Re-Opening Experiences: What to Expect and How to Market
Welcome everyone this is carla fever from the team at accelerate, tourism. Uh this is our june 12 meetup. Uh this is going to be the, ninth i think, in our series of weekly meetups here during the lockdown, period. So, welcome to each of you. Uh if this is your first time on the meetup, just want to quickly introduce, ourselves. Um, i actually own improving grow which is a digital marketing firm we help a lot of different clients, but we concentrate. In the tourism industry. And, when all this started happening we were looking for ways to help both our clients, and other peers in the industry. And, so we decided to start this weekly meetup. Virtually. Uh since a lot of us are working from home and observing good social distancing guidelines. And uh the whole goal is to serve each of you as business leaders in the tourism industry. Uh we're specifically, focusing, on tourism, marketing, ideas. And we're. You know we certainly don't have all the answers so we're inviting, people in from the industry. Um to share their ideas what's working what's not, and, um also, opening it up for discussion, on each of these calls. And um, we've been doing these weekly, now that a lot of you are moving out of the lockdown, and reopening, your businesses to the public you're going to have better things to do than jumping on zoom calls every week. So we are going to be moving these to monthly moving forward. I'll probably talk about that at the end of the call today but just as a reminder. Um, after this call we'll be moving to a monthly cadence, on the meetups. So um, with that. I will introduce, today's topic. As a reminder. Um, if you've got questions. For the panelists, or for us. Please submit them through the q a feature there's a screenshot, here just to show you where you should see that in your panel. Feel free to ask questions throughout. If we don't address your question, during the presentation, we will have about 15 minutes at the end of the call for open q a and, sam our moderator, will bring those up then. All right so. We're doing something a little different with our call today. Before we get to the guest panel. We had sent out a survey, to, all of the past meetup participants. We also opened that up to. A, list we have of of people that we've been inviting. To. Participate, in the survey we also posted, it on. Some tourism. Industry. Forums, on social media to try to get just as broad a perspective, as we could. So i just want to go through some of the results, of that. So. First question was are you currently, closed, well you know what's your business status are you currently closed fully open or open on a limited basis. I personally have been you know in our county businesses, have been opening for the last few weeks. I was a little surprised, to see that still as much as as close to 60 percent of businesses, are currently closed. Um. So i'm, i would guess that holds true for a lot of you on the phone as well. Um but another, 27. Are open on a limited basis, and another, close to 18 percent, are fully open to the public. So we broke down the questions in the survey between whether you were open and closed. Uh for the people that are not are currently. Closed, but planning, to open. Uh we wanted to get a sense of timing, are they. Opening next week are they opening in the next few months. And you can see here from the breakdown, 32, percent plan to open in the next few weeks 42, percent, in the next few months. Um. And there's. Uh another 26. That are still not sure. So. Um if you're feeling a little uncertain right now you're not alone, uh there's a lot of people that aren't quite sure when they're going to open right now. Um, we also asked you to predict. What your booking volume is going to look like, um. Just the overwhelming, green, green section there on the pie is 79, percent of you are expecting your bookings to be down by 50. Or more. There's a small percentage, that feel like they might be about the same as last year. Bigger percentage, down 25 to 50 percent. And very very small percentage, are expecting, maybe bookings to be up. Um, i want you to. Keep some of those stats and keep those specific, things in mind, when we look at the businesses that are open.
Uh Because there's some pretty big differences, there. Um in terms of. Marketing, budgets. Uh there's a pretty big diversity, here which you would expect. Uh 32, percent are planning to spend less on their marketing, 32, percent are planning to spend about the same. And then there are some people that are, still not sure how they're planning to handle their marketing budget which makes sense a lot of the verbal feedback, from that group was. Um you know we're going to see how things go and and adjust our our marketing spend up or down based on results. And then there's a small slice of people that just aren't sure right now and for those of you. Um. Hopefully you'll get some insights from today's call and maybe how to handle that. In terms of marketing, tactics, for those of you that are planning, to open and are thinking about your marketing strategy, there's a pretty wide diversity. As you'd expect, with. The different tactics you're planning to use. But if you look at the bars that are the highest, or the most commonly, mentioned. They're almost all digital marketing related. Which i don't think should be a big surprise, i think tourism. Generally, waits a little bit more towards digital advertising, but it does seem like. A lot of us are, shifting. Our marketing, to a focus on digital. Which i think is a combination, of both. Reducing, costs. And taking advantage of things that people can do on their own as well as intending to get in front of people where they are right now with a lot of people at home digital is going to be a much more effective way of getting to people. Um so now let's shift gears and talk about the respondents, that are open. Um so our first question for them was, how long have you been, reopened. Uh there's about 33, percent that never closed, uh my guess is a lot of those are not my guess from the data it looks like a lot of those are in the. Uh, lodging category. Um. In, in many areas they they did not have to shut down. Um. 20. Just opened in the last few weeks, and, all nearly 50 percent, literally, just opened within the last week or two. So of those. This is that question i wanted you to remember, from the previous, group. Uh for those that have been opened when we asked them about their booking volume.
