It was late in March 2020 when it became apparent that a lockdown was coming which would mean the closure of our bed and breakfast. This is an unprecedented time but should be seen as an opportunity for you and your business. Here’s my top five tips on surviving a shutdown period of your bed and breakfast…
1 Be Flexible
In times like this, when the whole world is in some level of travel restrictions or lockdown, it’s not a time to be sticking rigidly to your Terms and Conditions of booking. The companies that will stand the test of time and win brand loyalty are those that are seen to be pulling together with everyone else and being as flexible as possible.
Although the last thing you want at a time of no income is to be refunding guest deposits, if they insist then do this. They are more likely to come back to you in the future to re-book and you don’t want to risk a poor online review.
Proactive offers to move dates and issue vouchers in lieu of deposits will help your guests and they will appreciate you being as flexible as possible to alleviate their worry about losing their booking or deposit.
2 Build Relationships
Owning a B&B is all about personally run accommodation and guests will have chosen to stay with you because they prefer a smaller place and wish to interact with you. The “About Us” page of your website will often be one of the most popular.
Use this as an opportunity to build the relationship further. Your social media may have more personal posts than usual including your home life, pets, non-business things you’re doing and your feelings. Sending a newsletter entitled “a personal letter from X and X”, and putting a copy on your website will help not only inform your guests but ensure they feel they are having personal contact from you.
The more you build the relationship with your guests now, the less likely they are to cancel and want a refund for any payment made. They will want to support you and the future of your business and will understand the position you are in. If this continues for many months, then you’ll have to cancel lots more bookings and you want as many of those as possible to accept a voucher rather than a refund.
3 Stay in Touch
Your social media is more important than ever. If anything, you should be increasing your activity across all channels right now. Your audience has nothing better to do than trawl through social media. Ensure you’re letting them know everything you’re up to, whet their appetite for their future visits. Remind them of your delicious breakfasts, the stunning bedrooms and the myriad of things to do in your area. Many of your local restaurants and attraction will also be active so some days you can just share their posts, especially if they’re doing something novel like virtual experiences. Use the same hash tag as your local tourism body for more exposure and a more cohesive campaign. Ours is #DreamNowVisitLater
Ensure your website is updated regularly and have a page on Coronavirus where guests can find any information they need on if you’re open, what to do if they already have a booking and information on if they can still make a new booking. Update this as and when the situation changes or the Government updates their advice.
4 Improve Your Offering
You may never have the opportunity of this much time again. By this I mean you literally have weeks, if not months where you have no guests. Use this time wisely. You should be ticking everything off that never ending to do list and clearing the maintenance list. By the time you re-open, your property should be looking better than ever. Get painting, gardening and cleaning. As soon as you know when lockdown is coming to an end you will be full on marketing and preparing rooms, shopping and dealing with guests re-booking their stay with you. It’s an opportunity to re-assess all areas of your business, source new suppliers, re-design your website, scrutinise your costs and become the best you can.
5 Prepare Your Marketing
Now is an ideal opportunity to be updating your website, checking SEO (search engine optimization), writing newsletters and blogs. But you need to be preparing now for when you can re-open. How will you let people know you’re open? Where will you advertise? Will you have a special offer? Do you have a list of guests to contact and get re-booked in? The quicker you can get back to 100% occupancy the better so preparing your marketing and having a plan will pay dividends.
So get into a routine. Do a few hours admin based work and a few hours physical work each day. Grab this opportunity with both hands and whenever the time comes, you can hit the re-set button and be the business you always wanted to be, but never had the time.