Innkeepers Meet the Social Web: Will The Guest Experience Suffer?
Brian and Leslie Mulcahy work very hard for their accolades and consistently outstanding reviews by always being there for their guests.
"It’s not easy,” say the innkeepers of the quintessential New England inn, Rabbit Hill Inn, in the Currier and Ives town of Lower Waterford, Vermont.
But Lesley is reading Groundswell ("winning in a world transformed by social technologies,"), which sounds the clarion call for a social tools-based mind set that baffles most of the travel world, and especially traditional innkeepers.
Today, Rabbit Hill posts videos on YouTube, Brian conducts advanced searches in Google to see how many web sites embedded their videos, and the couple is planning a new web site designed to foster community. But they were quick to assure me that they are innkeepers first .
Their guests are what count.
Still, marketing through the social web is very time consuming and complex, so will they really have time to attend to the many demands of their guests?
Marti Mayne a guru of inn-related web marketing at BedandBreakfast.com says innkeepers will have to hire professionals to handle their social web marketing and PR, just as they hire electricians or other professionals, if they want to continue to provide high-quality guest services, the hallmark of their businesses.
And a recent BedandBreakfast.com survey shows a dramatic increase by innkeepers in the use of social tools, especially blogs and Facebook, and a push toward buying ad words to drive search engine results, unthinkable a year ago.
Bookings from on-line sites like Expedia was the poorest performing indicator, and the simple transactional web sites of a few years ago are on the way out.
Like many innkeepers, Dick and Diane Pabich of the Salem Inn (Salem, MA ) bristled at the mere mention of Twitter or Facebook.
But at a recent meeting, Pabich proudly pointed to the increase in the inn's Facebook fan base… and they're embolden to stick their toe into the fast moving but time consuming Twitter stream.
With her purple hair and their serious commitment to social media, Tim and Amy Brady are the Gen-X owners of 40 Putney Road B and B in Brattleboro, Vermont, and the new face of innkeeping. "We are geeky and off beat and out to grab a new audience through social media," says Tim. "But we focus on our guests first."
Tea times at these Norman Rockwell-type inns won't soon disappear, but building an on line buzz is ushering in a new breed of innkeepers. Will the inn experience change?
What’s your experience with inns?
Rabbit Hill Inn photo by Wendie Hansen