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Mary White and Mary Hughes Answer Tough B&B Questions in ‘MandM’


Q. I love staying at B&Bs. I enjoy the distinct personality of each one, and I can’t resist the delicious breakfasts! I travel a lot

for my job, and whenever I have a choice of where to stay, I pick a bed & breakfast. Hotels are fine, but I find them all about the same, whereas each B&B offers a unique and meaningful experience. I find B&Bs online and I’ve had a few reliable sites bookmarked for years. Recently, a new site called AirBnB has started popping up – do you know it? What is the difference between the B&Bs that I am used to and the properties on AirBnB? – Shelly, Hartford, CT, USA

A. Hi Shelly – That is a terrific question and one that many travelers have been asking lately. Because AirBnB uses “BnB” in its name, visitors expect it to be a bed & breakfast website. However, the name is very misleading, because for the most part, the properties listed on the site are not traditional B&Bs. By this, we mean that they are not licensed and insured businesses, do not pay taxes, and most do not follow the local laws and standards to which bed & breakfast owners are held. Rather, AirBnB simply lists rooms or apartments that individuals are offering as lodging.

As you’ve noted, sites like AirBnB have gained a lot of momentum recently. There are pros and cons, and people have been weighing in on both sides. The best article we’ve seen so far is “AirBnB: Friend or Foe?” written by Peter Scherman and Rick Wolf of The B&B Team. Peter and Rick are experts in the B&B industry, and they present a balanced portrayal of the “sharing economy” in which sites like AirBnB operate. They sympathize with folks who are trying to make a little extra money from a spare room, but point out that many AirBnB “hosts” are running short-term rentals as an ongoing business activity, often in violation of their own leases. Peter and Rick simply advocate for a level playing field that preserves opportunities for traditional B&Bs to promote themselves, and that ensures AirBnB properties follow the same rules and regulations as similarly-sized properties that are licensed as bed & breakfasts. Following the law is not only essential in business; it also ensures the safety of all guests. Guests’ interactions with their AirBnB hosts vary quite a bit, but the standard AirBnB experience involves meeting the host upon “check-in,” exchanging phone numbers in case there are any emergencies, and receiving the keys to the room or apartment. The contact tends to end there – you are on your own for breakfast, and Yelp is your best bet for a local restaurant recommendation.

Because you value the traditional B&B experience, we advise you to stick with those B&B sites that you’ve had bookmarked for years. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, keep enjoying those memorable B&B experiences and heavenly breakfasts!

Q. When my husband and I took our daughter to look at colleges, we stayed at  a very nice bed & breakfast. The innkeeper was so knowledgeable about the area and the school – I think we learned more from her than we did from the information session!  We’ll be staying at the inn again when we drop our daughter off to start school this fall.  She will be staying in the dorms, but she is still raving about the innkeeper’s breakfasts, and I want her to have as many good meals as possible before leaving her at the mercy of the college dining hall. Would it be out of line to ask the innkeeper if our daughter could join us for breakfast even though she is not staying at the inn?  Jocelyn, Des Moines, Iowa

A. Hi Jocelyn – no, it would not be out of line. At some inns, having a non-guest join you for breakfast would be complimentary, while at others, there might be a nominal fee. Since this inn is located in a college town, the innkeepers have probably handled your specific request before. In general, don’t be shy about interacting with innkeepers – they are in this business because they enjoy engaging with people, and want to do everything they can to make your stay special. But at the same time, be respectful and ask as soon as possible so that the innkeeper/chef can plan ahead.  Small businesses operate on small margins, and the innkeeper will appreciate being asked in advance.  Finally if a host is not able to accommodate your request it could be because of spacing or local laws.  In some localities if a property charges for meals separate from the room, they would be considered a restaurant, which most inns are not.  Bottom line, innkeepers aim to please and if you don’t ask, they can’t read your mind so don’t be shy.

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