Tuesday, April 20, 2010

10 Reasons to Choose a B & B Over a Hotel


The internet is always entertaining. I recently came across an article that badmouthed bed and breakfasts. Essentially, the author contended that on a rainy day, you might have to stay in and be bored because your room didn't have a TV - whereas every Motel 6 room out there had it's very own television set. So there!

When on a tight budget, I have stayed in some Motel 6s and they do have their place in the marketplace - near the bottom and beside the interstate. I also enjoyed a long career that involved a lot of business travel and being put up in luxury hotels around the world. One thing both motels and hotels had in common, was that TV as your only company.

Here are 10 reasons to pick a B & B over a hotel anyday, anywhere and on on any budget:

  1. Money. B & Bs, like motels and hotels, come in a wide price range. B & Bs may not always be cheaper but they always give you better bang for the buck. No add on fees for parking or internet use or outrageous charges for telephone calls or room service breakfast. At a hotel, you may be charged a dozen different rates for the same kind of room depending on who, how or when you call. Not so at a bed and breakfast. B & B rates are honest, straightforward and since they include the amenities, facilities and services for a comfortable stay, they are even better value.

  2. Personal Attention. B & B owners are self-employed. It's their own livelihood that is on the line. As a guest, isn't it really nice to know you are talking to the Boss? You can be sure that the boss realizes the importance of your satisfaction, your repeat business and your positive opinion. With only a handful of guests, you are bound to have more individual attention and a much higher level of service. You are not just Room # 1604.

  3. The Personal Touch. When you stay in a B & B, you are a house guest and honoured as such. The house, the garden, the decor, the books in the bookcase, everything reflects the style, life and history of your host. The innkeeper is not just a concierge but someone with whom you can swap stories. Your fellow guests are not strangers on the elevator but potential new friends over coffee.

  4. Personal Security. How many guests are victims of crime in hotels very year? Terrible to think about but there are good reasons that you might need to double-lock yourself into your hotel room and stare sleeplessly at CNN. At a B & B, with just a small number of guests to look after, owners are much more aware of what's going on in their property. Criminal issues that cause big headaches for hotels are almost non-existent in B &Bs. For single travellers, especially women, that one reason might be enough to choose a B & B.

  5. Ubiquity. That's a big word that tells you that B & Bs can be found everywhere. Anywhere that people live, even places where no hotel could survive, you will find friendly people willing to open their homes to visitors.

  6. Living like a local. Staying in a bed and breakfast gives you the oppportunity to actually get to know a local. Instead of following the beaten tourist track to the one big star attraction, you can learn an insider's secrets, all the sights, sounds, customs, tastes and colour that make every corner of this world such an interesting place.

  7. Relaxation, rest and respect. B & B innkeepers develop a sixth sense when to check on your well-being and when to leave you to do your own thing. Whether you need to catch up on sleep or catch up on romance, your host will always respect your alone time. No hotel maids will demand entry for an unwanted turndown service or to restock your mini-bar. No drunken parties will crowd the hall outside your door. Rowdyism is hardly ever heard or seen at a B & B. Indeed, a B & B will encourage you to relax and unwind with comfy chairs by the fireplace or a sunny garden nook.

  8. Real Exclusivity. Sometimes exclusivity is the opposite of expensive pretensions, snob appeal or separation. At a B & B, with only a few rooms, it may be your chance to include everyone in a group get together. You can book the entire property for a family reunion, an intimate wedding, an anniversary, the sewing club or Jane Austen Society. Imagine your own holiday home where someone else cooks breakfast and does the dishes.

  9. Breakfast with a capital B. The morning meal is an innkeeper's chance to show you down-home hospitality with grandma's best recipes, fresh baking, local, healthy and organic ingredients. Unlike a hotel dining room or buffet, your innkeeper is your personal chef and with a little forewarning can usually cope with almost any dietary restriction. The happy result when people share a good breakfast together is that they chat about the day to come and share something of themselves too.

  10. Every B & B is unique. No matter how many stars awarded to a hotel, to wake up in one hotel room is very much like waking up in any other hotel room. They will never feel like home. Only the owners of a house, cottage, chalet or castle can make it a home. To me, the sense of waking up in someone's home - a place that is loved and cared for - is one of the great joys of travel.

