Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fall 2015 Innkeeping NOW Magazine


Read in PDF or Flipbook from Issuu or Yumpu

Airbnb – Part 10

PAII provided input to the subcommittee for their hearings on the Sharing Economy held on Tuesday 29, September 2015. 
25 September, 2015
To: The Honorable Michael C. Burgess, MD, Jan Schakowsky, and Committee members, U.S.    House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing & Trade

Subject:  The Sharing Economy
The Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), the largest association of B&Bs in the United States, is pleased to provide input and information to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing & Trade about the so called “Sharing Economy”, and specifically about Airbnb.   Our organization’s position on Short Tern Rentals is very clearly stated in our 2013 Policy Statement.  What we want is simple – level the playing field! 

The major concern for our members is that thousands of these small businesses are being severely damaged by the Airbnb behemoth who's member facilities do not have to deal with the expense of compliance with Zoning Ordinances, Heath Department Regulation, Building Codes, Fire and Safety Codes, ABC Regulations, Commercial Liability Insurance and Federal, State, and Local Taxes that all legal B&Bs (and Hotels) must comply with – yet they serve the same consumers our members do.  
Likewise, the traveling public has no idea that many of Airbnb member facilities may be uninsured, do not meet basic fire, safety and building requirements, and could be downright unhealthy because they do not meet rudimentary food preparation or cleanliness standards.  

While no one likes taxes, and we would all like to see taxes reduced or eliminated, it is grossly unfair to those that play by the existing rules to carry the burden for those that don't.  Either everybody pays them - or no one should pay them.  

We think the idea of a "Sharing Economy" is great - as long as it is fair and "Sharing" for all.  

PAII representatives attended a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Workshop on June 9, 2015 about the so called “Sharing Economy”.  We were disturbed that the FTC, that has a mission to protect consumers and competition, seemed to be supportive of Airbnb, Uber and similar companies that clearly do not adequately protect consumers and that have put thousands of legal small businesses throughout the United States in jeopardy. We are encouraged that your Subcommittee is taking the effort to seriously look into the inequities presented by some elements of the “Sharing Economy”.  

Airbnb frequently presents themselves as a simple group of entrepreneurs and the protector of poor and Grandma and Grandpa’s mortgage by stating that they allow their members to get some additional income by renting out an available room.  Airbnb proposes that their member properties certainly should not have to adhere to the same “old” rules, regulations, taxes and laws that the hotel chains or legal B&Bs have to.  They emphasize that the consumer does not need all the regulatory protection currently available, that these old “Public Regulations” are being overtaken by “Private Regulation” (rating sites, like TripAdvisor) and that applying decades old regulations and taxes to new entrants into the market (like Airbnb) inhibits innovation.. 
  • Airbnb frequently calls themselves a “Platform” or “Application” for peer to peer interactions that allows consumers and sellers to interact without traditional encumbrances that most of today’s businesses must adhere to.  They stress that a Free Market Economy is good and “meaningful” and that the Sharing Economy is the “natural next step”.  While this is a great sales pitch it is based on false premises and creates substantive inequalities in the marketplace:
  • First, Airbnb is not simply a benevolent entity for the triumph of innovative startups over old, evil, businesses.  Airbnb is a $25 BILLION Dollar Corporation that had over 25 Million bookings in a single year and expects almost three times that number in 2015.
  • The majority of income from their rentals does not go to Mom and Pop operations, the money goes to Airbnb and landlords renting multiple rooms, or in many cases, multiple rooms or apartments in multiple buildings. 
  •  By using the term “Platform or “Application” Airbnb often appears to be nothing more than an inanimate object, but in reality they are a huge Company bent on dominating the market. The sheer size and profit making power of this multi-billion dollar BUSINESS is essentially swept under the table because they are a “Platform.”  While the terms “Platform” or “Application” are not, by themselves incorrect, their use creates an interesting dynamic because a “Platform” is a thing and is devoid of sellers and customers (people) who may be pleased or injured or unhappy with what the “Platform” does to them.        
  • The oft heard contention that “Rating Systems” or “Platforms” are better at policing sellers and protecting consumers than are Government Regulations is full of fallacies.

