Carolina Bed and Breakfast

An Innkeeper’s Conference

 

This past week, James and I drove down out of the Blue Ridge Mountains, away from our lovely Asheville Bed and Breakfast, to Williamsburg, VA for the Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Conference.  We had talked about attending one of the many innkeeper conferences before but had always been too busy with guests and/or renovations to take the time off.  But this year the chance arrived and we left the Carolina Bed & Breakfast and headed South.
Our reasons for attending ranged from a desire to see the  vendors trade show and attend some of the sessions, to curiosity about our fellow innkeepers. As I am sure you have figured out, innkeeping is not just about cooking, cleaning and entertaining guests.
  Competition between inns can be intense, especially in an area like Asheville with more than 40 B&B’s inside the town lines and another 20+ outside.   The advent of the internet and, more importantly, the Google search engine, has dramatically changed the manner in which one markets an inn.  There’s that all important little map which shows up when one googles “Asheville Bed and Breakfasts” (for example). And not every inn appears on the map.
Deciding which sessions to attend
 We want you to come and stay with us and we think we have a pretty good website.  The trick is getting that website to show up in front of you when you search for a place to stay! The  “how-to” of this changes all the time and I would guess that at least 50% of the sessions held at the conference concerned internet marketing, google search criteria, social media, and other forms of internet driven advertising.  It made for some very interesting listening and I came home with a to-do list three pages long!

(Here’s one thing I learned:  you know that little +1 button that appears on websites and pages?  That’s Google’s equivalent of a Facebook “like”.  But since it belongs to Google, it’s way more important to the Google search engine.  So if you enjoyed this blog entry, or any other entry,  scroll down to the bottom of the entry and click on the +1 button!)

Just a few of the items at the trade show
But the sessions were not the only thing drawing us to the conference.   There were almost 50 vendors and suppliers at the adjacent trade show.  While we didn’t see an example of the Air Jet Tub with which it is our dream to replace our existing Jacuzzis, there was a lot else to capture our attention.  For example, I am a little obsessed with the shampoo and conditioner which we provide for our guests.  In my opinion the quality of these vary tremendously and I am constantly searching for a good salon quality range which is within the price point of a small B&B. (Unfortunately we have neither the storage space nor the turn-over with seven rooms to justify buying the enormous quantity needed for large discounts.)  Soap is another issue.  We hate to waste it so we keep the used bars and periodically send them off to “Clean the World” which recycles the soap and sends it to disaster areas and other similar sites.  Soap is pretty heavy to ship so we were happy to be able to bring ours to the conference where the organization had arranged to pick up all that was brought.  The inns all weighed in with their soap and while we thought we might have had a chance at the prize, we were quickly disabused of that notion by some of the bigger inns!
Weighing our soap–64 lbs from this winter!

And what about the other innkeepers?  As you might have guessed, they are a varied lot.  As a rule they are older, although there were a few young couples.  For many this was their first conference which is not surprising as the day before was a special session for aspiring innkeepers as well as for beginners.  But there were also people who had been running their inns for many years.  Like Bed & Breakfasts themselves, the innkeepers were a very diverse group with different backgrounds and interests.  I guess the only common thread we were able to identify is a propensity for the men to grow facial hair.  James promised me not to take up this particular habit!