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I would never stay at a bed and breakfast!

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This is NOT Breakfast at a bed and breakfast

This is NOT Breakfast at a bed and breakfast

As we were getting ready to open our bed and breakfast in the fall of 2007 we were doing some market research on what type of guest would stay at bed and breakfast.  We posed the question to my brother-in-law who, at the time, traveled quite a bit for his job, “What would a business traveler look for when staying at a bed and breakfast?”   His response was simple and direct, “I would never stay at a bed and breakfast!”   I wasn’t prepared for that answer but I continued asking him why he wouldn’t stay at a bed and breakfast and he proceeded to tell me his reasons.

First, he didn’t want to be in a stranger’s house.  He thought it would be like visiting his mother or aunt but only worse because they were a stranger and when he was traveling he wanted some peace and quiet.  He didn’t want to be in someone’s guest room, you know, that room in the house with the old uncomfortable furniture.  Obviously if you made the bed too comfortable house guests might never leave.  Or, perhaps he would be staying in the kid’s room that is away at school or has moved out, but mom and dad kept the room the way it was in high school.  Even worse than staying in a stranger’s house would be the requirement to eat breakfast and speak with strangers.  Out of all his excuses I found this one to be the strangest comment he made because Jeff is not afraid to talk to strangers, is quite intelligent and can carry on a conversation.

Ok, maybe he isn’t our target market.  I assumed our target market was someone traveling away from home needing a safe and comfortable place to stay while away from his/her family.  A place that isn’t as sterile or impersonal as a hotel.  A place where you are fed a great breakfast before you head off to work or meeting, then it hit me.  Before we decided to open a bed and breakfast, I too would have never stayed at a bed and breakfast either.  It just wasn’t on my radar.  When I traveled to a conference or convention I stayed at a hotel, preferably a Marriott because I wanted to get those loyalty points, much the same way as I tried to fly on United.  The thing about Marriott, the rooms in Washington, DC weren’t much different than the rooms in San Francisco, same bed, same decor.  You knew before you got there what to expect.  It’s kind of like flying.  You know the lines are long, getting through security is always a pain, the seats are small the food…well, no one flies for the food and so on.   I chose Marriott and United out of some sort of loyalty and since I had never stayed at a bed and breakfast there was no loyalty, They just weren’t on my radar.

After stepping back and thinking about it from Jeff’s point of view I understood the challenge that was ahead of me.  If very few people have ever stayed at a bed and breakfast then how am I going to get them to change their thinking so that they will consider a stay at a bed and breakfast?  Our rooms are much nicer than a hotel, our food is much better than the breakfast buffet at the hotel; our amenities are much nicer…  I know, I sound like a parent; my kid is smarter, faster, prettier than…

Well, it’s been six years since we opened and Jeff still hasn’t stayed at a bed and breakfast while traveling for business but I have stayed in lots of them since we decided to become innkeepers.  There have been some really great ones and then there have been some that…..let’s just say that will be a future blog post.   We do have some very loyal business travelers that wouldn’t consider staying any place but here, but still the vast majority of business travelers don’t stay at a bed and breakfast.  Having said that, I will be publishing more posts about our industry so that the next time you are traveling you will at least consider a stay at a bed and breakfast and if your travels ever bring you to Lynchburg, Virginia you will want to stay at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast.

This blog is the start of a new approach to marketing.  Before I would stand up and tell you how great we (I mean my bed and breakfast) are, all the awards we have won, all the wonderful experiences our guests have had…and because you are polite you would listen and then go about your day and the next time you traveled you guessed it, you wouldn’t think about staying in a bed and breakfast, you would just go online and book your hotel room.  My new marketing approach is trying to get people to start thinking about bed and breakfasts, hopefully mine, but if not mine than someone else’s.

I know change is hard and the fear of the unknown may be what’s holding you back or probably, you like me 6+ years ago it wasn’t on your radar.

Before I close, I would love to know your thoughts.  Would you consider a stay at a bed and breakfast?  Have you stayed at a bed and breakfast?  When you travel, does it even cross your mind about staying at one?

Hey, they aren’t (most of the time) scary places.  Here is a link to a video (its less than one minute) of our bed and breakfast.  I just wanted those who have never stayed at one or even knows about them to be able to peek inside one of one of them.  It’s like going to the beach and dipping your toe in the water before you take the plunge.   After watching the video is a bed and breakfast option on your radar?   Please be brutally honest…I think getting the word out about bed and breakfasts is going to be a big job…I just want to know how big of a job I am undertaking.

Please shoot me an email with your thoughts and comments:  mike@TheCarriageHouseInnBandB.com