a.      The fact is that these “Platforms” or “Apps” are also BIG BUSINESSES, who want to make big profits and who often charge sellers to list on their sites or charge a transaction fee – or both.  That these systems do not always present a “neutral” view of a seller seems to be ignored.  Because it is a “thing” or “system” does not make it trustworthy.  Airbnb is BOTH a listing and selling platform and a rating platform – and a BIG BUSINESS.
b.     The assumption that use of “rating systems” to replace laws and regulations designed to protect guests from harm is both scary and ridiculous.  When was the last time you saw a rating system ask the customer if they saw a Smoke or CO detectors, if their food was properly prepared and was safe to eat, saw an escape plan for their room or saw an ABC License.  The average guest at a hotel, legal B&B, Airbnb property or any other short term lodging facility doesn’t even think about safety, building codes, security, health and food issues or the properties insurance because they believe these are covered by various laws and regulations.  Likewise, they would never think to ask if the lodging facility pays taxes – they assume everything is legal.  To the unsuspecting guest – everything is covered - by the same “decades old regulations” they have relied on in the past – in reality it is definitely “buyer beware”.           

  • The issue of “fairness” (compliance with taxes and laws and regulations) is essentially ignored by Airbnb and many of its listing members.  Airbnb encourages members to be in compliance with local laws and regulations but does not require compliance.  Legal B&Bs provide a mandated legal, tax paying insured, safe, healthy, sanitary and secure guest environment and cannot discriminate because they are governed by government regulations.  Airbnb properties may or may not comply and, according the Harvard and other studies (*), both guests and owners can and do discriminate.  
  • Being compliant with Government regulations and paying taxes is not cheap – which means that legal B&Bs are put at a significant financial disadvantage when competing with Airbnb facilities. While Airbnb has repeatedly indicated that they want their member properties to be safe and compliant in reality they “talk the talk” and don’t “walk the walk”.   Airbnb could easily enforce compliance for their member properties – but they only “suggest” or “recommend”, and many properties, if not most, ignore the laws, codes, regulations and taxes.  Legal B&B’s don’t have an option. 
  • The rapidly increasing number of Airbnb properties in big cities (there are thousands of them) is having a detrimental impact on available public housing at a time when affordable housing is desperately needed.  Landlords, owners of apartment buildings or just ordinary house or apartment owners are pulling houses and units off the affordable renters market and listing then in Airbnb.  Is this “Sharing”?  Is this “Fair”? 

Finally, and again, PAII thinks a "Sharing Economy" is great - as long as it is “Fair” and "Sharing" for everyone.  

Respectfully Submitted,

John C. North
PAII, Board of Directors
Innkeeper, Mayhurst Inn
540 672-5597


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

PAII News You Can Use 9/22/2015

This week, please dive right into the “News You Can Use” articles below!  We’re focusing on getting your Innkeeping Show Registration up and ready, so that you can use those great Early-Bird rates!  It’s been a pleasure receiving your enthusiastic calls and emails for the next BIG nation-wide (and beyond) Innkeeping Conference in Austin January 10-14, 2016.  
And, do watch the Lodging List for updates, as we continue to get responses from the Austin B&Bs.
~Kris Ullmer, PAII Executive Director

News You Can Use:
Blades of Glory: How to Make Your Knives the Sharpest in the Drawer

Industry News:
TripAdvisor Is a Key Focus of the Expedia-Orbitz Merger Investigation

Social Media & SEO Changes Innkeepers Should be aware of:
Undo Send for Gmail on the web
(This feature is very useful for those who route their domain emails using POP through a gmail account likeinnkeeper@janedoeinn.com instead of sending to Outlook.  Gmail has great spam filtering and then one can easily access other Google accounts through it)

