Interview: Innkeeping Advice from AIHP’s Rob Fulton

It’s always a pleasure to sit down with leaders in the innkeeping industry.

Little Hotelier interviewed the CEO Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals (AIHP), Rob Fulton.
Here’s some of his industry insights!

What’s your advice on how small hotels can promote their destination, as opposed to just their property? Is this even part of their responsibility?

This is such an important thing for properties to do and guests love it. Guests will be so much more likely to have a great experience when you help them beyond just getting to your property.

Travellers want experiences and they are looking for help and guidance on what to see and do locally.
There are great resources for this right outside your own door that you might not know about.

Foster a partnership with your local convention and visitor’s bureaus – after all they are the experts in marketing a given area. They love to promote the local county or region.

Local chambers of commerce or AAA offices can also be great resources. Local and unique experiences are always key, versus just your standard tourist attractions.

What’s your take on the rate parity laws that have been put in place in Europe? Is it beneficial or detrimental to small accommodation providers? Is it fair?

It has been an interesting discussion to watch. I read an article posted a few months ago relating the events in France (they have been out front on this issue) and their attempt to complete the process to ban rate parity clauses in contracts between online travel agencies (OTAs) and hotels.

I know that our members and others in the lodging industry have always wanted more control over their bookings and being able to use their direct channels more.

Based on the article, Europe lodging establishments receive their business from OTAs at a much higher percentage- something like 70%, than the 35% – 50% here in the US.

I think it is fair and an admirable goal if through changes to the law, you can find a balance between lodging accommodations having more control over how their business is booked and at what price and using the OTA channels as marketing platforms to maximise your occupancy.

Do you think small accommodation providers are adapting quickly enough in taking their businesses online?

I think we are getting there as an industry. We just hosted our first Annual Knowledge Sharing Summit in Nashville in April and some of the feedback I got from that Summit was that we still have a number of innkeepers that are not yet where they need to be in terms of having an online presence.

I think our innkeepers are doing a great job of getting their properties listed online in various ways, in particular having a website for guest to look at.

I think were we still need to improve is making sure guests have access to more online, being able to make reservations online, using mobile technology or third party companies like OTAs that can help drive guests to these properties. Using technology to customize a guest’s experience before they get to the inn, during and after is key in today’s world of travellers.

For those who have just decided to run an inn, or bed and breakfast, what’s your biggest piece of advice?

Get involved in a bed and breakfast/inn association or organisation. There are so many tools and resources out there to help those that are thinking of owning an inn, or have just purchased one.

State and local associations throughout the country do a great job supporting future (aspiring) and new innkeepers. There is a wealth of knowledge available but an innkeeper has to get involved.

As an example we have allied partners within AIHP that are an important part of our association and that host future (aspiring) innkeeping classes which help individuals looking to become innkeepers make that journey. New innkeepers can learn through our networking opportunities, annual Summit and monthly webinars.

Don’t try to do it alone, there are literally thousands of others who have gone before and are willing to help our future and new innkeepers.

AIHP’s 2017 InnSpire Conference & Knowledge Sharing Summit & Marketplace is scheduled for January 29 – February 1 in Long Beach, California on the Queen Mary.
This would be a great opportunity if you are a future (aspiring) or new innkeeper to attend. Learning from others is always the best way to grow and develop your skills as an innkeeper.

How important is social media to small accommodation providers – and which ones should they be using? It’s quite obvious how Facebook can be helpful. But is Twitter and Pinterest relevant?

Extremely important. Social media is one of the key windows to the world beyond your inn.

Think of the power of social media, it is a great marketing tool and it can expand your reach with very little financial investment. Think what you would have to pay to market your inn without the use of the various social media channels.

Today’s travellers want to be connected to you on social media, particularly millennials that are really dominating the travel markets. Social media allows you to reach different markets, that on your own would be difficult.

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