A Comprehensive Guide to Merchandising Bed and Breakfast Inns

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The many methods for merchandising a bed and breakfast inn embrace both traditional means and the growing areas available online. The key to all tactics is to show would-be guests how the B&B matches their lodging preferences. Getting that message to the proper guests is essential regardless of the approach. Despite the growing popularity of the internet, nearly three-quarters of B&B guests still prefer to telephone the innkeeper for a reservation. In many cases, however, such calls are influenced by an inn's internet presence. Traditional means for promoting a B&B are guidebooks and local associations' publications. The inn can also gain notice if it attracts the attention of travel journalists. The inn can present itself as a venue for special events, notably weddings and family dinners. In any case, the inn should participate in community events and be seen as a participant in the local business community. If an inn is large enough it might want to deal with tour wholesalers or incentive travel, but that is an entirely different world from the typical B&B guest. One traditional method of spurring reservations is to send a direct-mail piece, preferably to the inn's own list of previous guests or to a prequalified list of people who like to stay in B&Bs. The internet offers a more direct way to interact with would-be guests and to gain reservations, but it also has pitfalls-the most common being that the inn can be lost in the huge volume of websites. Thus, an innkeeper may wish to create a website with keywords that search engines will notice in conjunction with queries about lodging in the area. A well-designed website is essential, and it must include a way for the guest to make a request for rates and availability. That request may be in the form of a web-based booking engine or an email link. Innkeepers can use email to send messages about upcoming promotions to a list of previous guests or those who have inquired about the inn-or purchase a third-party list for this purpose. A most important issue relating to email is to avoid being seen as a spammer. Moreover, the innkeeper must be in a position to respond to guests' email requests in a prompt and personal manner. In the midst of all this, the innkeeper must find time to operate the property. Thus, engaging outside professional help for many of the merchandising tasks may be appropriate, depending on the inn's size and situation.
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Cornell; tools; bed and breakfasts; marketing; innkeepers; merchandising
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