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Welcome to the Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association Media Room, where you'll find information on all things B&B: the inns, guests, innkeepers, trends, WBBA ... and how to find out more!
This is a primer on the Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association, loaded with facts, figures and history.
We surveyed our B&B guests to find out their favorite amenities, attractions and activities.
From travel trends to unexpected B&B finds, here are topics that may give you an idea for a story you’d like to develop.
New Crop of Younger B&B Owners Doing Its Part to Dispel Long-held Myths
The Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association has nearly 200 member inns, making it one of the largest organizations of its kind in the U.S. So the group had a good representative sample to draw from when it decided to take a fresh look at who was getting into innkeeping. Turns out there’s a healthy number of thirty- and forty-year-olds who found the profession such a great fit, just as their more mature counterparts have, that they made it a career choice sooner rather than later. These are not “hobbyists” by any means. They’re professional innkeepers who are putting their own unique stamp on what B&B travel can be.
Take Fleming of the Hamilton House, for example. She says she wanted to be an innkeeper all her life and used to “lay in bed dreaming of the inn I would have some day the way most girls dream about their weddings.” By the way, Fleming got married at a B&B in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Fleming escaped the corporate life in Chicago to follow her dreams. Today she seamlessly blends the ambiance of her historic 1861 property, with its lovely old wood details, with contemporary amenities like plump down comforters and whirlpool baths.
At the McCormick House in Hayward, innkeeper Dean Cooper, a transplant from England, turned his love of travel and fine lodging establishments into his newly adopted B&B career in Wisconsin. “I felt I could add my own unique guest experience from my travels and personal feeling about how I like to be taken care of,” explained Cooper. As for interior design, Cooper noted that, being British, he feels a natural connection to history and preservation of the past, but that hasn’t stopped him from adding contemporary interior design touches and amenities like high speed internet access, high definition televisions and DVD players in every room and preloaded iPods for guests to take out on their day’s activities, noting that younger generations, if they are to consider a B&B over another lodging option, simply expect more. Yet, he does offer a traditional afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream during the summer and his breakfast service includes fine Wedgwood china and silver coffee pots. The mix of high-tech high-touch is working. “We have seen a steady growth in the 20-somethings staying with us.” The same holds true at the Hamilton House B&B, with innkeeper Kathleen Fleming noting that her inn has always attracted younger guests. “I think is has more to do with the decorating than my age, as I myself do not like Victorian or country style.”
For others, it’s a lifestyle choice, a chance to “work from home” as their children are growing up. That was the case for the Braytons, and it helped that Nicole went to school for hotel and restaurant management and husband Scott loved to remodel older homes. They purchased the inn when their daughter was eight years old and she’s now 12. Fleming of the Hamilton House likes being a “stay-at-home mom and a businesswoman at the same time.” For Patty and Bob Bennett at the Inn at Pinewood in Eagle River, Patty’s experience in managing resorts and hotels and the couple’s shared love of the outdoors led them down the innkeeping path and into the northwoods. The added benefit is that the lifestyle gives them more flex time to do what they enjoy.
No analysis of the younger innkeeper movement would be complete without a look specifically at the two “Bs” that make up the experience - the bed and the breakfast, starting with the bed. Dean Cooper at the McCormick House has an approach that many other younger innkeepers follow as well. “We have luxury linens currently offered by some of the leading hotels of the world,” said Cooper.
Like all members of the Wisconsin B&B Association, culinary skills are not only a point of difference but also a point of pride for this group. A full breakfast, sometimes gourmet sometimes organic, always homemade, is what guests can look forward to. Fleming at the Hamilton House B&B describes her culinary approach as a mix of comfort food and healthy cuisine. “Our guests tend to be young, athletic types, so we tend to serve a more health-conscious version of the breakfasts that our grandmothers would serve so our guests can head out for a day of hiking.”
At the McCormick House, everything that comes out of the kitchen is sourced locally and with a conscience. Guests choose from nearly 40 individual items with a selection of more than eight entrées. Judy Trull’s breakfasts at the Lindsay House B&B lean toward gourmet, something guests wouldn’t have every day yet not so unapproachable that they couldn’t make it for their own friends and family.
As for marketing, this is a group that embraces social media as a must when trying to reach a new market. “Facebook is hugely successful for us,” noted the Bennetts at the Inn at Pinewood. Other innkeepers mentioned blogging and twitter as standards in their marketing arsenal. Interestingly, some of the more seasoned innkeepers were early adopters of this approach as well.
Finally, another common theme among this group is a commitment to “going green.” Fleming at the Hamilton House explained that “we try to be conscious of balancing our carbon footprint without being preachy. I just do all the things my grandma taught me as I grew up - recycle, buy local food when possible, cook from scratch, use laundry soap that’s better for the environment.” The Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association is credited with being a leader in the state’s Travel Green Wisconsin voluntary certification program, with the Lindsay House an example of that, having installed water-conserving bathroom amenities and established a recycling program.
But the award for youngest innkeeper in the Wisconsin B&B Association most likely goes to Johnny Elliott, who at age 25 runs the Tritsch House in Alma and who has been successful in attracting a younger crowd thanks to a décor that includes flat screen TVs, wi-fi and one fabulous pool table. And it probably doesn’t hurt either that the Contact Us page on his Web site features a photo of Elliott surfing.
