This is a guest post by Sherry Beck, Owner at Bavarian Inn in Custer, South Dakota. You can also view Sherry’s previous article that has been featured on our blog.
Goal #1 for the Bavarian Inn, even prior to taking over ownership of the property, was to increase our online presence, elevate our social media and connect to the amazing world of GDS. I had to find a way to compete with the Big Boys.
In my case, the Big Boys are the franchised motel & hotels. They are the ones with brand recognition, larger marketing budgets and the systems in place to book rooms throughout numerous distribution channels. They dominate most markets, mine included.
I crept on many independent hotel websites, Facebook pages and played around a lot on large travel booking sites to figure out who was doing it right. I had no desire to add a franchise to my property, although it was suggested by several banks when trying to find funding. Doing so would have lessened the challenge and the dream of creating my very own unique guest experience.
Having only about 6 weeks to prepare all systems for opening day, I spent countless hours sorting through numerous Property Management Software Companies, all promising me easy reservation management, reporting, group bookings, no-fee booking engine, revenue management, credit card integration and 2 way integration with 140+ distribution channels as well as the GDS. After many demonstrations and long sales pitches, I finally made a choice. I picked the one that was most visually appealing to use. The log in screen has green grass and a cute little tree. I loved that the icon to check a guest in was shaped like a little door. And I thought it was very clever that when taking a reservation the icon to book the room was actually a little book. After two full seasons, I’m happy to say that InnRoad has not let me down. This system has all the features to successfully operate an independent hotel and it’s cute. Well as cute as professional software can be.
The hospitality business is really pretty simple. We all are offering a safe, comfortable place to sleep, swimming pools, hot showers, great coffee, etc. My goal is for the traveler to choose me.
I am not just in the business of putting heads in beds; I am in the business of creating happiness. Creating happiness for my guests, my coworkers, my family and myself. My adorable 64 room, 5 acre seasonal property is the perfect stage for my nightly performance.
Savannah, my AGM, said it best when she was checking guests in one summer’s night and said, “Welcome to Our Slumber Party!” I love that and have used it over and over again as I have greeted many travelers from around the World. Yes, I get a few strange looks and awkward smiles but most often, this phrase starts a happy conversation and a fun first impression.
There are times when my body and mind are just too tired to fully present my happiness mission. As the owner/operator I work 240 days straight, a portion of each day is spent at the front desk where I can make the biggest impact on the guest experience. I can recall one night in the peak of the season that I was so very tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. The hotel was full; laughter was spilling out of the indoor pool area as families were enjoying their time together. The outdoor pool and tennis court were also occupied and many people were wondering around the property enjoying the fresh air and a sky full of stars. As I stood outside, I enjoyed the noises, the people, the cuteness of the surroundings and I felt so fortunate to have had another successful slumber party.
However, this had to end. I had to somehow get all these people to their rooms, in the most pleasant way possible, so I could get to sleep myself. So I rounded up some brochures about the area attractions, specifically activities that required early morning arrival. I also found a brochure published by the Forest Service about the dangers of the local wildlife…Mountain Lions. The brochure about the Mountain Lions suggests being quiet at night and staying indoors. As I made my way around the property, engaging with many happy guests and suggesting great early morning activities for the next day, I also included the Mountain Lion Safety Information. Within 30 Minutes, I had shut the lights off and went to bed. OK, it was past our normal closing time anyway, but I hate asking people to leave or to quiet down. I’d rather help them make the decision themselves. People seem happier when they have the control.
So Season 2 ended with a 4.5/5 Star Ranking on Trip Advisor and Occupancy & RevPar well over my fair share of the market (according to STR,inc) Keeping true to my mission, I am happy!