Hluhluwe Accommodation Venues & Tour Operators

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Marketing your guesthouse or bed-and-breakfast

Accommodation Provided by Business Partners Ltd, South Africa's leading investor in SMEs
Quick Tips for Marketing your Guest House or B&B

(No-Nonsense Advice for Entrepreneurs in Tourism)

The good news is that every business has something unique to offer, no matter how many other operators there are in the market. It’s up to you to find that unique selling point, market it and deliver on it, making it an intrinsic and desirable feature of your business. This is what will make visitors seek you out and return again and again.

Whatever your unique selling point may be, identify it, define it and use it to full advantage in all aspects of your business.
South Africa is the world’s fastest-growing tourist destination and offers many opportunities for entrepreneurs. The challenge, of course, is for individual establishments not to get lost in the general clutter that confronts both local and foreign tourists when planning a trip here. This is particularly true for guest houses and B&Bs run by entrepreneurs who can’t match the advertising and promotional budgets of the big hotel chains. The good news is that there are lots of easy ways to promote a small establishment – one just has to keep close to the needs of the market and be creative. Business Partners, South Africa’s leading investment group for small and medium enterprises, has over 20 years of experience in the tourism sector. Over the years, the group has distilled its knowledge of this sector and has some valuable tips to offer guest house and B&B proprietors:

Know Your Guests

Wherever you’re situated, it’s important to know exactly what it is your guests need and to cater for those needs. If you own a youth hostel for divers near Umkomaas, they’ll probably be looking for simple, affordable accommodation providing hearty breakfasts, storage space for dive equipment, information about local dives and details of the best value-for-money night-time entertainment. If, however, you own an exclusive boutique hotel on the Atlantic seaboard, you’ll be catering for a completely different kind of guest, one who is looking for luxury décor, gourmet meals, special features and lots of pampering.

Most entrepreneurs in the tourism industry are very good at getting to know their guests and at catering for them, because they both own and run their businesses. There are, however, a few questions guest house and B&B owners can ask themselves in order to provide the best possible accommodation and service for the market:

  • Exactly what kind of accommodation do existing and potential guests require? Do they need double rooms, single rooms, en-suite facilities, business facilities, special features and so on?
  • What kind of meals do they need and do we need to cater for special dietary requirements? For example, do we need to provide vegetarian, kosher or halaal options?
  • Do our guests have any specific or special needs? Do they need safe, off-street parking, en-suite bathroom facilities, separate rooms for children, access to computer facilities or customised features for the physically-challenged?
  • Is our location unique in any way? Can we offer a sea view, is there a nature walk right outside the door or are we perhaps at the heart of an unusual historical area?
  • Is there anything unique about our service, something that we do and no-one else does, even if its something small? Do we welcome guests with outlandish cocktails, do we offer a fresh fish braai for those tired divers in the evening, do we offer a free aromatherapy massage with every booking of three days or more or is our establishment decorated and run according to a particular theme?
  • Do we offer any special benefits and/or conveniences to our guests? For example, do we have a shuttle service to the airport, do we provide game drives, do we accommodate pet owners or do we offer guided tours of local historical or natural attractions?
  • What are our strengths and weaknesses? Be honest – then concentrate on your strengths and get your weaknesses up to an acceptable standard.

Find Your Unique Selling Point

The good news is that every business has something unique to offer, no matter how many other operators there are in the market. It’s up to you to find that unique selling point, market it and deliver on it, making it an intrinsic and desirable feature of your business. This is what will make visitors seek you out and return again and again.

By way of example, it’s worth mentioning a well-known country inn situated in the historic town of Greyton in the Western Cape. It’s located in the town’s original post office, which is now a national monument. This, no doubt, is a unique selling point and the owners have used it to great advantage. Firstly, the inn is called “The Post House”, immediately giving the potential guest key information about it and promoting further interest. Secondly, the entire establishment has been decorated to reflect the Victorian character of the old town, as it was when it was established in the 1860’s by Sir George Grey. Each suite is named after characters from the books of Beatrix Potter and include, for instance, the Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Jemima Puddle-Duck suites. The inn’s historic pub is similarly decorated in classic Victorian style and features a roaring fire on cold winter evenings. Visit www.posthouse.co.za to have a look for yourself.