Almost 90 percent, are reporting, that their bookings, are down 50. Or more. From this same time last year. And then 13. Are reporting they're down between 25, to 50. there wasn't anyone. In the survey, that said. Uh results were about the same, or that they were up. Um, so that's, uh very interesting, that's obviously not great news. Uh but for those of you who are planning to open, and maybe in those categories, of looking at your bookings, hoping your bookings will be up or about the same. At least based, on your peers experience, that's probably not a realistic, expectation. Um, in terms of how marketing budgets have shifted for those that have opened. Um, about 20 percent, are spending more than they previously, planned. Uh 27. Are spending about the same. But the majority, are spending, less which makes sense right less revenue. Uh less marketing, spend. One thing to be thinking about there, and i realize it's this is easier said than done with cash flow. But you may need to think about spending, more, in order to get, more bookings. Again i understand there's a cash flow challenge there. In terms of digital marketing, tactics, this was another. Contrast. Between the two, due to the size, it was hard to put these both on the same slide it might be easier to see that way. But what i want to point out is um, the commonality. Between the two groups was an emphasis on digital marketing. But the thing that really stood out to me is social media and email those bars are much larger. For the groups that have opened and i know for those that i've talked to personally. A lot of people are coming to the realization, that they need to focus on the things that they can do themselves. And the things that they can do quickly, and easily, and cheaply. And, social media, and email, definitely, fall in those buckets. Um. And i know for those that we've been working with or advising, in those areas, they've been seeing some good results from that now with people being at home social media and email is a great way. To get in touch. Particularly, with the audiences, you've already developed. Who, for many of you are going to be your most loyal. Fans, and therefore. Maybe those that you have the easiest access, to to start gaining some booking volume. So those were some interesting things that we saw from the survey, i now want to turn to our guest panel i want to introduce, them and then um, lead us through some questions, here, uh mark kruesmeier, wave hi mark he's the owner of strasbourg, scooters. Um. Here in lancaster county rebecca, gallagher, owns, the smith and inn. She's also the board chair for discover lancaster. For those of you that were on our earlier calls or that are from the lancaster, area you know of discover lancaster. And she reminded me that, she also owns a wine tasting bar so. A good good cross-section, of business, purview there. Um. Ben ream, i we were planning on ben joining he had a last-minute, conflict, so he may join.
Here Midstream, but he's the sales director at navitac, comm canopy, tours. Michael rivkin, say hi michael. Uh michael's, the owner at dolan house bed and breakfast, in jim thorpe. And then phil true who's been on our calls in the past, fun scheduler, at refreshing, mountain which, does overnight retreats. They do cabin rentals and they they, run outdoor activities. So welcome mark rebecca. Michael and phil thank you for joining us today. Go ahead and unmute yourselves, if if you haven't already. Or we can help with that. And, um. Let's get into the questions. So, uh the first question is what has your booking volume been like since you reopened. Rebecca would you mind speaking to that. Yeah so it's, it's picking up which is lovely, um. It's interesting, though too, normally we would have guests, all week long, and um, and what i'm seeing is guests just coming for the weekends. So um. We're nearly, full this weekend. Uh, that'll be our, busiest. Since. Kind of gearing back up and, we're kind of in between. I was looking at the responses, you had, um. We never truly, closed, but we were so. We were only, open, for essential. Workers, we had a doctor who stayed with us a couple of times. Um. So we were kind of practically, closed, so for the last, three weekends. We've had. Three of our seven guest rooms booked this weekend we have five of our seven guest rooms booked. Wow. And we're starting to see, reservations. Coming in, for, july, august, september. So that's. I mean that's phenomenal, for cash flow trying starting to get those deposits, in, is um, is a big help. Yeah thank you that was going to be my follow-up question for you is are you seeing people booking a book starting to book ahead again so it sounds like yes. Mark how about you guys. Uh we, we never really closed. While we weren't doing tours we just weren't having, people booking. But. Since we've. I guess technically. Reopened. The beginning of june. Uh. Our revenue is up about 32, percent, over. Last year. For june for the first 11 days of june.
Wow. So it's. I'm feeling very optimistic. Our phone is ringing actually it's ringing right now. Uh. So you're costing me money carl. Uh. But, yeah just. Seeing, the. The revenue, up over. Over last year which was our best year, uh i'm feeling very optimistic, we're still down. Uh almost 60 percent. For the year. But. You know there's a light at the end of the tunnel i think. That's awesome. Michael how about you i know you're in a very different or a different market maybe not a very different market but a different market, um, how are things in jim thorpe. So jim thorpe is very heavily, tourism, driven. There's some county, seat business, activity, but not for the bed and breakfast they would tend to be, uh. Look, either. At the end of jim thorpe or some of the other regional hotels. But. Let me mention if i may that. We have a group of bed and breakfast, and the inn at jim thorpe, that work together, all year. And in the middle of march as the shutdowns, began. We of course are considered. Essential, businesses, so of course we were not required to shut down but we all agreed, because we're tourism, driven. We would indeed close, with the exception, of. Military. Health care and other essential. Activity. With the exception of one bnb, none of us had that call, and so, none of us have had bookings until, excuse me none of us have had guests. Until, we reopened, last week. Uh which was everybody's. Decision, just to sort of wait to the beginning of june. We um, we actually. Are picking up rooms. As rebecca, is doing our phone is ringing, our bookings, are. Are coming in, uh the summer. The summer and into the fall are nowhere, near where they usually are, so to put it in relation, ordinarily, by this time carl. Most of our weekends. Most of our weekends, would be full. Through october. Be very difficult to book here. Uh and our midweek is typically, a later pickup, it and that tends to be older couples. That, will call friday and say hey we want to come monday for three nights. That call is not being made right now. We are picking up some midweek i'm very happy to say contrary, to rebecca. But again, not the volume that we would have but i think that has a lot to do with the fact that tends to be an older traveler. Right. So essential. Essentially. Um. Anything that we're picking up right now is really last minute uh we picked up four bookings, in the past 24 hours. One for tonight. One for tomorrow. One for next weekend. And, one for uh september. So again, it's all good we're happy to have the bookings. But the trends aren't there, i might also add, i think importantly. We close, our, ota. Availability. For weekends. Our weekends are never open on expedia, booking.com. And so on and so forth. Unless. It's last minute, we're finding ourselves on a thursday with some open roads but typically, we don't need to have. Frankly that expense. Right now, our otas. Every booking channel we have, is being utilized. They're wide open 100. All year. And um, and and, that of course will have a further effect on bottom line, right. Yeah right. Michael you mentioned, your, also have some involvement with the chamber in your area, any broader perspective, of trends outside of, lodging.
