You’re probably not the only guesthouse or B&B in town. While you may be tempted to view the others as competition, it would be a mistake to separate yourself from them. I would even go farther and say that much can be gained by working together.
I opened up my guesthouse at a time when guesthouses weren’t even on the radar in my town let alone the United States. As more guesthouses opened up for business, I worried that there wasn’t enough business to go around. I already felt like I had too much competition from the hotels in town and certainly didn’t need anybody else offering the same kind of homey/non-hotel experience that I offer.
For years, we all did our own things. And surprisingly to me, my business continued to do well even increasing its occupancy rate about 10% each year while the number of guesthouses in the area grew.
I can now say with much certainty that the existence of other guesthouses in the area not only doesn’t hurt business but actually helps it. My theory is that when travelers know that there are alternatives to hotels, they will find you. When travelers don’t know there are alternatives to hotels in your area, they may not.
About 3 years ago, I reached out to the other guesthouse owners in town and asked them if they wanted to meet for coffee and meet one another. I thought it would fun to chat with one another and share stories and ideas. I didn’t even see it as networking originally, because we weren’t there yet. We still weren’t too sure if we were each other’s competition or not.
The morning coffee meetings were much smaller than the evening beer/wine meetings, so we now only meet in the evenings over drinks and sometimes dinner. We always meet at different venues to get to know the local establishments and to keep it interesting. It wasn’t a set time every month either. It was very sporadic but generally once a month or so. We shared ideas and supported one another. We started sending guests to one another when we were booked. We noticed that the travelers to whom we were able to give recommendations were very appreciative, and it felt good to help them out as well as each other.
Last year, we held a tour for the public to see our places. It wasn’t a huge success, but it was a great learning opportunity. We were going to try it again and try a different format but opted instead to start a website. Our goal was to get the business folks in the community to put their business visitors up at our places mid-week, which is when most of us struggle for bookings.
It’s so nice to have a website to direct people to when we’re full. And it definitely hasn’t hurt my bookings nor has it hurt anyone else to my knowledge. It not only helps us by creating goodwill towards visitors to the area, but it helps each other, and it helps the visitors find an equally awesome place to stay. It’s a win/win/win.
So if you want to increase your exposure, increase your circle in your community, and make a lot of people happy, I recommend joining forces. You won’t be sorry you did.