Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Not sure you want to be a real hands-on innkeeper? Try this on...


I've posted about this concept before but it's been a while. And with all of the recent activity I'm starting to see, I wanted to talk about it again, but more in depth this time.

Kudos to this property owner in Durango, Colorado for such a great idea. It's called "Nobody's Inn". Essentially it's a small, in town property run like a hotel but with a bed and breakfast feel. What's missing is the in-person concierge, but not the amenities. So for those of you who say "I'd love to buy an inn but I just don't like people", this is for you (and believe me, there are numerous people who express that and you might be shaking your head in agreement right now!).

Not all B&B travelers want the level of intimacy with the innkeepers or the guests. They want a bit of anonymity but they want the amenities that come with a small B&B/inn. For them, this is the perfect place - what a niche! And with today's competition, if you can find a niche, run with it. Niche marketing offers a huge advantage over the rest lost in the crowd.

So here's how it would work, and we'll use a scenario of an 8 room, in town property, without kitchenettes, with plenty of restaurants in walking distance:
When the guest makes a reservation, along with the confirmation they receive a security code to the property's front door. The front door has a cipher lock with a electronic keypad. The guest enters, they find a welcome note from you and directions to their room. And you can hand write it, to provide the personal touch, you just aren't present to welcome them. But you can still provide a welcome feel without being present. You can have a nicely framed map on the wall with a small version in their note showing them to their room. So it's not that you haven't cared for them, you just are providing that care on a different level.

They arrive at their room and you've left the lights on for them, you can have flowers in the room, you can have freshly baked cookies in their room, a good coffee maker, again, the same treatment guests receive from a traditional bed and breakfast, but without the common room for the cookies and the socializing. But the guest still enjoys such amenities, but privately. And there is a big market for that. There are plenty of travelers who do not stay at a B&B - and as a former B&B owner, I heard many times from callers that expressed concern of their regular travel habit of hotels and hesitation to stay in a B&B for the intimacy factor, because they don't want to feel obligated to talk to people, they prefer to talk to people at their leisure. Let's face it, not everyone is a people person, and that's alright.

In their room are the room keys and a very organized concierge book answering any question they may possibly have: a map of the area noting the points of interest, restaurants, etc, phone numbers to the restaurants and notes if reservations are suggested for certain ones; a list of area services, laundry services, bus or car rental information, anything you can think of, you'd provide it. So again, you are providing for your guests, just not delivering the information to them verbally.

If they've forgotten anything, you've noted in your concierge book where to find your guest amenities basket in the common area of the property.

In the morning
, you deliver a tray of fresh baked goods and fruit. And you can tailor this part to your liking. It can be at a requested time, as hotel service, or it can be left for them between a specific time. Or if you have a small common area, you can set up a nice buffet and provide trays they can take back to their room. And they already have a coffee maker in the room, possibly a hot water maker as well, for tea. You deliver a newspaper to their door. You still offer daily housekeeping services as you would a traditional bed and breakfast.

When it's time to check out, the guest has already paid in full because you've charged the balance due within 7-14 days of their arrival, they simply leave when they're ready, they leave their room keys in their room and leave the inn when they're ready. You send them a thank you for staying with us email or you can even slip a hand written note under their door the night before or early morning.

Has your guest felt cared for and welcomed? Yes. They just haven't had the personal interaction with you or other guests. But you've still provided and cared for them and anticipated their needs and questions by having the detailed concierge book in their room.

With regard to common area, guests may still choose to sit in a common area if you have one, and chat with other guests. But they know they aren't relying on the innkeeper for answers to questions or aren't anticipating interaction with the innkeeper. So it's a solution to the type of innkeeper you've read about who isn't around much but the guest felt they should have been. Guests who stay here know what to expect and want to be there for these reasons.

Sound appealing? And if there are two partners involved, this type of property might easily allow one of the innkeepers to have a full time outside job.

Contact me if you have further questions or interest. I know of a few properties where this concept would work beautifully.

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