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Dispelling B&B Myths: Technology

March 15, 2001

by Kit Cassingham

B&B technology, computers, reservation systems, ISHC, International Society of Hospitality Consultants, branding, market niche, market niche development, B&B consultants, how to open and operate a B&B, bed and breakfast consultants, B&B market niche, smart house technology, using technology in your bed and breakfast, I want to own a bed and breakfast, wanting to buy bed and breakfasts, starting your own bed and breakfast, owning a bed and breakfast, reservation system features and functions, owning bed breakfast, how to buy bed and breakfast

I'd say the largest category of "Myth" I see innkeepers and aspiring innkeepers fall into is the "Authentic B&B" Myth. By that I mean the innkeeper justifies a decision on doing business, designing the inn or furnishing the inn based on what "authentic" inns do/did.

My basic attitude is that B&Bs of times long gone operated the way they did because that was what they had. For example, an inn of 200 years ago didn't offer TV or phones because those devices didn't exist. I'll bet many innkeepers would have jumped at the chance to offer those modern conveniences if they could have. There was a time when central heat and indoor plumbing didn't exist, yet most innkeepers provide both today. Times change. Guest needs and demands change. This is a service business and innkeepers should change to accommodate the service needs of the times to stay competitive in business.

Innkeepers may feel that TVs and phones (and thus computer hook ups) aren't "authentic" and thus don't fit into an "authentic" inn. The reality is that more people travel today with technology devices, like computers, cell phones, pagers....

Nippert-Eng conducted a survey for Hilton's Homewood Suites and confirmed that the divisions between home, work and travel are blending (in some cases almost gone!) and that leisure travelers bring work materials along on vacation. Almost half of the survey respondents combined business and leisure travel and tote their technology with them. What does that mean to the B&B industry? An innkeeper who wants to survive and thrive will provide technology hookups in the guest rooms for their guests. That means phones, modem jacks (if not even high speed connection which are being installed in hotels and some B&Bs at a high rate these days) and ample electric outlets.

You may argue that you are too remote to attract business travelers or that you are too small to afford or justify the expense of wiring your inn. If travelers to remote Caribbean islands or on cruises desire Internet connections, travelers to your inn may also. If the operators of remote Caribbean resorts and cruise lines provide Internet connectivity you might also. Let me clearly state that remote Caribbean resorts and cruise lines ARE providing Internet connectivity for their guests. There's always a way of justifying the expense for amenities that will garner more business and income. Providing connection for a growing segment of the traveling public will bring you more guests and allow you to charge more for the experience. That same connectivity could be very good for your business operations too.

I've also heard innkeepers argue that TVs are not conducive to romance and since their market niche involves romance, TVs are not appropriate to their inns. I've heard B&B guests argue that TVs can encourage romance so should be part of the inn experience. If 50% of the leisure travelers bring work with them they may have more need to unwind -- TV can help with the unwinding. TVs can provide part of the romance by the movies guests choose to watch. I feel that it's not up to an innkeeper to decide how their guests should relax or be romantic. That's not to say if the innkeeper doesn't want TVs for a personal reason that you can't omit them from you amenity offering. But be aware that you may be hurting your future business by that decision.

I've talked in the past about determining your market niche and knowing your guest needs. Here's a prime example of how knowing your market niche and listening to what your guests want will help you run a business that will carry you into the 21st century profitably. Catch the wave and succeed.




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