Absolutely. So food and beverage, is doing terrific. Some of our restaurants, that opened with take out. Frankly are doing better than they did, under pre-cover, 19 conditions. They've, essentially, reinvented. Themselves. So, the food and beverage and we have some pretty cool shops and restaurants, here so the restaurants, and pubs. Um, have been open for takeout as available. One of the better pubs in town, uh good friends of ours, opted not to do takeout, that model did not work for their physical plant. However. They have patio. So of course they were permitted to open. Under yellow, so they opened for outdoor, dining. I'm going to say actually last, week. And uh. And they'll progress to 50, indoor. Which is minimal for them it's a very small indoor space. But we have another good restaurant, in town that's just not ready to open yet because for them that 50. That comes into effect today for our region. That 50. Model will not work for them because they're too small. And so. To staff. Stock. And reopen. Does not work for a restaurant, of that size. Now having said that so while the restaurants, are reinventing, themselves, and and touchwood, doing good. Retail, is not. Retail, has not come back, and our shops, are. Again, it's a it's a wonderful. Unique, tourist, town, and so, the shops offer unique handmade, items, homemade, products. And. Essentially, what we might all call dispensable. Income items. Uh you don't come to jim thorpe because you need a, you know. Wallpaper. Those shops are really slow to come back, and that's a two-stage, factor, we think again we just met on this last evening, one, many of our shops are in very, small, historic. Structures. So, that, that really challenges, the social distancing. Two. Folks are very weary about where. Well let me rephrase, that, the general public, is hesitant. To wear masks. And some of the shops actually have had confrontations. With. With visitors. When requested, that sorry it's a tiny shop it's the state law you have to wear a mask. And somebody, some of the visitors have gotten a little bit. Angry, and, departed, without doing it, um, having said that. Our borough council, is trying to make every accommodation. Possible. To help some of those small, shops, i'll give you two may i give you two examples. Sure. Okay, so. October, we typically, do a fall festival, a very large. Extensive. Busy fall festival here in geneva. That fall festival, is greatly, scaled, down this year. Two of the items that we typically, have at that fall festival, at our county park right at the foot of the historic, district here. Would be approximately. 30 to 35. Artisans. Craftsmen, and food trucks. They are not invited, this year, we are not having that, with the specific. Goal. Of focusing, that business. Back to our members. Back to our historic, district. Now part and parcel of that our borough council, approved, last night, that for one of our streets. That has no sidewalks, to speak of, and therefore, cannot, put shops, expand their shops in front of their business. There's a small, park. Borough park on their street the borough, granted, permission, last night. For those shops, on that street. At no charge no peddlers, permits, no paperwork. No nothing. Go ahead and set up tables door and fall. To try to expand that business so, again it's a matter of trying to reinvent, yourself, and trying to take advantage of every opportunity. But gosh, version is retail, is struggling. Yeah. Phil how are things going at uh refreshing, mountain. Yeah so, we're kind of unique, in that we have, three. Separate. Areas, that we. Can. Have business come through so we have overnight retreats. We have. Day, outdoor, activities, such as ziplining. We opened our pool. Recently. And, um. And then we also have overnight. Cabin. Uh rentals. And hotel rooms now that we're opening up. Uh for. Individuals, or families to book into. So. Our overnight retreats, is is pretty much. A complete loss, at this point. Um ever since march. People have pulled out, um, rightfully, so in many ways. Because we can't. Necessarily, host larger groups. We have a few still coming this, this summer, uh church groups. But. As far as, our. Bookings for for, outdoor activities. The phones have been steady. Um. And we've been. Filling up tours. However. We've been limiting. Those tours based on private tours instead of public or open tours where you might be paired with. People that you don't know. So we've made, some of those accommodations. So, really our revenue is down. Our bookings, are, are there. But but the revenue is down because we're having less people. And then for our. Overnight, stays such as our cabins, and our hotel rooms, we recently, opened up our hotel rooms to, to, families, which we usually reserve, just for our overnight retreats, but since we don't have them. Where we've opened them up and. Um. We've been getting steady calls on those. And so we're starting to really, try to, ramp that up a little bit more here to try to get, people to stay longer.
