You know, the B&B industry is old – in Europe. And it’s been around for awhile in the US too, though the B&B industry we know today is very different than it was even 25 years ago. It’s powerful to look back at the changes so you can appreciate just to see how far it has come so you can appreciate what you are doing today.
My review was spurred by a conversation with Jan Stankus (How To Open and Operate a B&B) when she asked me to write the forward for her new edition. What an interesting and enlightening journey it was. I couldn’t help but think about the old Dylan song (Peter, Paul and Mary also popularized it) These Times Are A-Changing as I looked back through the years.
Part of what I liked about looking back at the industry changes was recognizing that how innkeepers are managing change is one factor that separates those who thrive from those who struggle. The change process can be stressful, unless you embrace change and see it as the way to grow and improve.
As I entered the B&B world in 1987, shared baths were common and accepted. Wages ran at around $4.00/hour. Breakfast offerings tended to be Continental. Few bed and breakfast inns had a computer. Advertising options included travel books, newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV. A big, and common question at B&B conferences was whether an 800 phone number was important to your business success. A related question was whether phones belonged in guestrooms. TVs weren’t commonly put in guestrooms. PAII didn’t exist. Bed and breakfasts were a budding industry in the United States.
These times have changed, and are continuing to change. I see that the B&B industry is established and in full bloom. PAII is the industry leader and great resource for innkeepers. Not only are TVs common in B&B guestrooms, they are flat screen. Guestroom phones are still a big question, but mostly from the perspective of whether they are needed because of the proliferation of cell phones. I never hear the discussion about the need for 800 numbers as part of an inns success.
Advertising options have expanded beyond what was available in the 70s, 80s and 90s to also include websites and blogs, Google AdWords, Facebook and Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Buzz, as well as Picasa and Flickr, just for starters. Most bed and breakfasts use computers for some aspect of their business, be it bookkeeping, reservations, guest tracking, housekeeper duties, inventory, or marketing. More breakfasts are full, hot, freshly cooked than continental these days. Wages are a lot higher than $4.00/hour now. Shared baths have almost disappeared because they aren’t accepted by much of the B&B-traveling public.
Historically, inns were long the place where new-fangled things were introduced and tested. Indoor plumbing, windows, central heat, private rooms — you know the new things I’m talking about. “These times are a-changing” there too, and inns aren’t necessarily adopting new things as quickly as they used to. Trusted resources are that much important in helping innkeepers understand the value of incorporating that the myriad new things into their operations. And there are more reliable, trusted resources today than there were when I entered the industry.
How do you balance the desire for generous offerings B&Bs are known for — light, hot water, heat, and delicious food — with the ever growing pinch on the planet? How can you be environmentally sensitive and be a generous bed and breakfast innkeeper too? Better yet, how can you not be sensitive and survive? Running an environmentally sensitive bed and breakfast helps you conserve your financial resources and make a more welcoming place for your guests. This environmental issue is another one of the changes I’ve seen through the years.
Given where we’ve been and where we are now, I can’t wait to see where we go in the future? What new-fangled things will we be faced with learning about and understanding how we can incorporate them into our inns? What various challenges will we faced with?
My crystal ball is in the shop, so we’ll all have keep on our path and wait to see. But it promises to be exciting and fun. The change agent varies for all of us. How will you approach the change process? With excitement or dread? Will you be leading change? Or blocking it? I hope you’ll be leading it.
I will. Hope you’ll join me!