Posted on December 9, 2008
A bunch of us innkeepers got together today with a couple faculty members from N.C. State University who are doing research into bed-and-breakfast demographics. Like most other Americans, Asheville bed and breakfast owners are feeling the pinch of the economy, and we’re looking for whatever edge the experts can provide.
One trend that falls in our favor, they said, was an anti “stuff” movement among Americans who have found that their possessions have increased, but not their satisfaction with what they have in life. Retailers who are already taking a beating this season won’t like to hear this, but Americans before the economic downturn were already scaling back on buying things in favor of spending on what gives their life more depth, more personal involvement and more meaning. I think of it as starting early on a bucket list.
If that’s the case, there will always be good reason to stay at a bed and breakfast instead of a hotel. The B&B experience is very personal. Your concierge is your host. Your chef is your host. Your maid may even be your host. Your breakfast conversation is with your hosts and a handful of other guests you may come to know on a first-name basis. The experience is unique, rich, unforgetable and personal. For two or three days, you’ll be a native of the community you’re staying in, not just a casual tourist guided by billboards and magazine ads.
That intimacy scares some folks. I once read a travel writer’s complaint that at a B&B he expected to be roped into boring conversations with a guy with a guitar who wants to be his best buddy for the weekend. I’ve never witnessed that scenario. We and our guests know when somebody wants to chat, and when he wants to be left alone. Most are much too busy to latch onto a reluctant guest. When a guest does participate, it’s usually a fun and rewarding experience to hear the perspective of someone from a different area, different vocation, maybe a different race or sexual orientation. Life is boring when you only encounter people a lot like yourself.
When you lose the IPod, the HDTV goes on the blink, you’re bored with Wii, and the Lexus has lost its new-car smell, you’ll always have memories of that romantic stay in the mountains to replay again and again.