And. It seems like people are booking in. Fairly. Fairly, frequently. Which is hard to say, compared to last year because. We typically would have a lot of that space filled with overnight retreats. So. It's really hard to say where, where we're at in the whole scheme of things. But, overall, i can pretty confidently, say we're down, from last year, yeah. Thank you. So, uh, next question, what kind of changes have you had to make, in the way you market your experiences. Um. Anybody want to jump in on that one. All right i mean i can start, uh. Essentially. Again it very much mirrors what you had in your survey, where, um. The probably the biggest change is taking over a lot of the functions, myself. Had to. I had gotten to a stage where i was able to hire a marketing, company to do things like, write blogs, and send out email blasts. Regular, posts on our social media. Search engine optimization. And i've pulled all of that in-house. Um. So. You know. And i'll hopefully, as business ramps back up again, start sending some of that back out again. Uh but, yeah and in in this. Realm of, of. Having no cash flow coming in. That was one of the easier, things to be able to cut i can't turn off my electric. But i could. Turn off the the marketing, and and, take that on. Uh. I also started doing. Some things that are maybe a little bit outside of my comfort zone, and pushing myself, to do it, probably the biggest one is doing a couple of little videos. I participated. In that amish farm and house. Video, that they set up for bed and breakfasts. To, to promote ourselves, on their website. And. You know even though i'm perfectly, comfortable, being like interviewed, by a tv reporter, i am not comfortable, doing like personal videos, walking around, holding my camera, up, i'm with you. I think you have to try, stuff. Uh, so i'm. Every opportunity, that presents, itself, i'm giving it a go i'm trying to be a gamer. Um. But again it's it's all on low cost. Uh, type of opportunities. I'm not, thinking about, print advertising. Uh. You know certainly not tv or radio. Uh, you know even for the the wine bar, it's all been, um, social media, facebook, instagram. Primarily. Yeah. About the rest of you, any of any, changes of note other than what rebecca, mentioned with your marketing. So we're focusing, on social media we as you know we pulled back from. From our google. But the social, the social media that we've been doing rather than focusing. On, our, business and our tours. Is we've really been focusing. On, our, our community. So we've gotten involved. With, a. Little country store and miniature horse farm to help them out where we we, provided, tours for them. To, give away to people who sponsored, some of their animals. Because they were having a hard time feeding some of the animals, so we use social media for that. And, just promoting, the the businesses, that are around us. Now once we get. Through june i'm kind of using june as a as a catch-up, month. Where we're catching up on those bills that we didn't get a chance to pay. And then we're looking at july, to, really starting things back up and ramping up. So and. We'll probably, take a look at spending, more, than we did last year. And i see it as an opportunity. If. If there's others out there who are pulling back on their spending. It's an opportunity, for me to grow. Um. So it you know it's it's a risk i'm willing to take. Yeah. Michael any big changes to your marketing approach. Not so much to be honest carl we focus on our facebook, page. Uh. And. Uh um. Google. Tripadvisor. And those otas. The trip advisor, for us is key, and we had one unique challenge, this year and that is that we moved to the business and changed the name in january. So. Fortunately, we were able to keep, the trip advisor. Uh. The trip advisor reviews, which were, super, super important to us. And um, but the facebook. Is key and i'll tell you why because, we have a historic. Uh landmark, home here in town that we've been renovating. Bit by bit. And we post those. Renovations. Updates, decorating. As we do them and that keeps the, previous, guests. And and new. Completely, engaged. And so. Because it's a unique property. Uh we have a lot of uh repeat, support. That's worked really well for us but in terms of investing, any additional not so much and, to mark's point, we absolutely, positively, have not stopped. With the support we give the local community, whether it be a financial, donation, for, a sponsor, music event for example. Or. We tend to give a lot of gift certificates, out and we have absolutely, not stopped that, that's good for word of mouth. And i think it would be really bad, for word of mouth if you didn't. Yeah. Phil how about you guys. Yeah so, um, i mean. Right off the bat i think this accelerate, tourism.
Meetup Has been, extremely, helpful. In the process, of trying to figure out hey how can we do better. Um so we've taken a lot of key things away from that plus we have an awesome marketing agency, that's been supportive, of us throughout the time giving us, some good advice. Um. And, uh. Even though we've cut that out of our budget. At this point. Uh that is our marketing, agency. Um we've, like rebecca, mentioned, you know we've we've gone, into social media a lot heavier. Um a lot more, heavier, and also. Uh. Really, just, uh connecting, with local, businesses. So we've been partnering with some bnbs, to do some like outdoor. Adventure, packages, where we're giving them, some deals, for their customers, they're creating packages, for that. We've just been really trying to connect, more with, with our local. Local businesses, to kind of help support each other. So that's been great. And we've been in a, middle of a website, refresh. Which i think has also kind of helped as far as the navigation. For people to to, to make those, call to actions, and really, kind of drive some of that there so. Um. We've. We've, been doing a few things across the board. Um, but yeah definitely, like rebecca. You know we've been doing some social media stuff that. I've been uncomfortable, with if you will with with other, with you know doing videos, and other stuff and. Uh but, it's um, we've seen, we've done some ad boosts, on there, um some post boost that is. Um, on, instagram, and facebook, and we've seen some, pretty good engagement, with that. And so with some of the promotions, we were doing we were, we were actually pulling some people in. And then they were finding other things about us, and. Not even booking for things that. That they were they saw the promotion, for so. Um, so that's been helpful, those little things, have been really helpful, all along the way. Good. Good as we um. Go to the next question, just want a reminder, for the audience, uh, to, if you've got questions for the panelists. These are all people that are in business, right now that have been going through what you're about to go through if you're thinking about reopening, here soon, so if you've got questions that we haven't addressed yet throw them in q a and we'll we'll get those, uh we'll get to those after we get through, the next few minutes here. So, um. A big question i think a lot of people have i saw these, when people registered, there were several people that asked questions along these lines. Um, what kind of i'm interested to hear you guys elaborate a little bit on what kind of changes, if any of you had to make to. Accommodate. Clients, fears about safety, and and to comply, with government regulations, on social distancing. Um. Anybody. Want to jump in on that phil i know you guys have made some changes at refreshing mountain. Yeah so we've had to pivot a lot of what we do, so like i said before we've done private, or public tours. Usually where people are coming, and jumping in on zip line with other groups, we've made those completely, private. So. All of our guides wear face masks, or some kind of face, protection. Barrier, between the customer and them. The nice part is actually the state has given, us the opportunity. To, decide, whether or not we want customers, to. Whether they're required to wear a face mask or not. So we've left that up to the decision, of the customers. And we've found that that's been, really.