Featured Past PAII Webinar from our Archives:
Serving Gluten Free Guests

Innkeeping Recipes:
From the Indiana B&B Association http://www.indianabedandbreakfast.org
Peach Pie with Coconut From the Kitchen of the James Wilkins House http://www.indianabedandbreakfast.org/recipes.php?r=99

Conference Vendor Spotlight: Q4Launch

Upcoming Webinars for PAII Members
(you will need to login to your PAII account)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Mistakes That Cost You Money
Lisa Kolb will go over some of the mistakes made by SMBs (small business owners) that can cost them a lot money in the long-run, generally made from not knowing the big consequences of what seemed like a small decision. Knowing about these consequences can help you to avoid the pitfalls of a bad decision and make more money!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Top 10 Online Marketing Recommendations for Inn Websites
Learn how you can optimize and leverage your inn's website, and use content marketing tactics to gather more leads, grow your business and compel more visitors to book direct at the site. From solid principles to progressive tactics, we'll look at strategies, tips from the trenches, and compare tools with a goal of increasing revenue and profitability. We will cover in more detail the ideas presented in this post -http://webdirexion.com/online-marketing/hotel-inn-marketing/10-marketing-tips-for-increasing-profitability-at-your-inn

Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Email + Social Media: Strategies & Tools
Let's be frank. It's tough being disciplined enough to send regular emails to your former guests and chat with them on social media. But studies consistently show that innkeepers who do enjoy more new guests and more repeat guests.
This webinar will share with you some tools, strategies, and organizational tips you can use to hone your email and social marketing strategies.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Top 3 Challenges for Bed &Breakfast's and Strategies to Increase Business  
In a recent poll we asked B&B's their greatest business challenges and what strategies they used to overcome them. Hear real life strategies and pain points from LivingSocial's featured Travel Customer (TBA) and the Director of Travel, Dustin Warr. Learn how to maximize your marketing programs and generate more business. Don't miss out on this engaging webinar.  

For additional webinars scheduled into next year please visit http://paiiinnkeepers.blogspot.com/p/upcoming-webinars.html
Don’t forget, We have set up an e-mail address questions@PAII.org for you to ask questions and make comments directly to your board.

Conference Partner Spotlight Q4Launch

Q4Launch is an integrated marketing company whose passion lies in destination marketing. We use our marketing methodology to increase traffic to our customers' websites, to turn that anonymous traffic into leads, and to help turn those leads into bookings. Our goal for every single customer is to provide them with a 200-300% return on their marketing investment. Some of the methods we employ include SEO, blogging, email marketing, social media management, and web design, and we've recently began increasing revenue for our customers through yield management tactics.

The biggest challenge for innkeepers today is staying relevant in the ever-changing world or internet marketing. Innkeepers don't have time to do it themselves, so this part of their business usually falls by the wayside. The challenge for the industry is to always change to meet the demands of the modern traveler.

Having a great room isn't quite enough anymore. Nowadays, it's extremely important to create an entire experience at your property. Sure, innkeepers are great at giving the personal touch, but how can you convey a great experience through your digital presence? The answer is content marketing, and we don't believe it's going away. Content marketing allows innkeepers to tell their story consistently throughout the world of the internet.

Without a doubt, it's the relationships we build with our innkeepers. After working so closely with so many innkeepers across the country, we've become more like a family than anything else!

Yes! We have been quite successful already by helping our customers increase their revenue by utilizing yield management. Admittedly, some were skeptical at first, but the customers who have charged ahead have seen huge revenue increases. We're excited to continue to build this part of our business. In addition, we have started producing just websites for innkeepers, whereas in the past, we haven't separated web design out from our integrated marketing package.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

PAII Recipe Contest For Our Winter Innkeeping Now Magazine

For Our Winter Innkeeping NOW Magazine
  • Best Recipe-Savory Muffins
  • Best Recipe-Christmas Cookies

Each recipe will be judged by an independent team food professionals and executive chefs. 

