B & Bs brace for web fee increase
Daniel Meyer has spent the past 11 years building up his Barons CreekSide bed and breakfast business. He relies on repeat business, word of mouth, advertising and, increasingly, online booking services, such as BedandBreakfast.com to help clients find him.
The latter is responsible for about 10 percent of his business annually. For that, he pays them a $700 annual fee to showcase his listings on their website.
But starting Oct. 1, the site will take away a “visit the site” link to the property owner’s own website, and it will begin charging a 15-percent commission. Based on last year’s bookings, Meyer said that will increase his payment to that site from $700 annually to about $28,500.
“I believe I was one of the first B&B owners to receive this notice of their change,” he said. “I want our locals to be aware of this change that is happening.”
He spent a good part of Monday on the phone with an “industry relations specialist” for Expedia.
“She’s a nice person, but at the end of the day, her job is to maximize profits. That’s not going to be a positive for our industry,” said Meyer, a retired Swiss food company executive who found Fredericksburg while traveling.
Meyer and his wife, Deborah, have a list of past guests that is 8,000 strong. They rely on a personal touch, gathering customer emails and phone numbers along the way to solicit return visits.
But if BedandBreakfast.com makes these changes, that company will keep that information and there will be much less personal contact between owner and customer.
“It will hurt the quality of the B&Bs,” Meyer said. “They say, ‘Well, guests can still search for you on Google,’ but some of our guests are not as tech-savvy as others.”
Meyer said other local businesses he works with as “add-on services” could be hurt, as well.
“They will no longer allow pre-booking for services we work with, such as a wine tour or a massage company,” he said. “I believe it reduces our exposure, increases our costs and reduces the quality.”
Jessica Davis, who manages Gästehaus Schmidt, said commission fees charged by the larger booking websites are sometimes passed along by the local facilities as other fees, such as “cleaning fee” or other fee. She said guests sometimes complain, but they understand.
But Davis said she would encourage B&B facilities to use another vendor.
“There are so many of them, we would just urge them to use another one,” Davis said. “There’s a new one popping up every day. If they’re not competitive, we’ll find one who is.”
On Wednesday, representatives of local B&B and booking agents were to have met to discuss these changes, Meyer said.
He also hopes to set up a meeting on Oct. 12 with local representatives and a BedandBreakfast.com representative.