Beneficial. Because. Some of them, just don't feel comfortable, ziplining, in hot weather with a face mask on or climbing a climbing tower. Or for example going to our pool. It's actually a safety hazard. Playing in water with a face mask on can be detrimental, to your health actually. So. So, that's been some. Some unique ones, um. We we've also moved away, from, the term social distancing. And actually, looked at, repurposing. That to say responsible. Spacing. Um. To. We felt that the social distancing, term was creating a connotation. Of hey. We don't want you to interact with us or anybody else. And so. We've we've moved away from that and really have started to push even on social media like we want you to be present. With us and with each other, while you're here. Um. So. That that's been, a, perspective, shift that we've also done, in that realm to try to, try to um, because i think throughout, all this honestly as we're fighting perception, right. There's. It's it's all about what people, perceive. Um, and so and and, and it's all there are warranted. Levels, of that, so. Um, trying to meet people where they're at whether that's they want to come right away, and do everything. They're a little, hesitant. But kind of, tipping their, you know putting their toes in the water. Or. They're just, absolutely, not, i do not want to go out i don't want to do anything. So we want to be sensitive, to all of those. But. Help. That perception. And show them that we have a safer, environment, for them to be here. So we've, really. Really have been pushing that. And just kind of. Trying to move that perception, as much as possible and we've seen as other people open up. Our hope, is that, people will see that, they can get out they can start to do things outdoors, they can. Maybe take a trip to a b, or or somewhere, outside of their realm. That they can. Do those things, and do it safely. In, a good way, so, that's good. Changes. I i have felt this whole time that it's just you know it's going to take the. The people that are those that want to get out right away like if they can if they can be seen doing that in a safe way in a fun way that's just going to build, you know other people are going to be encouraged, by that and it should snowball. Again hopefully in a safe way. Anyone else, want to share any of the changes that they've made. So one of the things that. That we're doing is we haven't opened up our, our office. We still have, the the building except for the bathrooms. Uh we still have clothes to the public. So when they, when they check in we'll meet them outside. We're checking people, in. Um rather than a desktop, we're checking people in on, our our phones. Our, waivers. We've been trying to get away from paper waivers. And this has actually been great, because. We do have digital waivers available. We have kiosks, set up in the office but we are encouraging, our guests to fill them out prior to arriving. And, we're having about a 90. Success, rate on that. So. Those are probably the the biggest changes, other than the fact that. Right now we're not accepting. Walk-in, guests. So, all of our tours are done by reservation. But we've. We've been we've been spraying, out our helmets, and and sanitizing, them after each use before it became trendy, so. We're, right there, yeah. With you on that. Yeah for, for us the biggest difference, there. The. Three main areas, are check-in, breakfast, and check-out. And so. Like mark, um. We've kind of gone toward, digital, our we're just taking reservations.
