Thursday, July 26, 2007

Why not and others

Occasionally a guest will ask me why they were not able to find The Inn or book The Inn on or some similar site. The answer is quite simple. The vast majority of booking sites charge a minimum of 30% commission on the rooms they book. THIRTY PERCENT. Travel Agents only charge 10%.

How can a hotel survive by giving 30% of their Gross Income away? They can't. Our profit margins are just not designed that way.

Or are they? Obviously the hotels using these services are not going out of business. So how do they do it? I don't know exactly, but let me make some educated guesses.

The first hotels to sign up for these services probably did quite nicely. Especially if they were in a highly competitive market and they had no other way to distinguish themselves from their competitors. These booking sites drove ample new business to their doors. Business that they would not have gotten through any other means. Cool! So what happened when their competitor next door started using these new booking sites. The original hotel's share went down, but they were already committed to this new model so they held the course. As more and more hotels joined the fray, everyone's profit margin started to plummet.

As I said earlier, profit margins for a hotel are not designed for a 30% rake off the top. But now everyone was knee-deep in this new system. What would give? In a strong hotel market the answer was quite simple. Now that everyone was in the same boat, it was time to raise rates. If the public was so determined to book hotels in this way, let them pay for it. Everything will even out, the booking sites can have their 30% and we can get our profit margin back.

However, in a weak or even moderate hotel market that may not be an option. The only option these hotels have is to cut costs. The first cost to go is usually preventative maintenance, then staff services, then capital improvements. Though the price doesn't go down, the overall experience for the guest does.

Fortunately the Napa Valley has not yet fallen into this trap. I would much rather spend my time thinking up new, cool things I can do for my guests, what new improvements they will like, what added staffing I can put in to make things run smoother, than trying to figure out where to cut something so the guests won't notice, who to lay off or how to get by two more years with some falling apart air-conditioner or some such.

What do you think? Is booking on that much more fun than picking up a phone and talking to a nice helpful, real person that will help you pick the best room for your needs (oops, did I kinda backload that question with the answer I want you to give me)?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Comfort, the constant quest

This is my first real post. The first one was done by my PR guy to get me off the stick and blogging.
So, let's dive right into it. I am a hedonist. I love comfort and pleasure. So, I guess I am living in one of the perfect spots of the world. The Napa Valley has great weather, great people, great foods, great wines, great beauty... pretty much everything I need for an extremely pleasurable life.
So, why would I travel? The answer is obvious (adventure, new sights, romance) but it leads me to another question. What comforts am I leaving behind when I travel and how can I take comforts with me? The answer is; without eight suitcases, a butler, a maid and a valet, it just isn't going to happen. It turns out traveling is anywhere from a hassle to a major pain.
As a hedonistic Innkeeper, can I change the world? One of the great pleasures I get out of life is providing a comfortable, relaxing, sexy place for couples to reconnect and rejuvenate. My intent is to make this blog (at least in part) a forum for new and creative ways to chip away at the hassles of travel. I would like to talk about subjects as broad as general tips for comfortable travel, down to specific suggestions on what I as an Innkeeper can do at The Wine Country Inn to help you relax and get in the mood to give or receive pleasure (that may sound overly suggestive, but it was not meant to be. I find pleasure can come from the smallest thing if I am in the mood to receive).
What do you think. Anybody out there want to play 'Innkeeper For The Day' and ask questions like: I always wonder why a hotel couldn't...? or Wouldn't it be great if The Wine Country Inn would...? or Why don't the airlines...?