Bed and Breakfasts Unite: Here are fourteen ways to drive direct bookings to your Website!

Bed and Breakfasts Unite: Here are fourteen ways to drive direct bookings to your Website!

Posted by Staff Writer on Jul 1st 2019

Online Travel Agents (OTAs) like Expedia use 100-million-dollar advertising budgets to utterly destroy competition and win the top rankings in search engines. Small hospitality businesses such as B&Bs now find themselves in a “David and Goliath” situation where even if their B&B has a high ranking in a search, they are placed well below two or three OTA advertisements, as well as google map advertisements. In fact, depending on the size of the consumers cell phone, he or she may not even see the top search result until they scroll down a few screens. Obviously, small business B&Bs do not have 100-million-Dollar ad budgets, so they are not able to compete with Google Key Word Ads or Pay Per clicks. For example, if a traveler searches “B&B in New York City”, or “Bed and Breakfast in Shiloh, Tennessee, sites like AirBnB, Expedia,, have first priority. And now Google and Amazon are stepping into the mix, which adds two more companies to scrape income off the top of small businesses – See “Google and Amazon’s Disruption of the Online Travel Industry is looking Inevitable” by Susan Rowan Kelleher, June 30, 2019.

For B&B owners, OTAs have now become a “Necessary Evil”; like the mafia men of 1920s New York taking a cut from local business owners, the OTA mafia, bully and manipulate innkeepers into paying 15-18% commissions or else their B&B will simply not be listed. This is happening on a worldwide scale— B&B owners in England, Australia, Italy and other parts of the globe are paying the big OTAs just to survive in a world with so many places to stay. Some of the innkeepers are so inured in the system that they are thankful to pay 15-18% commissions to OTAs for the business they bring and have simply accepted the inevitable—there is no competing with OTAs and innkeepers are just out of luck! Of note: B&Bs are punished for having higher rates on Expedia and lower rates on their own sites to compensate for commissions, yet another bullying tactic.

Even worse, the public is convinced that they get the best rates if they book through an OTA, which is not true at all. Consumers can test this truism by looking at B&B rates on Expedia and then calling a B&B directly. Nine times out of the ten, a consumer will score a better rate. OTAs have done a fantastic job of manipulating consumers. They have created a sense of security and comfort for most travelers by creating rewards programs such as offering points that may or may not lead to a discount. OTAs also entice customers with other dubious practices such as “Best Price Guarantee” claims which can be based on multiple sites that the OTA owns—very clever! For example, Expedia owns the following: Trivago, Hotwire,, Orbits, Travelocity. Does the average consumer think that these websites are not working together? (Please refer to my previous article: Secrets of OTAs Revealed)

And now for the final blow to the real B&B community—Airbnb has flooded the market with places to stay; hence, for anyone who knows basic economics, it’s a perfect example of the supply and demand curve. The B&B community is now forced to lower their rates for travelers to even look in their direction. The conventional B&B offers so much more than a vacation rental; so, it is baffling to imagine that B&Bs have had to lower their room rates to compete with locations that do not offer the same services; “Gourmet Breakfast” being the major discriminator. However, innkeepers view Airbnb, good or bad, it has forever changed the face of the industry. Without a change, the conventional B&B is gone, and the term Airbnb has replaced the term forever.

So, what does it mean for a real B&B owner?

The fact that OTAs sites are not an exclusive platform just for a small niche market of authentic B&Bs makes it even more challenging to compete in the vast ocean of various lodging options such as hotels, motels, vacation rentals, and other accommodations. As stated before, most owners resort to reducing their prices to stay competitive on an international arena. The reduction in price leads to unnecessary cutting costs such as Bed and Breakfast owners resort to not hire additional help and try managing all the chores themselves such as gardening, cleaning rooms, cooking, maintenance, marketing, and becoming google SEO experts among other things.

So, what options do small business owners have to compete on an international arena of various hotel options and with propagation of OTAs?

1.  Unite as a Bed and Breakfast International Community on Publicize, market and promote our community on an international arena and join efforts with “Book Direct” advocates such as state, local, and international supporters of this honorary effort to help small business owners worldwide!

2.  Unite Bed and Breakfast owners on social media platforms with their featuring each other’s properties on their pages as well as promoting our B&B community! Why? If B&B owners don’t step up and only promote their B&B, their customers/followers may not discover about other wonderful B&B properties around the world! By promoting another B&B on your page, you are helping your followers solidify the fact that B&Bs are awesome around the world!

3.  Use Social media as a cumulative effect to promote your business. Integrate a “Book Now” Button on free social media platforms. Yes, FB “Book Now” button is still free; even though, a change may be anticipated in the future.

4.  Claim your business on TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook and other social Media platforms. Use these platforms not just for a billboard effect, but to generate direct bookings (at least until Google and Facebook take that away and start charging you commissions, which is coming soon!). Take advantage of Twitter discounts, and Pinterest property “pins”. Also, take advantage by replying to questions on sites such as Quora, Google, or Yahoo questions.

5.  Focus on your website, especially, your mobile conversion (if a consumer finds you on a mobile device and you are not mobile compatible, they will tire of your site within three seconds of trying to zoom in to read your text! No booking there!) Professional photos that are optimized for the web are paramount! You are promoting an experience: a total package of authentic environment in inspirational destinations. Focus on special activities and special features of your B&B!

6.  SEO content: Focus on the content of your website, learn how to manage SEO, or get someone to do it for you!

7.  Replicate the search engine’s terminology! Yes, beautifully written paragraphs are eloquent; however, focus on “how people search.” Did you know that most people use “voice activated search functions” during their lodging searches? So, phrases such as “things to do”; “fun activities”; “places to stay” are some of the most relevant among travelers. However, over-optimizing can be bad as well so make sure you are using search terms in a way that is relevant to travelers.

8.  Your website should be clean and easy to navigate. If you provide and cater to dietary restrictions, make sure to specify this important information.

9.  Google Optimization, using Google Analytics, possibly use Google Ads, and encourage Google reviews, or any other positive online reviews (I will be making a separate post on this account).

10.  Integrate with paid advertising methods such as TripAdvisor Trip connect-cost per click, or use “Google Ad” words or Yelp per click functions. Even though some owners reported that this has been very helpful, small businesses are not able to compete with Expedia and other OTAs google ads that dominate our travel industry. So again, most owners find it very cost prohibitive.

11.  Build high quality links to your website such as “Local websites” that promote local activities. Integrate with local restaurants, food delivery services, suppliers, catering services and other business centers that will provide credibility to your service and generate a higher online presence.

12.  Run a competition by using free platforms such as King Sumo for a “Giveaway” to generate more interest to your property. This option will grow your media presence and encourage traffic to your website.

13.  Connect with your local community such as other businesses by targeting factories with numerous employees, wedding venues, hospitals, castles and other organizations who have frequent visitors. Do not bypass your local funeral home as it generates visitors to your area; yes, may be grim, but it’s a reality.

14.  Utilize free apps such as “WhatsApp” or “Chatbot” on your website. It is especially useful if your potential international client has a question! A “chat now” function may alleviate frustration as most people are spammed with emails every day; therefore, a conventional email may not be as effective in certain situations. With automation capability, you will be able to answer routine frequently asked questions in a time efficient manner. Linking your FB comment and integrating it with Chat Bot may be a real time saving strategy. 

By Polina Pohnel, Owner of Shiloh Chennault Bed and Breakfast in Tennessee and CEO of (PolinaWorks LLC)