No Walk-ins. Um. Rather than having, a personal, face-to-face. Interaction, for check-ins, we have. An express, check-in system where the guests will find a letter, on our desk. Letter tells them everything, that we would tell them anyway, in some ways, i think guests like it even better. They don't need some, innkeeper, telling them where the light switch is i think they can figure that out, um. Breakfast, is probably, the biggest, difference. And there we're kind of following the lead of our guests. We're wearing a mask, or a face shield, throughout. Any sort of buffet, type things have gone away, so i had to stock up on like thermos, coffee pots so everyone gets one at their own table. They get their sugar, and creamer, and butter, and, you know there is no walking up to a buffet, anymore. And, there's no sharing tables, we have three individual, tables, that people can sit at normally you might have another couple join you but we're not doing that anymore unless, it's a group that came together. And we are giving guests the option, to have breakfast in their room so we invested, in, praise, and stands. And, all those sorts of things to make that possible, for our guests. Uh. What i'm seeing though is the people who are traveling, now those early. Get out again, people. They're just, they think this is all ridiculous. And, they don't even, you know they're much less, cautious. Um i think we're gonna start to see, um, those, other cautious, folks but i think. You know. I mean you everybody's, touched on it it's. It's that perception, one of those other out you know like out of my comfort zone things is i made, a video. Of all of these, processes. The cleaning, procedures. The. God, phil i love your your, responsible, distancing. Or whatever, like that was a great phrase i'm using that. Um but all of those things that are going to make them feel comfortable, coming, in that they know that you've taken steps and that the other guests that are at your property, are going to be taking similar, steps. Uh, i think that just makes people feel better and then when they get here they're like. It's fine. So. So we're gonna see how that plays out but yeah i think um. You. We've gotten some really, good. Advice. From organizations. Like pabi, the pennsylvania. Association. Of bed and breakfasts. I'm a member of a group called select, registry. They have. Phenomenal. Guidance, and you know they've taken into account, cdc. So i think. There's a lot of organizations. Out there. Um, plra. Um different, attraction, organizations. That we can really get some good advice, and protocols. That, keep you know it's not just about keeping our guests safe we have to keep ourselves, safe. You know if phil gets sick, refreshing, mountains in trouble, you know if, our bed and breakfast, if i. Get sick. That's, you know my only source of revenue goes away so i think, it's not just for their safety they need to recognize. That we're trying to keep ourselves, safe too. Yeah, great point. So, if i may um one of our greatest. Concerns. In reopening, was. Um. I would say that a lot of the, for lack of a better word the mojo, that we that we generate, here with our guests.
Is The socialization. At the breakfast, table, breakfast here is three courses, it can be 90 minutes. It's um it's a it's a pretty big deal. And our fear was and and and that's where guests get to interact, and whatnot. Um. Our, trouble under normal times is to get them out of the table so we can get them checked out and. Get the room refreshed for the next guest. Well. What we wanted to do was ensure that we didn't lose that mojo. And um, and and by spreading out the tables. And, utilizing. Our veranda. Where we have a lot more room we can put people outdoors. Rebecca, everybody's, really 100, more comfortable, outdoors. For dining. And so we have them responsibly. Distance apart but they can still converse. And so what we found, just after a week, is that, that energy is still there that very positive, energy is still there, we still do a check-in. But in terms of a check-in. For previous, guests. They know our routines, they get a door code, they know where to park they know where to eat we have maps and whatnot. But. Folks want a house tour, we don't offer that to the public right now the house is closed to the public unless you're a registered, guest. And uh. The guests, do, still want that interaction. But we are masked. We are, sanitizing. Um we have no. The homemade biscotti, in a jar have been replaced, with. Packaged. Store-bought, biscotti, for example. The community. Coffee lounge is replaced, with individual. Uh coffee service, in each room. So. We and and of course we have sanitizer. Stations and all the protocol, that we should have, and to be honest when the guest sees you uh at 8 30 in the morning walking around with, with a mask, gloves and sanitizing. Railings, and door knobs. They're more comfortable. So so the greatest challenge right now i think we're going to have. Is. Making sure that our guests, are not, too complacent. And, right right now because. Our county, and jim thorpe have, historically, been low, in the covid, counts. During the whole crisis. Folks, are, perhaps, a bit cavalier, when you wander our town. As i mentioned earlier, you're not seeing. Face mask use and you're actually seeing. Um. Refusal, to wear it coming into shops and that cavalier, attitude. Is a is fearful to me, because i don't want to bring it in to rebecca's, point to our house. And so. While not, while not portraying, being a hospital. And and, and taking all the all the, personality. Out of the experience. We have to find that balance, between. Conversing. Sitting down going over what to do where to go. And, and, and, and, maintaining, some sort of distancing, and safety. Yeah. Yeah great. Thank you all that was really good feedback. Um we're about to transition, into. Taking questions from the group so if you have a question you haven't had a chance to submit it yet please go ahead and do that. Um and sam be ready to, uh to start bringing up those questions but i do want to give our panelists one less. One last question. Um. The uh. You know we've heard a lot about the challenges, with booking, some of the changes you've had to make. Um. But we've also heard some encouraging, things, you know with bookings being up in some cases, with guests, you know bookings starting to pick up. And with getting good response from the community. So, as you look kind of towards the future, what would you guys say, i want to hear from each of you what would you say is the biggest opportunity, you see for the future. Rebecca why don't you go first. Yeah so i think, you know one. Necessity, is the mother of invention. And it's you know we've all had to look at new and different. Ways, to, to, you know to michael's point to provide, a customer experience. And even just to generate, revenue, so. You know while this, whole shutdown, was occurring. Um. You know i had. Possible, revenue, could be from the wine bar, but the wine bar was shut, so we started doing, pickup and delivery. And we had to create an online, store which we had never had before, so now people can order, our wines. Online, they can order slushies, online, and go and drink it out in our grounds. And so those things were. You know an opportunity, for doing something different, that was socially distanced. We've, had a gift shop in the bed and breakfast, for years. But i never did online, ordering, for it and i've, done a couple thousand dollars, in revenue, from our online, gift shop, same thing i took it and and made, an online, store. Um. So i think those. Opportunities. Are. I. I wouldn't have done those things if i wasn't forced to do those things, and so, it you know i think, i have to. The key is to keep on looking for opportunities. Like that i i like mark's, idea, in a world where. Other people might be hunkering, down or scaling, back or afraid to reopen, there's opportunities.