My thanks to an article on www.bedandbreakfastworld.com that inspired this list.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fine Dining in Vancouver, BC

Calling all foodies! This week the Golden Plates Awards 2010 were announced in the Georgia Straight. The hip, formerly hippie weekly, is one the most objective viewers of Vancouver's amazing, multicultural dining scene.

At the B & B, I have had guests from Tokyo rave about the freshness of our city's Japanese food and guests from Taiwan exult over the vast variety of Vancouver's Chinese cuisine. Literally thousands of new immigrants from over a hundred countries are bringing their Mama's homestyle cooking to a corner cafe somewhere around town. Then there is Pacific ocean seafood purchased on the wharf this morning, top-quality BC and Alberta beef, local native influences, wild game, organic supplies and sophisticated food fusion experiments. On and on it goes and it's hard to keep up with the ever-changing deliciousness of this city's 4500 restaurants.

What I like about the Straight's annual review is it's comprehensiveness. It acknowledges restaurants that are popular and perennial favourites as well as those that peers in the food industry think are outstanding.

If you are coming to Vancouver, follow the link, plan ahead and prepare your taste buds for some of the best and most adventurous dining in the world.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What does being "gay friendly" mean?


Recently, two news reports of gay travellers being refused accommodation by bed and breakfast owners, got me thinking about the subject of gay friendliness in the hospitality industry.

Years ago, a new B & B owner in Vancouver contacted me in order to introduce herself and her business and ask me for some tips on successful innkeeping. Over coffee and reciprocal visits to each other's guesthouses, she told me that she did not understand why I mentioned the word "gay" in describing Nelson House B & B. She said that Canadian society was moving beyond such labels. Surely no one had to worry over outright prejudice and wasn't one's sexual orientation just a private thing?

I hesitated as I didn't know her very well but I figured an honest question deserved an honest answer. First, I said that like most people(meaning the majority of heterosexuals) in the world, I would prefer that my sexual orientation remained a private and personal matter. However, now that I had opened my home to the public as a hospitality and accommodation business, I saw the need to flag sexual orientation to potential customers who might, for their own reasons, prefer to stay elsewhere. And also, I wanted to indicate to gay(and read lesbian too) travellers that no one at Nelson House B & B would blink an eye at an adult, same-sex couple wishing to share a bed.

My new innkeeper friend was too new in the business then to realize that gays form a loyal and highly desirable portion of the travel industry's client base. Even though she was a Jewish woman and probably knew something about prejudice and discrimination, she still found it very difficult to put herself in the shoes of someone suffering discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

All of this came to mind this week when the UK press gave national prominence on the BBC, newspapers and the internet to the denial of accommodation to a gay male couple once the innkeeper realized that the guests were actually a same sex couple. Simultaneously, here in Canada, an almost identical denial of service occurred in Kelowna, BC. The difference in the Canadian case is that the innkeepers defended their actions based on their evangelical Christian beliefs. In both England and Canada(and 50 other countries), national laws are in place to protect all citizens against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Incidentally, the United States is NOT one of those countries. Police in England decided not to press criminal charges and it is up to the English gay couple to pursue possible civil damages. According to media reports of the Canadian case, the couple chose to file a complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal. This interesting clash of rights will be decided by early next month.

Now lawsuits and heavily reported civil rights cases are not the reason anyone goes into the bed and breakfast business. In the ten years since I advised my new innkeeper friend, much of the mainstream hotel industry has discovered the reportedly lucrative "pink dollar" and most now trumpet their gay friendliness. Tourism Vancouver and many other cities, states and provinces now dedicate portions of their websites and other marketing campaigns to bragging on their non-discriminatory practices. A go-getter, gay-owned marketing company out of San Francisco has made a bundle by certifying the gay friendliness of corporate hotel chains with little icons of gay approval in the form of luggage tags. Many other PR executives have cleverly inserted a rainbow flag somewhere on their website to reassure and attract gay customers.

I now look back on twenty years of successful innkeeping and look forward to many more ahead. To me, even though times have changed, I know not everyone has changed with the times. As the gay owner of Nelson House B & B, of course I understand and genuinely welcome gay and lesbian travellers. As a man who believes in treating everyone with dignity, fairness and respect, I have long since dubbed our brand of hospitality as people-friendly!