ALL contestants will be featured in the monthly newsletters as well as their photos (if provided) and recipes (with credit) posted on PAII’s Facebook and Google+ pages.

Winners will be featured in PAII ‘s Innkeeping Winter Quarterly Magazine.

Get out your cameras (appreciated but not a requirement), your smart phones, your whisks and your springform pans out and get ready to rumble! Questions? Email marketing@paii.org.

All entries must meet the requirements of the Recipe Category entered. Recipes not meeting contest entry criteria will be disqualified. Entries must be the original recipe of the entrant. Initial judging will be done by an independent panel of food professionals to confirm entry requirements specified above have been met in addition to consideration of the criteria outlined below (and weighted equally):
  • Taste 25%
  • Appearance 25%
  • Creativity 25%
  • Guest Appeal 25%

Judges will disqualify previously published recipes, such as but not limited to those in cookbooks, in magazines, from food companies, on food blogs or recipe websites and winners in cooking contests, unless the recipe features changes considered significant by the judges in their sole and absolute discretion (with the exception of if a recipe was previously published in a state or regional association cookbook or website from which the B&B has belonged to, or if the recipe was priorly published on the innkeepers blog .

Finalists will be required to certify, on information or belief, that their recipes are their original creation. Decisions of the judges are final in all matters relating to this contest.

  • Entries must be submitted by December 15, 2015 at 5:00 PM EST
  • Any PAII member can enter.
  • You can submit multiple recipes in multiple categories.

ALL contestants will be featured in the monthly newsletters as well as posted on PAII’s Facebook and Google+ pages.

Winners will be featured in PAII ‘s Innkeeping Quarterly Fall Magazine. All contestants will also be honored with mentions in the magazine.

Submit your entries to marketing@paii.org before December 15, 2015. Please put recipe contest in the subject line.

PAII Photo Contest For Our Winter Innkeeping Now Magazine

For Our Winter Innkeeping NOW Magazine
  • Best Exterior Picture-Holiday Wreaths
  • Best Interior Photo-Holiday Decorations
  • Best Photo-Desserts

ALL contestants will be featured in the monthly newsletters as well as their photos and recipes (with credit) posted on PAII’s Facebook and Google+ pages.

Winners will be featured in PAII ‘s Winter Innkeeping Quarterly Magazine.

Get out your cameras, your smart phones, your whisks and your springform pans out and get ready to rumble! Questions? Email marketing@paii.org.

Photography Entries must be taken by the innkeepers or staff. If an innkeeper or a staff member is a professional photographer, entries to the competition will be allowed, but the information needs to be disclosed when the photo(s) are submitted. Photos taken by professional photographers on behalf of a Bed and Breakfast are not valid photo submissions, and will be cause for disqualification.

If you choose to include people in your submission, you are responsible for obtaining the necessary written photo releases from the individuals depicted, and must be able to provide copies of those releases to the Professional Association of Innkeepers International with submission of the photo entries. Entries submitted without written permission of the subjects will not be entered into submissions or the contest, and will not be promoted in any way online. 

All photographs should accurately reflect the subject matter and the scene as it appeared. Photos that have been digitally altered beyond standard optimization (removal of dust, cropping, reasonable adjustments to exposure, color and contrast, etc.) will be disqualified.

Photo captions must accompany all submissions, and should include the subject of the image, the location the image was taken, and the name of the photographer(s).

To ensure eligibility for the contest all entries must have a resolution of 6 million pixels (6 megapixels) or greater to be made available upon request. Images that do not meet this standard can still be judged, but may not be honored as a finalist in the competition (at the judges sole discretion) if the photographer is unable or unavailable to provide the proper resolution when asked.

