I am writing this on the evening of the first day of summer. I am anxious about the next 133 days ahead of me. I was told today by my Innkeepers group that there are 133 days in the season – 133 days of rising early, working hard and going to bed late. If you are in the tourism industry – you know what I mean. The reservations for the Inn this year are a little off, guests are not booking that far in advance and it is hard to plan for the season. I think the Internet, the weather, gas prices, the economy and trip advisor all play a big part in the picture. Travelers can see how many rooms you have available, how much your competitor is selling a similar room, what the weather is going to be, and what others are saying about you in roughly 30 seconds. After looking at the advance reservations I decided that I had to evaluate the businesses marketing plan and do something. I have been doing all the same strategies for the past 3 years and the last 3 years have been pretty good, I can not complain. This year seems different, and I am not sure why. Are people really starting to hold onto their money tighter? The tv keeps saying the economy is getting better. Are gas prices really keeping people home? 2 years ago the gas price went as high as $4.00 and that season I did really well. The only thing I noticed that was different was that for the last 2 years, Camden Windward House was in the top 3 of lodgings in Camden Maine. This year we are #9. We had a rough year last year with Trip Advisor. We had 2 very unhappy guests. 1 guest, whom was here for one night, wrote something so horrible I had to hire a liable lawyer to start an action against Trip Advisor. After spending a lot of money, the guest took the really bad parts of her review down, but kept a bad rating and comment up. The guest said if I had only given her money back, she would take it all down. I am not sure where the line of blackmail starts but that’s what it felt like. After that experience with the guest, I swore never to trust Trip Advisor again. But now I am starting to think, I can not ignore the power of such a well visited site. So many people go there specifically looking for what I sell.
Last month I did what I never thought I would do. I bought a business listing on Trip Advisor. I decided to give the site another chance, a chance to prove that good things can come from such a well visited site. Over the winter Jesse and I did a lot of maintenance at the Inn, trying to polish the rooms and put our best foot forward. We are confident in our product and hope the guests will acknowledge our good intentions and hard work. Today I even sent out a mass email asking past guests for a review on this site. I can’t tell you how nervous I am about reading the reviews. Will we get more bad reviews? Will the guests praise us and raise us to the top 3 lodgings in Camden? Only time will tell. I should follow up in approximately 134 days. If you got one of my emails today – please be kind!! Hope your season is great!!!!