Trip Advisor strikes again

DoorsAre you feeling the pinch as Trip Advisor morphs into a booking engine and demands more and more of your hard-earned profits?

Are you starting to wonder whether it was a good idea to sign up with those OTAs as Trip Advisor and its partners start to demand more and more of your cash?

The problem is not really about how much commissions you have to pay, though, it’s much deeper than that.

First here’s a question: Do you remember the days when there was no internet and no-one had a website?

Guests would find us by word of mouth, from person to person, or via local tourist offices or even through a local network of other B&B owners.  We never knew who would be coming, if indeed anyone at all showed up from one minute to the next.  We’d sit by the phone hoping someone would call, and take a chance on whether we would be happy to have them stay in our homes.  With luck, we would generally welcome lovely people and they’d leave glowing comments in our guest book for future guests to see.

Ah, life was so simple then.  No-one had ever heard of “marketing” let alone how to do it. We were broke but we were happy!!

And then along came the internet and everything changed.  We now need a website because “everyone’s online” and instead of the guest book, we ask guests to post on Trip Advisor for potential guests to see.  For me, almost all my guests have checked me out on Trip Advisor before making a booking, so great reviews are hugely important, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Instead of relying on word of mouth, local tourist offices or our local networks, we can now rely on online travel agents to bring us guests.  So in effect, nothing’s changed, except it’s all online

But here’s where it gets interesting…..

The online travel agencies and Trip Advisor have joined forces and why not?  They have the same customers and it makes sense from a business perspective.  After all they’re doing a great job for us, and that’s my point….. they’re doing OUR job, and if we’re relying on them to bring us guests, then we’re in a dangerous and disadvantaged place.  They hold all the cards.  One glitch, or hiccup on their part sends us into a tailspin.

Because the truth is, they really don’t care about us.  They care about their business and building it, and by allowing them to fill our beds for us, we become one of their “suppliers of beds” rather than a B&B business, and we inadvertently end up building their business instead of our own, and pay them a commission for it!

The cold hard truth is, when we operate like that, we don’t really have a business at all.  No systems, no lead generation, no follow up, no database = no business.

But we do have a choice….. we can take control of our own B&B businesses, learn how to do the essential marketing, build a profitable business and own it.  When we do that, we are no longer at the mercy of the giants.  We use them for the services they provide, but we don’t dance to their tunes any more.

Which side of the fence do you want to be on?