Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why Don't More People Choose to Stay in Bed and Breakfasts?

The answer most commonly given is that most people don't think about staying in a B&B when the time comes for making travel plans. I must confess that I was also one of those people! It took two years of paperwork and construction to upgrade my house into a bed and breakfast, and during that time I also made the transition into a "bed and breakfast person". Yes, switching hats to an innkeeper is a big change, but at the same time making the switch from a "motel person" has added to my life experience also.



As a "motel person" I pretty much knew what to expect when making a reservation. I knew about what the level of service would be by the brand name and that there would be 2 queen beds, a chest of drawers, a couple of chairs, lots of Formica and whether to expect some sort of do-it-yourself breakfast in the lobby in the morning. But sometimes we are fooled by those add-on charges for an in-room safe or WiFi access. In the upscale places there's also the refrigerator with those valuable $4.00 sodas.


There's a stereotype about bed and breakfasts. Doilies and bric a brac come to mind. Yes, some Victorian houses lend themselves to antiques and period decoration, and there are some travelers who appreciate the chance to stay in that kind of surrounding. Don't automatically assume that you're just staying in a spare room in someone's house having to share a bathroom down the hall or the only TV in their family room.


Savvy travelers can know just as much what to expect from a B&B as from a motel. Many innkeepers put lots of effort into their websites. There are photographs of guest rooms and common areas. The photos are important because no two guest rooms are alike. We list the amenities we offer and explain our policies. Many of us offer complementary snacks and sodas, and breakfast is included at no extra charge.


Look for photographs of our breakfasts. Imagine having real china and flatware and staying seated while being served. A good website will tell you if that's what awaits you. Sometimes it's gourmet with candle light, sometimes buffet, sometimes family style. The website should tell you. If the website is dated or doesn't exist, pick up the telephone and ask the innkeeper what the B&B has to offer, or move on to another choice.


Since starting my new career I have been able to meet lots of innkeepers. Although each of us is different and came to innkeeping through a variety of different paths, we have many things in common. We're all small business owners. We add to the economy of our towns, some more than others. My friend Kathleen, an innkeeper of a 3 bedroom B&B in a town with 3,000 people is quick to point out that folks in her town didn't know it was a tourist destination until she pointed out to the city fathers that it was, and started attracting visitors.


Many of us are preserving old historic houses that are now much too large to serve the needs of most single families. We are willing to do the re-wiring and re-plumbing and ongoing maintenance to make sure there is adequate bathroom space and comfortable indoor surroundings for our guests. Others construct new purpose-built B&B's that insure all the features one could possibly want in overnight accommodations including spacious bathrooms, living areas with room to spread out and lots of privacy.


We know that we owe our livelihood to the public and all the innkeepers I've met strive to find the best way to interact with their guests. We're constantly striving to provide value for our guests. I have permission to share with you the musings of one of my innkeeper friends who recently returned from a week's vacation. She exemplifies how the good innkeepers continue to think about guest service even while on vacation.


What I Learned From My Vacation

Because it's really not a good vacation if I don't learn something!

I had one week to spend. It's the same with many of my guests. One week of vacation is ALL they have. No redo later on in the year if it wasn't 'perfect'. (Perfect meaning different things to different people.) No second opportunity to go somewhere else and have a better time.

So, what I learned from that is it was the people I encountered who had the biggest impact on how my vacation was going. Not the price of the gas, not the bumpiness of the plane, not the endless driving here and there. And, it was the comfort of the rooms I booked that helped me rest and be ready for the next day.

It was the friendly park rangers (even tho they were unsure if they would be working in the coming weeks), the helpful clerks at the car rental, the people in the elevators, the breakfast waitresses, the manager at Taco Bell who gave me the wrong drink and came right to my table with the correct drink and apologized for the mistake. It was the housekeeping staff that took pride in the rooms and made sure they were tidied every day.

THIS is what I have to provide here for my guests. A pleasant encounter, a comfortable room, a fun environment and great food. Because, like me, a LOT of people only get one vacation/year, if they even get that. And I CAN influence it being the best (or the worst) vacation they have.

We innkeepers want a chance to show you how good we are at providing accommodations, hospitality, service and value. With a web search and a little planning we hope you too will become a "B&B person" when next you travel.

Jane McDowell


5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. "Look for photographs of our breakfasts. Imagine having real china and flatware and staying seated while being served."

    Wow those are good points, imagine being SERVED!!!

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  3. Well stated! That's why we also like to stay at B&Bs!

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