By Scott and Allison Crumpton
As the time rolled around for me to write an article for this month's
issue, I found myself strangely without much to say. For those of
you who know or have met me, this may be hard for you to believe
but it's very true. Finally, I decided to write about what's hot
and what's not with the search engines but then again how many times
can you discuss pay-per-click, the fact that meta tags are a dead
issue and how utterly useless it is for an innkeeper to focus on
link popularity? Truly, aren't there better things to talk about
and more important issues rolling around in my head? I do spend
an inordinate amount of time trying to convince innkeepers not to
listen to the hype and to use common sense in their marketing, but
I would hope by now they've gotten it. So for the first time in
a while I'm breaking from my pattern of tech talk and want to discuss
where I think the B&B industry is heading and some problems
which I see on the horizon.
Recently someone who has been in the industry a long time made
an impacting comment. She said, "In the year 2000, the country
became over-conferenced". She's right. Last year I spent much
time speaking at state B&B conferences around the country and
I've formulated a few predictions as a result:
At present I have over ten invitations to speak at upcoming state
conferences with more coming in every day. While I am truly flattered
that so many people would like to hear what I have to say, I have
to wonder what it is I will say. Following a very successful speaking
engagement in January of this year, I was asked to return and speak
next year. However, I was also asked the title of my topic. I could
only respond with, "I'll tell you next year." For several
years, Internet Marketing has been changing so rapidly that it has
been difficult for even us experts to keep up. But recently with
the adoption of pay-per-click advertising, things have settled down
into a slower, more predictable rhythm. Sure, we have the odd news
days announcing that LookSmart decided to break their contract with
people who paid a one time lifetime membership fee, and have now
embraced pay-per-click - but those are rare instances. For the most
part, Internet Marketing is starting to mature and settle down leaving
behind those awkward years of mysterious placement in the search
Likewise, Innkeepers have started to mature in their knowledge
of Internet Marketing. Whether by reading articles in Arrington's,
in association newsletters or by listening to expert speakers at
conferences, innkeepers are starting to get it. Because of this,
I have to wonder what the upcoming conferences will hold. Can we
stand another year of search engine strategies? Last year I introduced
a new concept into my speaking engagements and performed live web
site reviews of participants' web sites. The sessions were very
well received but after about five sites and a handful of humorous
comments, most innkeepers get the principals of professional design.
Truly, is there anything new we can talk about in Internet Marketing
or will this new round of conferences contain the same old topics?
This last comment is what has me so troubled and I would surmise
one of the reasons for the low turnout to many recent conferences.
While Internet Marketing is not the only important session topic
at conferences I have found that it is the most well attended often
with multiple sessions and speakers. Besides, how many times can
you listen to a session on floral arranging without wanting to teach
Most every conference I attended in the last year had far fewer
attendees than expected. The pattern was so consistent that I even
created a formula to predict the number of inns which would be represented
at a given conference. You can imagine my shock when the formula
predicted to within 25 inns the Chicago PAII conference final numbers.
Here's Crumpton's Conference Formula: Take the number of attendees
the show coordinator tells you will attend. Cut this number in half
to get the true number of attendees. Then cut this number in half
again to get the number of inns represented due to multiple representatives
from a single inn and coordinators counting vendors as attendees.
Yep, attendance really was that low this last year - even at the
PAII show. This is not to say there weren't some great shows - just
that the numbers were much lower than expected. The sentiment from
the majority of innkeepers I've spoken to was that with the exception
of the live site reviews I did, they've heard most of it before.
If that's true, we're headed for even lower attendance this year
at conferences unless someone comes up with some new and exciting
Another troubling issue is the low turnout from vendors. Within
the last couple years, many states realized they could turn their
annual (or bi-annual) meeting into a money making conference simply
by inviting vendors. This was a wonderful idea - while it lasted.
However, as innkeeper attendance has dropped so has interest by
the vendors. The feedback I'm getting these days is that vendor
enthusiasm is at an all-time low. After all, the innkeepers now
know who the vendors are - if you're a vendor why spend thousands
of dollars to preach to the choir?
Let's put it all together. We have nothing new to talk about in
Internet Marketing, shrinking innkeeper attendance, a waning vendor
enthusiasm, and innkeepers who know who the vendors are and more
about internet marketing than ever before. So what do you think
the upcoming conference seasons will be like?
I have suggested to several entities that one way to solve this
dilemma is to hold regional conferences and smaller state meetings
with only local vendors. The regional conferences would have all
the best speakers, top vendors and be held in vacation locations.
Why not hold a conference in Hawaii and let everyone use it as a
write-off/vacation. I would love to spend a week in Hawaii holding
internet marketing sessions under a palm tree. Furthermore, few
of us ever get away for a real vacation anymore. I know one vendor
who said she'd never simply just go to a conference again without
making a vacation out of the trip. Trouble is, it's hard to find
anything interesting to do in some conference locations! I know
my ideas on this seem a bit radical to some people but I've seen
the current state of conferences and I have to wonder if anyone
is excited anymore.
Honestly, I don't mean to paint such a bleak picture of the upcoming
conference season. Conferences will be held, vendors will come and
attendees will glean useful information from the variety of speakers.
I just wonder if like print, conferences will also fall victim to
the victor of the information age - the Internet. If the average
innkeeper can find most everything they want on the web, why bother
going to a conference? Sure it's a social gathering but if that's
the goal, then let's make it a bit more exciting and relaxing by
choosing vacation destinations!
I honestly don't know what the upcoming conference season will
be like. I don't know what drastic change in Internet Marketing
will pop up late this year just in time for many conferences. But
I do know this, conferences are declining in popularity with both
innkeepers and vendors and unless something is changed soon, we
may be back to annual meetings instead of conferences. I would much
rather enjoy the time getting to know innkeepers while golfing in
Maui and snorkeling on the Big Island. Want to join me?