Even though the hospitality industry suffered from low occupancy rates and slow growth during the lodging industry recession in the 1980s, bed and breakfast operations are continually expanding. In the early 1980s, bed and breakfast operations numbered no more than 1,000, but that number increased to at least 20,000 by 1993. The dramatic increase in the number of bed and breakfast operations during the 1980s enticed many would-be operators to enter the industry.
Marketing is one of the most important tasks for bed and breakfast operations and the one that most frequently gets pushed aside. Many bed and breakfast operators are frustrated about marketing because of the lack of immediate gratification. The primary marketing approaches used by bed and breakfast operations are brochures, directories, guidebooks, newspaper ads, and reservation services. The most effective means of promoting a bed and breakfast operation has been word-of-mouth advertising. Carefully planned and well performed marketing strategies can help ensure that travelers will tell others about the comforts and advantages of bed and breakfast accommodations.
Industry experts predict that bed and breakfast operations will, in the upcoming years, achieve a more prominent role within the hospitality industry. A greater number of state tourism offices are now including bed and breakfast listings in their materials. In addition, there is increased standardization of ratings by organizations such as the American Automobile Association and the American Bed and Breakfast Association. These organizations are generating positive word-of-mouth communication among innkeepers.
Bed and breakfast operations have become increasingly popular with travelers who do not want to stay in more conventional hotels or motels. These travelers are looking for a place to relax. Most travelers who stay in bed and breakfasts are seeking short vacations relatively close to home where they can find variety, not necessarily in the location, but in the accommodations themselves.
In general, bed and breakfast guests form an affluent group. The majority of guests in country-inns and bed and breakfasts are baby boomers with a median age of 44. More than half of all bed and breakfast guests come from households that are located in the wealthiest areas of the nation. Knowing that bed and breakfast guests are independent, relatively wealthy, well educated and frequent travelers, operators should develop effective marketing strategies to find those individuals, attract them to the property, and treat them with friendly, personal service which can generate new and repeat business.