I received some information today on this year’s Travel Innovation Summit. The organizers are bringing together travel industry leaders and global innovators who have created solutions with the potential to transform travel planning and purchasing.
Why focus on innovation? It’s the process of creating new solutions that improve the competitiveness and profitability of a business. You can innovate by becoming more efficient in your back office processes or by developing new products and services that open up new sources of income. Innovation isn’t just for the large travel corporations. I challenge any innkeeper to find a guest process or operational process that can’t be improved upon with some innovation.
One of my favorite examples of innovation is bagged lettuce. A few years ago, we thought that nothing new could be done with lettuce. It was a necessary salad ingredient that was sold by the head at a commodity price. Enter two organic farmers who were creating bags of lettuce for their personal use. They decided that other people might like the convenience as well and started selling pre-washed lettuce in bags.
Fast forward to today where bagged lettuce of all kinds is a multi-million dollar business that has spawned other businesses. Virtually every vegetable you can think of can now be purchased peeled, sliced, diced and ready for use – at a premium price. The busy lifestyles of today’s consumers have changed their buying behavior. They’re willing to pay more for the convenience of reducing the time it takes to get dinner on the table while still eating healthy foods.
Here’s one way a B&B owner can identify potential areas for innovation.
- Pick a situation where you interact with your guests. It could be their first visit to your web site, the booking process, or any other aspect of the guest experience while they’re at your inn.
- On paper, subtract something from the process. Let’s take a simple, and probably unrealistic example using the booking process. Pretend that the phone company has gone on strike and guests can’t book by phone. What would you do differently? Obviously, give them the ability to book online. Not so obvious would be to give them the ability to book via text message or through your inn’s smart phone app.
- By brainstorming the solutions caused by eliminating one component of your process, you’ve identified some potential new and innovative services that could make it easier for guests to book or open up an opportunity to capture a different demographic of guest who doesn’t like to use the phone. That could translate to more bookings and more revenue for your inn.