Having opened The Fairview B&B in Austin Texas just last September I am a relative newcomer to B&B management. However, I do have over 3 million lifetime miles on American Airlines alone so perhaps my personal experience gives me some insight into today’s business travelers needs. Here are 3 must-haves that Bed & Breakfasts need to offer to entice more business travelers.
Must-Have #1: Ease of Booking
When I used to travel for business my arrangements were dictated by company policy. I had to use company preferred hotels and I had to book all my travel through corporate travel agents. Now, with the advent of easy, consumer friendly, web based booking sites, most corporate travel policies are much more relaxed than before. Business travelers are used to booking their own travel and companies no longer need to rely on travel agents. Add to that the fact that nowadays, even very small B&Bs offer online booking, either through their own website or through online booking sites like Hotels.com, Expedia, and the like.
When it is just as easy to reserve a room at a small B&B as it is at a large chain hotel, business travelers now actually can choose for themselves where to stay.
Must-Have #2: Design for Business
The stereotypical image of a B&B (and one that I’ll admit I used to hold) is that of an older, historic home full of very interesting (but not necessarily comfortable) antiques and pretty little dust-catchers everywhere. If you found a desk in the bedroom it was usually too small, cluttered with old fashioned pens and paper for writing, had poor lighting, and no electrical outlets nearby. Yes, many of them had Wifi but more often than not it was slow and didn’t reach everywhere. (A recent guest told me she once stayed in a B&B where the only place she could get a signal was sitting in the corner of a hall holding her laptop at shoulder height – not an ideal workspace.)
That’s no longer the case in most modern B&Bs. Antique beds and dust catching curios are gone, replaced with modern, comfortable King beds and clean décor that respects a guest’s need for space to put their own things (over being a place to showcase the owners collections.) Desks are clean, roomy, and most important, outfitted with multiple outlets and sometimes even USB charging stations.
Wifi may be the biggest improvement of all. While many large hotels still charge extra for internet access, it seems that the trend in B&Bs is to offer it at no cost. In fact, Wifi signals may be faster and better quality in small B&Bs than in chain hotels. For example, when we renovated The Fairview last year, we completely re-wired the house for internet access with multiple Wifi access points inside and outside the house to be sure there are no dead spots anywhere a guest may wander. Then we power that at the back end with a commercial grade router that will soon be connected via Google Fiber Gigabit service. With smartphones, tablets, laptops, and now even smart watches, people are more connected than ever before.
Providing an effective place to work is definitely an important must-have for business travelers.
Must-Have #3: A Unique Experience
As I said before, I personally have accumulated over 3 million airline miles. Like many business travelers, I’ve spent more nights in more hotel rooms than I can count. Sometimes I felt that if I had to step into another [insert any chain hotel name here] I would be ill. Even the nicest, luxury hotels that would often upgrade me to a suite all seemed the same to me. If only I could have stayed in some place that treated me like an individual and not a number, that responded to my special requests, and that just felt more like home.
This is where Bed & Breakfasts can really shine.
A Bed & Breakfast can offer personalized attention that larger hotels can never touch. If you have a problem, who is more likely to be empowered to resolve it, the front desk clerk or the person who owns the business? Each B&B will have it’s own unique personality and style based on that of the owners, not some corporate marketing department. You can sense when room design is based on large purchases of identical furnishings and decor versus a unique sense of what will work and look great in that specific room.
The smaller size of most B&Bs can make them easier to navigate and actually save their guests time. A recent guest traveling on business told me that when he added up time waiting for an elevator, time going through a crowded lobby, and time waiting for the valet to bring his car around he estimated that he saved 30 minutes each way just by staying at The Fairview. Multiply that by two in and out trips and you’ve just saved your guest 2 hours in a day. Possibly the most important thing business travelers need is more time.
Small B&Bs are Uniquely Suited for Business Travelers
Today’s modern Bed & Breakfast has come a long way from the B&B of yesterday. Easy online reservation systems and modern, business friendly design, coupled with the most personalized experience and hands on approach possible can create that unique experience that business travelers are looking for. At The Fairview, we have worked hard to find the right balance between hands on and self-service. Fortunately, our guests seem to think we balance them well. A recent TripAdvisor reviewer said, “This family has managed to merge everything that is best in a B&B with everything that is best in a hotel!”
We couldn’t be prouder.