For Maybe picking up a little bit of market, share. Picking up market share from maybe big hotels. That, people. Don't. Want. They figure a smaller, property they have less of a chance of of, interacting, with other people, so. So yeah those those opportunities. Are out there and then i i really like the idea of partnering. Phil i will be calling you about a package, for refreshing. Mountain, in our bed and breakfast. I think um. Looking for opportunities. To co-market. Each other, um, is just a win-win, for everybody. Yeah. Cool. Michael how about you what do you guys see as a. Big opportunity, for the future. Carl very briefly, so. Um. Pent up demand. There's no question, everybody. Wants to get the heck out of dodge. And so what we did was we took what the industry, was doing, after the shutdowns, began in early march. Uh, everybody, put their. Capex, projects on hold, they stopped buying anything. They stopped doing. Maintenance. Repairs, renovations. And now under reopening. You'll see that many of the large hotel, companies, most of the commercial, lodging establishments. Have cut their services. We did the opposite. We accelerated. Our renovation, and investment, program. And, now we're ahead of where we thought we'd be now which is perfect for the reopening. And we've tried to up our game with guest amenities. So we did the opposite. We we took the opportunity, where other people were. Sort of. Backing away from life. And. We've been spending we spent three months getting ready for reopening. That's great. Phil how about you guys what do you guys see is the biggest future opportunity. Yeah so, in short, say yes to everything. Like that. We uh. Honestly, when we were founded, by, marlin and sharon harnish, a couple, uh, that, came together. 35, plus years ago. They, they literally would get a call from a retreat, saying hey we've got you know, 30 some people, we want to come this weekend.
And, Uh, marlon, would say, okay. And, they only had 12 beds. And. They had, uh you know another group coming in you know so. They said okay now how are we gonna make this work and so. Anything that comes through, we're, we're, actively, engaging, in it, um, and we're planning ahead, so we're, thinking about, what if we go back to yellow, or you know if we're green here soon, what if we go back to yellow what if we go back to red, what does that look like and so. Um, you know a school district called us the other day and said hey, can you guys, host, students, if we're in yellow, they can't all be at our school. You would have to provide, supervisory. Roles, and. Social distancing, all that so we're not throwing it, out the window we're. We're entertaining, it. So stuff like that i think, uh we just are, are keeping our ear to the ground, and. Saying yes to everything. Okay. Mark how about you guys. Well, i guess my answer would be similar, to, some of the answers we've already heard. Um but one of the things we're actually looking at, is. Consolidating. Debt money is cheap right now. And. You know. My, my. Wife and i bought out my ex-partner, back in 2015. And, since that time we've grown our business about 400, percent. Um in doing so, that required, us to take on some some debt that. We didn't want to take on but it helped to grow the business. We're looking at this right now as an opportunity. To create more cash flow because we're able to consolidate, that debt, with the, with the cheaper interest rates. So that's. For us. That's probably the biggest, opportunity, we're going to continue, to do, what we've done. Uh we're going to continue, to come up with new and exciting, tours, and, you know give give the best the guests, the best tour that we possibly, can. That's not going to change. Um but it's that cash flow it's that behind the scenes stuff that that people don't see that it helps to run the everyday business. Yeah. That's a very great point and. Probably very relevant for many of the people on the call thank. You. Kind of questions we have from the group. Yeah so uh. One. We have, here is. Our bookings. You're getting. Being, dominated, by local, guests. Rather than travelers. From further away. Yeah for us, it's been, um. Like not necessarily, local, in ephrata. But local, like short drives. Definitely. Um. Hershey, harrisburg. Um, york, lebanon. Uh, places, that, aren't. Normally. Are big. You know our, biggest, groups of customers, are more coming from like new jersey maryland, dc, delaware. And so yeah we definitely have seen a move to closer, drives. And i haven't had a single person. Since we reopened, that's flown here. Yeah, right okay. Yeah, and and i would say, they remember, the same for us, our traditional. Uh, draw. For our visitors to jim thorpe. Is. The lehigh valley. Uh greatly the lehigh valley. Philadelphia. Region. Upper new jersey, northern new jersey and new york. And that's exactly, what it is, and um, and. Everything. Essentially, is a two hour drive or under.
But Definitely driving. Ditto. Yeah. Yeah. Same here uh. You know i think, people are uh i'm even looking to go places right and, like, we're looking to go to maine but means. You got you have to quarantine, for 14 days currently. To go there so. I think people are really searching and saying hey what are the state laws right now. In regards, to this whole thing and. Um. Or and and for us in pennsylvania, what are the county by county where are they at. And what can be done and so. You know again kind of going back to our website, another, information, out there for what are we doing. We're trying to keep up with. Making it aware. Making people aware of where we're at for that so that they can say oh yeah they're in lancaster, county. Okay, like, they can host people, this is what we can do and we're and we're putting you know links even to. Government, websites, saying, yeah, this is where you can be, and this is how you can do it safely. Yeah that's great i was gonna you you kind of took the words out of my mouth i was gonna follow up with to that to say to everyone on the call like, you may have to. You know normally you'd probably think it's outside of scope to talk about, what the county safety guidelines, are what's going on in the state but you've got people looking at your website. Thinking about coming to your property that might be making stuff up about what they can or can't do. So going out of your way to, you know create a simple statement, and then link to government agencies, with the details, is a great step, awesome. Question, other questions sam, yeah, um. I i don't recall. Hearing much about this as you all were um. Answering, the questions. But. Have, people. Have customers, been. Asking, about discounts. Um. You know, and if so. What. What has that been, what does that look like how are you answering that what kind of things are they asking for. I heard. One of my favorite, there's a woman who owns the old square, inn in mount joy and she was on a video call the other day.