Entries may originate in any format — including, but not limited to digital files, digital prints, color transparencies, color prints, or black and white prints — so long as they are submitted electronically. You must be able to disclose when and where the photo appeared to the Professional Association of Innkeepers International upon request.

Submissions may be watermarked if desired, but the watermark should be inconspicuous enough to not interfere with the judging of the photo. A watermarked photo might not be honored by the competition (at the judges sole discretion) if the photographer is unable or unavailable to provide a pristine, watermark-free version of the image when asked.

Images will be judged on originality, technical excellence, composition, overall impact and artistic merit. The judges are a panel of independent professional photographers.

The Professional Association of Innkeepers International shall determine winner eligibility in its sole and absolute discretion. All decisions made by the judges are final.

You will retain all rights to any photograph you submit -- including ownership if applicable. You only grant the Professional Association of Innkeepers International rights (as described below) to your photograph if you are honored by the competition as an honorable mention, finalist, runner up or grand prize winner.

If your photograph is formally honored by the competition as an honorable mention, finalist, runner up or prize winner, you grant the Professional Association of Innkeepers International a royalty-free, nonexclusive right, in perpetuity, to:
  • Use the photograph on the Internet in support of our mission.
  • Use the photograph in the Professional Association of Innkeepers International non-commercial communications which includes on the website and on PAII’s social media.

As conditions of this permission, the Professional Association of Innkeepers International shall credit all photographs with the caption "© Person's Name" when the full name and Business is available.

  • Entries must be submitted by December 15, 2015 at 5:00 PM EST
  • Any PAII member can enter.
  • You can submit multiple photographs in multiple categories.

ALL contestants will be featured in the monthly newsletters as well as posted on PAII’s Facebook and Google+ pages.

Winners will be featured in PAII ‘s Innkeeping Winter Quarterly Magazine. All contestants will also be honored with mentions in the magazine.

Submit your entries to marketing@paii.org before December 15, 2015. Please put photo contest in the subject line.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Conference Update!

PAII's conference is alive and well, and planning is going full speed.

YES - we have a change of venue that is more advantageous to you, the attendees and exhibitors, offering more space for a bigger trade show and more rooms for educational sessions.  And, the pricing structure is permitting us to offer great conference registration rates!

The Palmer Events Center, located in the heart of Austin, is a unique & beautiful convention center, with views of the downtown skyline.

Being in a convention center (not a hotel) is a first for PAII, and we are especially pleased that this provides attendees - whether innkeepers, aspiring, interim, or exhibitors - an opportunity to support (and enjoy) our own industry by staying at the local B&Bs and Inns!  We do apologize to those of you who received a room cancellation notice from the previous host property - we were unaware that they were doing this, but should have checked with them.  (If you wish, it would be your option to stay with that property at their rack rate)
We've invited the Austin inns to add their lodging to our lodging list, which will also include the 2 hotels within walking distance and other options. We'll be posting the list on our website, and in the upcoming Member's Monthly / Innkeeping Now.

'See you in Austin in January!

Kris Ullmer, PAII Executive Director

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Member Retention and Acquisition for Associations Webinar

Transcript of the webinar

Why are Innkeepers are not joining local and state associations?
Associations across the board are having issues with member acquisition and member retention. Chambers of Commerce, other business trade associations as well as lodging associations (not just Bed and Breakfast associations) are seeing issues with this.

There are a myriad of reasons behind this, the changing economy, the younger generation going into business with different wanted and needs in order to be interested in joining an association and a changing industry with innkeepers being asked to spend money every which way. “Should I pay $225 plus a one time fee of $50 to my local B&B association or $700 to Tripadvisor. And which will get me heads in beds quicker?”

They didn’t know there was a local or state association
If B&Bs are not aware of your associations’ existence, that is a sure sign that your associations is not reaching out to the local lodging community as well as it could.

