for B&Bs with it comes to short-term rental providers, as well as providing educational resources to help properties enhance direct bookings.
In this podcast, Rob shares insights into the upcoming State of B&Bs Study, the future of the industry, and how owning the localized guest experience is important:
- Insights into the 2019 version of the State of B&Bs Study. (1:05)
- More about AIHP’s role in helping innkeepers deal with short-term rentals and OTAs. (5:32)
- How AIHP is helping innkeepers to enhance overall direct bookings. (7:26)
- How owning the local guest experience is important for innkeepers. (12:18)
- What the future holds for the independent lodging industry overall. (17:45)
- How the sector is embracing new innovations that enhance the guest experience. (21:24)