Since the first lockdown ended here in England, like many B&Bs across the UK, my own Bed and Breakfast has been very busy. Many people have been desperate to to get away after months of lockdown or have had their trips abroad cancelled.
It’s not all been plain sailing though. Whilst some people have been desperate to get away, others have been more apprehensive. I’ve had 28 B&B nights, booked before lockdown, cancelled because people are too nervous to travel or have had some change in circumstances due to COVID19.
Looking back at my diary for the last few months, I think about 90% of my bookings have been repeat guests. And looking forward, 100% of my bookings are guests who have stayed with us before. My bookings in a normal year are made up of about 60-70% repeat business.
Even after over 16 years of running a bed and breakfast, I still get a bit apprehensive when a new guest books in. Will it meet their expectations? Will it be that one demanding guest we all dread? Are they going to be the guest who just doesn’t get you and leaves a bad review?
With repeat guests, you can relax a bit. You know that they know what they’re coming to. There are going to be no nasty surprises for anyone. With many of my guests, I can tell you what time they will come for breakfast, what time they’ll leave for the day and what they’ll be ordering to eat! All that makes it easier to plan my shopping and my days.
You’re also not having to put a lot of effort into getting to know a complete stranger and making them feel welcome in your house, as the relationship is already there. It can be quite emotionally draining in a long, busy season, meeting one stranger after and another. I actually find this one of the most difficult parts of running a B&B.
Attracting new guests to your B&B is not a cheap business. If you’re using the online travel agencies such as BOOKING.COM, you’ll be paying a hefty commission for each guest that books with you.
Or you may use Google adwords or other commission based directories to attract guests. All this adds to your business costs.
Repeat guests will hopefully - it’s not always the case - book direct with you, saving you commission and allowing you to reduce your bed and breakfast marketing costs.
Another great thing about repeat guests is that they become big fans of your business and will help you promote it. They’ll tell their friends about you directly and share your social media posts.
I have several extended families who come and stay at the B&B; Grandparents, parents and adult children! They don’t visit us together usually but will each come individually several times throughout the year.
It’s also really useful when repeat guests comment on your social media. It’s social proof to potential new guests reading your posts that you’re a good B&B worth trying out.
Whilst a lot of people are nervous about travelling because of COVID19, they are more likely to visit somewhere they are familiar with and trust.
Over the last few months, many guests have said to me “We were very apprehensive about coming away, but knew we could trust you to take the right steps to make it as safe as possible” or something similar.
Of course, not every B&B welcomes as many repeat guests. It may be the nature of the business such as welcoming a lot of wedding guests or people stopping over en route to somewhere else or, maybe, they are in a once in a lifetime holiday destination. They could be on a major walking or cycling route that people only ever do once.
Or it could be the type of guests who are staying. My guests mostly fall into the 45 plus category and they are probably more likely to visit the same place regularly than the younger generation. That said, I have one of my extended family regulars staying this weekend and they’re in the late twenties, so there’s always an exception to the rule!
And my most regular guests - they’ve been staying with me since I opened in 2004 and visited 8 times last year - were in their late twenties when they first visited us.
Some guests just naturally love what you do and start visiting you regularly. Others take a bit more effort.
Turning guests into fans who keep coming back, starts with their very first experience of staying with you. If you don't at least meet their expectations then it's very unlikely you'll see them again. Much about this in the online course.
However, if every guest who had ever said to me "We love it here we're definitely coming back" did actually return, I would never have to do any marketing and my B&B would be full to the rafters all the time.
People forget you. They move onto the next lovely B&B. So they need reminding about you.
One couple in their mid twenties first stayed with me in 2008. At the end of their stay they turned to me and said “We’ve had a wonderful time but we won’t be back. We never go anywhere twice as there are so many places to visit” Twelve years later they’ve returned 7 times.
This is because they connected with me on social media - first Twitter, then Facebook, then Instagram. Over the years I've maintained a relaxed friendly online relationship with them - never selling! And they are continually reminded about Hopton House, so keep returning!
There are lots of things you can do to turn guests into repeats. I have lots of tips of my own and I've also gone out to the Facebook Group and asked them what tricks they have for attracting repeat guests. I’ll share some of those tips on how to turn guests into repeat guests in a future blog post.
Sign up for my weekly newsletter to receive hints and tips about setting up, running and marketing a B&B, as well as details about future courses.
Please check your email inbox or junk folder to complete the sign up process.
Your privacy is very important to me. I will never pass your email on to anyone else. You may unsubscribe at any time.