Many new B&B owners may not be aware there are associations to join in the first place. Many new innkeepers are transplants and innkeeping is their second or third profession. They may come from industries where belonging to a trade association was not something that they either interacted with (depending on what positions they came from) or in some cases there many not have been trade associations that gave value to them in the past so they make not consider investigating ones in a different industry.

No one invited them to join
Even if a Bed & Breakfast is aware of a local or state association, it may not be on their radar the benefits of why to join, or it may be on one of their numerous to-do lists to investigate and join but not at the top or buried under more (to them) important lists like call the plumber, get the fire inspector in for a reinspection, etc.

The key is to invite them!  They may know of your existence, but people like to be invited.  Make it a personal invite, not a stock or form letter.  Call them or if you have a board member or current loyal member close to someone that’s not a member, have them do some more personal in-person outreach and explain what great benefits belong to your association offers. Make sure that person has a script and some key pointers about benefits of the organization so they can answer questions and present the organization in a knowledgeable and helpful way.

As an incentive for getting current members to do some in-person outreach, give them incentives to do so, for every member you recruit you get a break in your dues for example or extra marketing recognition on our website or publications.

No one responded to their e-mails/phone calls for membership information.
If you personally contacted your chapter to find out about membership, would someone return your phone call or e-mail? Do you know that for a fact? And more importantly, even if a phone call or email is returned, how long does it take? A few days? A week, more?  

No one likes to be ignored, think of it from the perspective of the potential member, I have the money, I have the interest, if no or a delayed response, “well they don’t want me or my money, so perhaps I will go elsewhere”. Time Lag is the number one killer of member acquisition and retention.

Even if someone contacts someone that is not the person they need to find out about members, i.e a board member or another member, that initial point of contact still needs to be followed up on to make sure it did happen, if it did terrific, that innkeeper is going to be very happy that their original enquiry was revisited and feel even better about joining, if it didn’t get followed up, you have a problem and need to identify where the point of contact got broken down and fix it.

Make sure all of your board members are aware of the importance of returning calls and e-mails from potential and renewing members and it’s best practices when following up on a potential new member that’s contacted the board, to BCC other board members on the response so they are in the loop and send them a pre-email letting them know they are BCCed so they don’t hit reply all.

They feel the association would not meet their needs
What are your benefits really and have you analyzed them to see what value they are really providing members?  A listing on an associations website may have little value to an innkeeper if they have Googled, Bed and Breakfasts in “your state” and your association’s website comes up extremely low in Google rankings for example. Innkeepers may be viewing part of your fees as a directory value.

Have you polled your current members to find out what they have found for value for being association members?

That data is key to advertising your membership to potential members as well as asking potential members directly, “what do you want to get out of an association?” Advocacy? A directory listing? Support for questions and issues? Networking with other innkeepers and industry experts?

Every Innkeeper is going to have different perceived wants and needs but unless you ask them what they are looking for and what space an association can fill for them you won’t know. Be persistent and ask!

Instead of “We do this to help innkeepers”, phrase it as “what can we do to help you?” Try to avoid phrases like “You should” as in “You should be a member of our association because” instead substitute phrases like, “Many of our state/local inns have gotten value from our organization because”

Communication is key, especially in that initial point of contact and letting them know ALL the benefits an association offers including some that may not be listed on your benefits sheet or website, i.e. an example being of a innkeeper that was having trouble with her Bedandbreakfast.com listing and wasn’t having good luck getting it resolved, went to your yearly conference and got to talk to them in person and quickly resolved the issue.

Another example might be one innkeeper uses Molton Brown amenities, loves them and doesn’t want to switch but can not make the order minimums all the time, by networking with a couple of the other association members that also use Molton Brown amenities, she was able to continue using them by doing group ordering and all of them saved money as they split the shipping costs.

Dues are too expensive for what the association offers
It’s All About Value. When members are deciding to join or rejoin an association they do a mental calculation of the expected value of your association’s membership by comparing the benefits they expect to receive to what they have to pay (i.e.dues, time commitment, return on investment, etc).