And, The question about discounts, came up and she. She quickly. Was like we are not charging, a penny, more. To, implement, all of these safety protocols, that we have put in place for you. So. She like took that and flipped it, and said, you know we are going above and beyond, extra, cleaning, i mean the the amount of supplies, that we've had to buy in terms of room service type things, and, sanitizing. Sprays, and masks. We provide, two masks, per guest, we provide them individual. Sanitizers. We provide. Wipes, in their room, um in case they want to wipe down services, themselves, if they don't really trust us. And um and we aren't going to charge you any more for any of that. That's cool. Yeah, love that. We've had no requests for rate reduction. None. And we we did knock our rates down a little bit for june. And uh but i can tell you that effective, uh, after the july fourth holiday which is typically the heart of our season here in jim clark, the rates are as published. Uh. Lately, late last year there's no change, um. Our, our traditional. Policy, is the rate is the rate. No matter what platform, you look on you're going to see the same rate for our for our rooms. Um. The reality, is. Again our normal policy, is if it's a friday morning and there's a room open. Uh yeah we may work with you a little bit on it but in terms of a phone call that starts off with, what what discounts, do you have, it's probably not one i'm going to convert to a booking. Yeah. Now that said you know so we aren't necessarily, doing, discounts. But, the um. You know the average daily rate in lancaster, county has dropped significantly. And a lot of that has to do with just, a crazy amount of new inventory, that's online. Um you know we've got a. A true hotel, up the street that's charging, less than 80, a night, um and it's lovely brand new hotel. And so. You know there's a lot of other properties, that are driving, our price down not necessarily, the coronavirus. Gotcha. Yeah we're running tons of discounts. I. I think, yeah and and again we're, unique, in that we have. Different. Um, we have overnight stays and we also have, outdoor. Activities, but. Um. I think, for especially, our outdoor activities we're running discounts. And i think it's more so pulling people in. To see, hey it's kind of a conduit. If you will. Um. For that. But yeah we would love to. To get away from that but, to rebecca, to your point i think. Um. And, michael i think you both, have made a good case of. I think people are looking more for, a personal, experience, in that way they're not going to be looking for these, uh chain hotels. Because. They can see. The value, in being in. A. A space that is not, highly populated. Or they know that. You guys are caring for your place, and, and support small businesses, too so i think that's, that's really key too. Good. Cool well um unfortunately, i think that needs to be our last, our last question. I do have a couple more things i want to cover here but just want to thank you rebecca, michael. Phil and mark for joining us today. This went even even better than i planned, meaning in terms of. Uh just the quality of your responses. And the positivity. Behind, that each of you show around. Yeah there's some challenges but here's how we're working through it and and there's some big future, future opportunities, that's just really encouraging. Can i put in a plug real quick for a local business. Sure. I spoke with the owner of good and plenty, yesterday. And, they are opening, today. For indoor, dining. Oh. So yeah so if you've got any guests or you're local, uh good and funny we'll be open today and tomorrow, for indoor dining. Thanksgiving.com. Thanks mark. Since it came from you we won't get in trouble that technically, violated, one of our one of our meet up principles, but. It's okay. I said it was all right it's fine.
I'm A rebel carl i'm a rebel, you are that's good that's one of the reasons we love you mark. Awesome. Well um i'm gonna repeat what i said at the beginning of the call, um. This is our last weekly meetup we're gonna move to a monthly meetup, we still want to be here to serve you guys we want to help you guys but we also recognize, you need to be much more focused on your businesses, right now than attending zoom calls. And frankly we do too, um, so. Uh, we are going to be moving to monthly. Um, and, um. I would like, each of you, if you could before you leave today, i'm i'm launching a poll right now here on zoom. We've got a list of 10 topics or so that are on our list of topics that we haven't covered yet or haven't covered as deeply as we could. If any of those topics are of interest to you please click on them and let us know, we want to make sure we're serving up topics that are relevant to you not just relevant to us. So before you, log off today if you could vote on that poll. That'll help us queue up the right kind of content, as we move forward. Thank you very much. And for those of you that are new, and don't know about this yet we do have a facebook group just for the accelerate, tourism, meetup. This is for people from the meetup to be able to interact, share collaborate. We've had people. Um you know rebecca talked about co-marketing, we've had people join together and create deals. On our group we've had people. Post their websites, or post an email or post a social media post and feedback. It's a great forum for that we we don't post too much on there but we if i find, good stats or metrics, or good stories, of things that are going on that are relevant to the group we post them there. Um. Yeah so i just encourage you to join up with the group, and. Use use it as a forum to, bounce feedback, off of your peers, it's a private group so it's safe you can be honest you can. Ask for feedback and not worry that it's going to be out there in the. Public. Well again thank you everyone, um, really excited to see businesses, opening, really excited, personally to hear. Some of the stories we heard today it's very encouraging. And uh hopefully those of you that listened in feel the same way, i wish you all a great weekend, and uh. A good summer. Thank you carl thank you for having me thank you carl. Thanks everybody. Talk to you. Later.