Having your inn featured in USA Today is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Almost a lightning-strike kind of luck.
Consider that inns/b&bs represent less than 3% of the lodging industry, and there are roughly 17,000 inns in the US alone....wow, I can't do math that small!
How we ended up in USA Today is a story in itself. Several years ago Marti Mayne, the PR person for BedandBreakfast.com, stayed here while touring other Berkshire inns. She and I have stayed in touch (would I be a good marketer if I didn't?), and she reads our newsletters and blogs.
She knew that our 2009 was 25% better than 2008....in an economy that caused the lodging industry as a whole to dip 25%. A 50% swing is noticeable.
The Professional Association of Innkeepers happened to publish a study at the time stating that inns/b&bs as a category were showing a "flat" 2009. It seemed to demonstrate that many people WERE taking vacations, in spite of the Holiday Inns and Deltas of the world saying they were not.
This caught the attention of Laura Bly, a travel editor for USA Today. She called Marti to ask her take on the study.
Marti correctly responded that people WERE traveling, just changing their habits: They were taking long weekends, were driving instead of flying, and were looking for an "experience," - in other words accommodations that offered something a little more special than a bed and a tv.
Laura said she would like to do an article about this, and she wanted to by-line it in a place known as a b&b/inn destination.
Marti suggested that Lenox represented the best concentration of upscale inns in the country, and that she should start with Hampton Terrace as a place that could speak first-person about the state of business during the recession. I got the call.
So Laura stayed here and we spent a lot of time in conversation. She did acknowledge that our "take" on getting through the recession was different than her experience to that point. Most hotels and resorts she had been interviewing had been aggressively discounting in order to attract business.
I told her that as a small business, discounting was not an option. I had bills to pay. I spend my energy hoping to prove that an "experience" at Hampton Terrace is worth more than people pay. My 98% satisfaction score at Trip Advisor confirms that most people agree. Would discounting my rooms get me to 99% or 100%? Likely not.
Laura spent her second day visiting other inns in Lenox, and received similar feedback. She learned of afternoon teas, cordials before bed, personalized service.... all of the things that make an inn experience what it is.
So....good exposure for us...good exposure for Lenox...and a win for the b&b industry in general.
Back to that 97% who stay in hotels and motels. Why?
Mostly insecurity. Every inn is different. Every Holiday Inn is the same. Most people are afraid of the unpredictable.
But there are ways to know if your inn experience will be good. Next blog.....