To understand what drives a innkeeper’s perception of value, or more specifically perceived value.

How much value do they get from their association membership when compared to other alternatives that are available to them? i.e directories, Tripadvisor listings, OTA listings, Pay Per Click, Social Media.   

People join for one basic reason, to get their needs satisfied, some can satisfied from member benefits, continuing education, the association’s website, a members forum and other needs can be met being on committees and volunteering by having them work on the group goals as a whole.

An innkeeper in NY may see the big picture in that by helping to lobby for adjusted zoning in a town that is not her own, by helping other inns in the association in that town she is helping her industry as a whole in NY state.

By putting a pricetag on each benefit it helps people to understand what their dues are going for and towards.

A $225 a year membership goes toward website maintenance, a brochure or rack card design and printing, a part time Executive Director or administrator salary. A yearly advertising partnership with a state radio state and 2 ads per year on NPR.

Breaking down even more specifics, ie. The NPR ads cost $1200 a year each but the return is at least 5 bookings per year for each inn (proven) and the rack cards are getting distributed to 17 state tourism centers with the potential of 12 million people going through them.

Too many sales pitches by “vendors” at conferences
Some things you can’t control, but some you can. If your having multiple innkeepers Too many sales pitches by “vendors” at conferences then perhaps you need to look at both the vendors your inviting as well as setting some guidelines for vendor attendees and tell them upfront “why” you are providing them with guidelines and reports of abusive of them will not get them invited back in the future.

The Association is too large or too geographically diverse to get to know other members personally

While a state association may be too geographically diverse to get to know people, there is online where an association can start a Facebook, Linkedin or Google group for their members as well as perhaps offering a internal forum on which members can exchange information. I would recommend either Facebook or secondary Google as you can have private groups with moderators and no one can see the posts unless they are members. Not as many innkeepers participate on Linkedin so you may not see much use.

They feel they won’t have time to participate or get involved
In many organizations, you get out of it what you put into it, the feedback from someone, They feel they won’t have time to participate or get involved may not be applicable to a state or local organization because there may only be yearly event in person and if an innkeeper doesn’t want to participate or volunteer for something it won’t effect their marketing.

Too many choices of associations to join
Whether talking about state, regional or national associations to join, realistically the comeback to that there isn’t, at least not on the state or local level. On a bigger playing field is the American Hotel & Lodging Association which Inns can join for a very inexpensive fee. There is also PAII and AIHP, While PAII for example has been around for many many years, the Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals is a fairly new organization started earlier this year. Which is better? There is no perfect answer to that, both organizations want to help innkeepers, I personally think long term they will both fit different well needed niches in the small lodging industry and innkeepers will have to decide for themselves which niche fits their needs.

How do you sell advocacy as an association member benefit?
Advocacy can be one of your most valuable association benefits.  (Advocacy is also referred to as lobbying, governmental affairs, or public policy or simply by attendance at lawmaking functions that need the voice of the innkeeping industry contributing.

A great example of strong association advocacy can be found in the recent Chicago B&B tax classification Controversy

Innkeepers in Chicago, Ill. recently voiced their opposition to a new tax reclassification that affects the B&B industry. The Cook County assessor's office announced plans to reclassify all B&B establishments as commercial rather than residential properties beginning Jan. 1, 2016. Residential properties are taxed at 10 percent of their assessed value, as opposed to being taxed at 25 percent of their assessed value if deemed commercial.

Chicago Bed and Breakfast Association President Kapra Fleming urged the assessor's office to delay the reclassification for an additional year. Fleming, who owns the House of Two Urns in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, also requested that the office classify all existing bed-and-breakfasts as mixed-use commercial/residential properties to prevent owners from losing their homeowner and senior exemptions.

Fleming and others attending the meeting also took issue with the fact that county's licensed vacation rentals and those renting rooms on websites like Airbnb.com would remain unaffected by the tax reclassification.

