Are Associations Valuable and Effective? Yes.

September 11, 2019 by Stephen Fofanoff

An Open Letter to the Industry About the Value of Associations

Recently, one of our competitors published a blog post questioning the relevance and effectiveness of regional and state associations, proposing more studies and indecision as the answer. I was astounded to see an industry leader questioning the value of a tool that provides real-time rates and availability to consumers, requires no regular upkeep from individual properties, has no long term contracts or commitments, and works with almost every booking engine. I was further dismayed to see that same individual begin questioning the very value of associations themselves.   I hear from Innkeepers every day that they just want easy to use, affordable tools to help them market their business, be successful, and enjoy their quality of life. Sounds simple enough, and I truly believe it can be. After all, I’m an Innkeeper myself.   But, as a voluntary state association leader myself, I can attest to the hard work and dedication volunteers across our country engage in every day. The value of our state and regional Associations far exceeds a single number in an analytics spreadsheet.   Book>Direct Everywhere exists today because a small group of Innkeepers in one state said: “Enough is enough. It’s time we start doing something about the state of our business. It’s time we reclaim our guest experience from start to finish. And it’s time we get actual value for the investments we make in marketing tools and for our collective efforts. We’re in this together; let’s act like it so we can make a real difference.”     To hear an industry leader question the value of these efforts, especially out of context against the bigger picture of everything we’re trying to do as an industry is, quite frankly, disappointing. It feels like an intentional effort to confuse people right at the time when we need to be coming together. It feels personal. And, quite frankly, it feels counterproductive.   Should we evaluate everything we do in our associations? Yes. Should we be looking for ways to provide better value to our members? Absolutely. Should we lock ourselves in a room and engage in endless research studies and spreadsheet analysis until we’re confused into a state of indecision? Absolutely Not.   We know, from experience and from data, that Book>Direct is an effective, affordable, easy to use system. But we also know that it is only one part of a three part equation, and it sits squarely in the middle as a consumer-friendly bridge that matches the usability and expected behavior that every traveler expects today as a basic function of our association websites. It is ludicrous to assume otherwise.   Leading up to that bridge is the effort of our Association’s marketing, which lies in providing valuable travel content to consumers who want to visit your region. Provide a high-quality guest experience and build on it. Google, and guests, will reward you for your efforts.   On the opposite side of that bridge is your booking engine. This is the primary and most important point of conversion. It is the point at which a guest decides to give you money. It is where your highest quality photos should be, your best explanatory text describing your rooms and guest experience in a straightforward, concise fashion. It is where unexpected questions or decisions should be absent. Every choice presented to a guest should be “yes”.   It is a basic formula and it works identically for every Association because every traveler expects it. Your association can engage in demand marketing better than your individual inn can. From email newsletters, travel blogs, gift certificates, loyalty programs and more… Your Association can provide those tools more effectively than any individual inn can. But it means that we have to trust each other to support each other. It means we can’t get bogged down in the wrong conversations that lead to inaction. I hear from Innkeepers who ask, “I don’t see enough reservations from my Association, why should we get Book>Direct?” My answer is simple: you don’t get enough reservations because you don’t have Book>Direct. Not having Book>Direct is a symptom of inertia. At some point in the past, your Association froze in time. You can’t expect to get more from your Association, if your Association isn’t putting more into your efforts.   There are resources, systems, and tools available for your Association right now. Today.   And not just for marketing. There are great resources to help with your education and outreach, advocacy efforts, networking and support, and to build community. Associations are so much more than a blip on a spreadsheet. Invest in them and they will yield tremendous rewards for you and your community.   Don’t settle for confusion and inaction. Join. Get involved. Learn. Grow. Adapt. Succeed. These are the hallmarks of our state and regional associations. And I champion their efforts.   To the Power of Associations,   Stephen Fofanoff   Innkeeper Odysys Sales Manager Independent Lodging Champion

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