CHICAGO — Increasing numbers of business travelers are forsaking traditional hotels for bed-and-breakfast style lodgings, and those inns are adapting to their new customers.
"These properties are really changing," says Sarah Sonke, president of the American Bed & Breakfast Assn. "And it's no surprise. It really helps their bottom line."
Not that many years ago the operators of such inns longed for business travel customers, she said, "but then you'd ask them, 'Where are your phones?'
"Now we're past the phones and into things like having the right modem jack and larger desks. They're trying to meet all the needs of corporate customers," she said.
"Another adjustment they've made is the breakfast itself. It used to be a full one, served to everyone all together. Now corporate travelers [at many inns] can have an early breakfast if they want, or maybe just a continental breakfast. There's a lot of flexibility," she said.
Robert Hotchkiss, who with his wife, Judy, runs Oakwood House, a restored 1911 four-room historic district inn on Atlanta's east side, says frequent travelers appreciate a change.
"Most have spent a significant amount of time in hotels, and sometimes you can't tell one hotel from another or what city you're in except maybe for the name of the restaurant," he said.
Oakwood House, he said, benefits from being near a subway line that makes getting to Atlanta's city center and the World Congress Center easy. One small company that booked the entire inn this year for a major convention is doing the same next year, he said.
Yedida Nielsen offers New York City visitors another kind of hotel alternative through her City Lights bed and breakfast and short-term apartment rental service. She arranges guest stays in about 400 properties, many of them single rooms in someone's house or apartment.
Rates run from $60 to $70 per night in the home-sharing arrangements; rates for entire apartments or townhomes are higher.
"We are seeing steadily increasing requests from business travelers and companies," Nielsen said. "There are phones available and in many cases a fax--whatever we need to accommodate the business person."
Sonke of the bed and breakfast association suggests that business travelers looking into alternatives to hotels should ask a few questions ahead of time, including whether there is a modem jack in the room for laptop or fax use, whether there is a private bath and whether the room has its own heating and air conditioning controls.
Her group publishes "Inspected, Rated and Approved Bed & Breakfast and Country Inns," available at bookstores nationwide. Information on City Lights can be had at (212) 737-7049. The Oakwood House is at (404) 521-9320.