A prospective member may come back with, “I don’t need to join, you will still Lobby on my behalf and I’ll still get the benefit of it.”

While this may be true, it’s best to have some good comebacks ready to this such as:

 “We would be even more effective if we could prove that we represented a larger percentage of innkeepers from the industry”. Or “We need members to join because if everyone had that philosophy we would not exist to lobby for you at all. Every Voice matters.”

Best practices for responding to new membership information requests?
How should you respond to requests for your association’s membership information?

There are several ways to approach this, all are dependent on how your association is set up, is it all volunteer based, do you have full time or part time staff? Snail mail is always an option but printing costs and postage may be an issue depending on the association’s size and operating fund.

A phone call followed up by an immediate email is recommended. To save time, have several copies of the information needed to send out to a potential member saved in your drafts folder for quick access.

Sending a PDF with key benefits as well as history of the association, relevant association contact information including board members and employees (if applicable) or an email with links pertaining to all the information that hopefully is available on your website for reference. I would actually suggest a combination of both. In two separate emails, the one with the links referencing the PDF (also located on your website). The PDF may be filtered out as an attachment by some people’s spam filters.

Make sure any request for membership information is followed up within 48 hours to find out if there are any questions and to engage a potential member preferably on the phone.

Member Retention
One of the bigger issues Associations are having is member attrition, so I saved it for last. It’s key to get regular Feedback from Members on how things are going, be it surveys, emails or phone calls

Give innkeepers the opportunity to get involved (if they want to) and let them know about the opportunities membership and marketing committees, they can be “brand” ambassadors at local events, industry conferences or other venues where getting the word out about your association and the innkeeping industry as whole is an opportunity.

What happens often in an association once a member has joined they feel forgotten about. I know associations are aware they should be doing this but many don’t keep track of touch points with members and it falls by the wayside.

Having a simple excel sheet with members and just keeping dates and notes in it per touch point can be a easy way to look at your membership as a whole and identify inns that may need a phone call.

Creating a shareable Google spreadsheet and being able to share it with your board will help keep eyes on keys areas that need to be addressed.

After they have been members for three months, have a committee member or board member call them to ask them if they have questions or concerns and how can the association serve them better.

Have a minimum of 3-4 additional contacts with first year members. Introduce new members to the board.

Exploring new opportunities or ideas, like instituting a mentoring program for new innkeepers and keeping your membership informed about them is integral to rentention.

The final key to long term member retention is benchmarking. Where is your association at currently, how many members, where are they located geographically.

How many rooms, what’s their average room rate, while you won’t be necessarily using this information to answer questions for potential guests, as an association it’s good information to have and review and be able to revisit and analyze changes in membership. In 2014, we had 52 members, 14 had under 4 bedrooms, in 2015 we raised our rates and lost half of those under 4 bedroom properties.

And also to benchmark where your association is marketing wise, Where is it coming up in Google, Bing and other search engines, this should be looked at least every 6 months if not every 3 months. Are you utilizing social media, if not, why not, if yes, is it working, yes or no and if no, why not.

What other venues are you using to advertise your association? What has worked in the past, what has not, what haven’t you tried.

You need to look at all of this periodically and what your membership demographics are in order to project and set goals for where you want your association to be in 5 years, and where you want it to be next year.

Having this data is useful because it can also be information that can used in member acquisition and retention.  And as I mentioned early, get members involved, give them some incentive for recruiting or an incentive for renewing early, this will especially appeal to the millennial generation as they move into the innkeeping field.

And one final bit, if you have members that have stepped up above and beyond just paying their membership dues, say thank you and give recognition where you can, whether it be in a newsletter, on a website, and on social media. Acknowledging peoples work and volunteerism is integral and two fold to getting them to stay members and keep stepping up. One of the biggest causes of members not renewing or not volunteering is non-acknowledgement. A simple thank you can go a very very long way