This post has actually been in the works for along time but two recent things online brought it back to my attention to finish.
One was a comment by a B&B on a Facebook page http://on.fb.me/HwRkEj which I thought was a terrific example of a “soft” pitch and a blog that came out today mentioned that a Texas Hill Country Bed and Breakfast was recognized in the National News http://blairhouseinn.com/blog/2012/04/texas-hill-country-bed-and-breakfast-recognized-in-the-national-news/ ” Hotel F&B magazine was intrigued with the custom designed executive team building retreats offered to large and small companies.”
If you go to the Blair House Inn’s Business Retreat Page http://blairhouseinn.com/home/business-retreats/ you can see what they offer.
Now many B&Bs don’t have the size to host larger groups (25+ people) but they do have dining rooms or meeting areas that can usually host up to 12. I’ve heard mixed things from B&Bs about business travelers, one is that they are cheap, and two that they are high maintenance. I’ve also heard that they can be lovely guests and easy to please. Where you stand on that one is up to you.
Business travelers are a target market though for those B&Bs that want to pursue trying to attract them. A very common misconception that people traveling on business have (and many others as well) is that B&Bs are not price comparable to a hotel, which as B&B owners you know this is a huge fallacy.
On a personal level, I much prefer staying at B&Bs, when I travel for business or pleasure. My small personal peeves about most B&Bs is that work space (in the room) is not adequate, lamps are not usually bright enough to read or work by, (on a side note, my husband and I are bed readers even while traveling and many B&Bs don’t have adequate reading lamps at the bed) and trying to find even one electrical plug can be a real challenge.
Free WIFI is one of the many perks I do find as a terrific amenity for business travelers, along with a wonderful breakfast served by gracious hosts, something you don’t get at a hotel without paying through the nose for, and even then it’s without the wonderful hosts which is half the attraction. My favorite room I have stayed in for business in a B&B, sadly I have forgotten the name, but it was in NJ somewhere, had an antique roll top desk with pull out sides, a terrific bright desk lamp and a power strip to plug my laptop, my cell phone and my two camera battery chargers into.
The things I have found specifically lacking in many B&Bs while traveling for business that can be improved on with not a lot of time or money investment.
- An iron and ironing board (even a mini one). A PAII speaker actually mentioned this last October during his Better Way to Stay presentation when we were both speaking at the Lake 2 Lake Bed and Breakfast conference in Michigan last year
- A large enough desk. I know the common rooms and porches have larger areas but when working one wants peace and quiet and no distractions. Having to spread out files, a laptop and sit cross legged on a bed is not the most comfortable for being productive. Many B&Bs don’t have the space for larger desks but those that want to target business travelers may want to replace that antique armoire with a nice desk from Staples, a nice antique rolltop or even a hideadesk . Think about the fact that you don’t have to do all your rooms, even making one or two more business traveler friendly can be a plus. (and advertise it)
- Electrical outlets with surge protectors. I actually carry a surge protector with me when I travel, no matter where I am staying, one never knows what can happen in a wind storm and my laptop is worth its weight in gold to me. And having extra outlets or power strips is very helpful if they are easily accessible.
- Luggage Racks. I don’t like putting my luggage on the floor and many times I am only staying for a night or two and don’t want to unpack into a dresser or closet. Most B&Bs do a have a luggage rack in the room, but it usually ends up getting used to put all the decorative pillows and the duvet on. I generally like at least 3 in the room. One option is to offer a few extra ones in the hall for use. Most B&Bs have very little surfaces in the room itself for computer bags and briefcases plus regular luggage.
- A printer and/or copier. I fly 6-8 times a year on business. I like to be able to print my boarding passes so I don’t have to stand in line and wait for them at the flight check in desk, and I occasionally have notes or copies I need printed. I also travel monthly out of state and while I bring my laptop, bringing a printer with me just isn’t convenient.
Several B&B owners I’ve talked to don’t want to offer a printer/copier to guests, or access to a computer as they are afraid they will get stolen, cost too much to maintain or have the computer infected with viruses. I’ll address that in a minute. For those that do want to offer it and want to keep costs down, you can get a very decent laser combination printer/ scan/copier for under $200.00. Yes the cartridges are expensive but you can rationalize that by the fact that most laser cartridges print 1000s of copies, you are offering an amenity to the guest and most people don’t need to print more than 3 or 4 pages.
I did stay at one B&B recently that had a laser printer for guest use, with a very nice sign that said, “We would appreciate it if you print more then 10 pages helping the fund to replace the cartridge” on the jar. The person using the printer before me printed 25 copies and put $10 in the jar. I asked him about it and he said the convenience of having it available was well worth it and if he had stayed in a hotel they would have charged him per page anyway. Apparently he didn’t mind paying $.40 a copy, so read into that what you may.
In terms of having a computer for guests use. The Chromebook (http://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/devices/) is a very good option for a computer that can be available for guests use. It runs about $350.00. It doesn’t have a traditional operating system, which makes it invulnerable to getting viruses, does not have to be updated and is easily locked down using a laptop cable lock. It has the added advantage that each user logs in as a “guest” and their information is not stored in the history files.
When I was in Virginia last month, the hotel I stayed in had a computer for guests use, I found the morning I went to go print my boarding passes, that the last weeks worth of information/history was available for anyone to see. So basically they compromised the personal information and browsing habits of probably several dozen guests.
Added advantages of the Chromebook; Files can be printed if needed from a zip/flash drive and it has a battery life of almost 10 hours. I have two and absolutely love them because I can hook a projector up to it amongst other things (another plus if you plan to host business meetings) is having a projector available. That along with a backup computer (the Chromebook) for use for meetings is nice. Not everyone traveling can bring a projector with them and renting them even for several hours is a huge expense.
A nice touch in a business center in a boutique hotel I stayed at recently, had staplers, hole punches, tape, magic markers, pens, paperclips and extra writing pads available for guests use. Think of what you as an inn can offer as additional amenities besides your wonderful soaps and bath items. Shoe polish and polishing clothes would be useful. Clothing de-linters, plastic garment bags (like a hotel has for laundry) and mini sewing kits would also be items that a business traveler would find useful.
I think a great promo item for a B&B would be a branded zip/flash drive. Just think of your business traveler carrying your branding around with them for others to see and comment on.
A big draw for business travelers is also fitness. While most B&Bs can’t afford and/or don’t have the space to put in even a small fitness room, there are amenities you can offer to guests to satisfy their need for a little exercise. Offering yoga mats and a quiet time early morning or evening in the public room or outside area. Having a list of local routes that are good for running, jogging or biking. Working out a deal with the local gym if you have one. Having snowshoes or a bike or two available. And while many B&Bs pride themselves on their cookie recipes, consider having some homemade or pre-made granola or energy bars and drinks available.