Whatever your unique selling point may be, identify it, define it and use it to full advantage in all aspects of your business.

Be Smart with Your Advertising

Advertising of some kind is important for every business and it doesn’t necessarily have to involve huge expense, it just needs to be carefully thought out. If you don’t advertise, it’s a bit like having a bath in the dark – you get a warm feeling, but nobody else knows what’s going on.

The first choice for many guest houses and B&Bs in South Africa is the classified section in publications like Getaway and the Sunday Times Magazine. Relatively affordable, these reach a wide audience of people who use them to look for holiday accommodation. Establishments aimed exclusively at business travellers should advertise similarly in appropriate industry and trade publications and/or newsletters.

If you’re watching your budget, advertise at specific times of the year at which you’ll have the best chance of success – before school holidays, a local festival or an upcoming conference – or in the run-up to a natural attraction like the spring flowers of Namaqualand.

Harness the Power of e-Business

In today’s busy world, more and more people are organising their holidays and business trips using the Internet and e-mail, so it’s important not to get left behind on this score.

Firstly, consider a listing on one of the country’s trade-specific web portals.  These sites come up on the Google search engine when using the words “B&B, South Africa”, so have a wide reach. The bookabed.co.za site is part of an international interlinked network of sites, so reaches a good international audience too.

Try and support your listing with a web site of your own, even if it’s a small one. Publish information about rates, location and accommodation type on-line and show pictures of the establishment, as well as its unique features. For example, Brookdale Cottages in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands are situated in the middle of a sprawling English country garden and this popular B&B’s web marketing makes full use of this. The owners feature their beautiful rose garden – in full bloom – on their web site and have called the two cottages that comprise the establishment “Bramble Cottage” and “Rose and Briar Cottage”.

Also, keep a list of the e-mail addresses of people who send enquiries from the site or of guests who come to stay. This is a valuable source of repeat business and you can use this list (sparingly and by permission only!) to send out promotional information.

Develop Seasonal and Special Promotions

Seasonal and special promotions are a stalwart of any marketing programme and there’s lots of scope for creativity here. If, for instance, you have a B&B in Johannesburg and Fashion Week is coming up, develop a special offer for the fashion buyers of big retail chains, for local designers and design colleges. Promote it in trade publications or by e-mail and make that particular audience feel as if you’ve given a lot of thought to its specific needs.

Spring, summer, autumn and winter promotions work well too, if you give them a good creative spin, as do well-loved holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. If your establishment is in an historically or naturally significant area, like Hermanus, promote seasonal attractions like whale watching. Be aware of out-of-season attractions too and promote these in a similar way to raise occupation during traditionally quiet periods. Cape Tourism’s “green season” winter promotion is a good example of this kind of marketing.

Also, consider offering promotional rates or benefits for guests booking for five nights or more too – this will encourage them to book for a longer stay than they may, at first, have considered.

Be Efficient and Consistent

Most of all, be efficient and consistent. Answer queries by telephone or e-mail as quickly as possible and, if you can’t meet a guest’s specified needs, offer possible alternatives. There are lots of guest houses and B&Bs that offer similar facilities and services to what you do and it’s always the early bird that gets the worm. Quick, friendly and individualised service wins hands-down ever time.

Finally, be consistent – this encourages return visits from guests and prompts them to tell their friends and colleagues about your establishment. If you put gingerbread men on the pillows to welcome guests, do it every time. If you have a special theme, like the Post House does, apply the theme to everything you do. Find that unique selling point and deliver on it consistently. Have Fun Finally, have fun. Whether travelling on business or for pleasure, guests enjoy an establishment run by relaxed, friendly people. This is your business, have a good time running it and everyone will want to come back – again and again.

Source:  http://www.businesspartners.co.za/

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