The Association runs an “Aspiring Innkeepers” seminar every spring and fall - with the next one to take place April 25 in Deforest, Wis. - for anyone who sees a lot of themselves in the innkeepers described above. According to Kristine Ullmer, executive administrator of the group, the full-day seminar covers everything from licensing to marketing to the innkeeping lifestyle.
Ullmer also mentioned a variation on the younger innkeepers theme. “We have a handful of inns where the parents now have their Gen X kids involved in the business,” said Ullmer. She cited the Old Rittenhouse Inn in Bayfield where Jerry and Mary Phillips are thrilled to have son Mark handling chef and marketing duties and daughter-in-law Wendy tending to event planning; The English Manor in Sheboygan, where daughter Stephanie Tisdale is taking over day-to-day operations from mom Susan Hundley; Pinehurst Inn at Pike’s Creek in Bayfield, where the daughter and son-in-law of owners Nancy and Steve Sandstrom operate the on-premise spa; and Speckled Hen Inn in Madison, where owners Patricia and Bob Fischbeck are training son Bob in the finer points of running a 50-acre sustainable country inn that serves award-winning breakfasts.
EVERYTHING YOU’D WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE
WISCONSIN BED & BREAKFAST ASSOCIATION
Would it surprise you to know that the Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association (WBBA) is one of the largest such associations in the country? We think our numbers have a lot to do with this state’s heritage of hospitality. Our B&B owners approach their work with great commitment and congeniality. Below are some more facts and figures on our group.
Statistics on the Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association
- The WBBA was founded in 1987.
- Today, it is 140 member inns strong.
- Member inns range in size from 1 room (yes, there are a select few with one room) to 35 guest rooms. B&Bs larger than eight rooms carry a Hotel-Motel and Restaurant license.
- Four-fine-six guest rooms are the most popular inn configurations.
- As for location, nearly 40% are located in small towns; about 30% classify themselves rural.
- If you’d like to take a B&B vacation on water, you’re in luck. Some 25% of our member inns have lake or river access.
- Nearly one-third of our members are new to the business, having owned their inn less than five years. The rest are evenly split between 5-10 years, and more than 10 years.
- As for age of the innkeepers, assuming they’ve been truthful in their response and we trust they have been, 45% are in the 50-59 year range, a sure indication of a pre-retirement career change, empty nest syndrome, or more flexibility in their lives now that the children have grown.
- Interestingly, the overall age range of innkeepers spans decades, from 30-somethings to over 80.
- While three-quarters of the inns fall into that traditional image of a more historic building -- over 50 years old -- the remainder are less than 30 years old, proving that innkeepers and guests are embracing building alternatives.
Our “White Glove” Inspection
- Every member inn of the WBBA has passed our meticulous on-site inspection, a key component of our Standards program. Think of it as our Seal of Approval.
- The inspection covers everything from management and maintenance to cleanliness and comfort. And, of course, safety.
The Guest Experience
- The image of sharing a bath is long passé. Fully 100% of WBBA member inns offer guests a private bath.
- The typical B&B guest is not-so-typical anymore. Couples are the most common, looking for R&R (romance and relaxation). Yet, there are inns that accommodate families with children.
- Another growing segment is business travelers looking for a touch of home while on the road. Within that is the subset of women business travelers, who like the secure feeling they get staying at a B&B, along with all the personal touches.
- Many B&Bs accommodate business travelers with in-room phone lines, early breakfasts or even “to-go,” and high-speed Internet access.
Why and How People Choose B&Bs
- Travelers looking for an “experience,” not simply accommodations, find B&Bs suit them well.
- The variety is vast, from a lumber baron’s mansion, to a renovated school house, to a lake home, to a newly constructed B&B with panoramic views.
- The innkeepers are like personal concierges. They love providing “insider tips” on where to shop, dine, bike, canoe, you name it.
- Then there’s the breakfast. The morning meal is such a popular part of the experience that the WBBA has already published seven different cookbooks. The cost for the newest edition is just $22.95 plus shipping. It can be ordered at this website's store.
- When it comes time to selecting a B&B, our guests tell us they do their research by soliciting recommendations from friends; browsing our web site, WisconsinBandB.com; or ordering our WBBA directory from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism at 1-800-432-TRIP or via their web site, travelwisconsin.com.
A Short History of B&Bs
- Bed & Breakfast lodging has its roots in Europe where owners of private homes offered economical accommodations to travelers.
- Guests liked the added dimension of meeting the “locals” and traveling “off the beaten path.”
- The B&B movement in America started on the coasts and migrated to the Midwest.
- In the European tradition, most B&Bs are private homes in which the owners themselves host the overnight guests.
- In a departure from the European tradition, American B&Bs added a new dimension -- the luxury component.
There are trends that B&Bs seem to have cornered the market on, and others that might surprise you. Below are ideas built around the latest in B&B travel.
TRAVEL WRITERS and REPORTERS: If you’d like to develop one of these into a story, and need assistance with additional details, interviews or photos, please contact Carla Minsky at 920-924-0297 or email@example.com.
Another easy tool for story research is the keyword search on our site.
Most Unusual B&Bs
When you say the words “Bed & Breakfast,” the first thing that comes to mind for most is a restored Victorian mansion on a quiet tree-lined boulevard with lovely antiques inside and the smell of fresh baked muffins. And there are many of those wonderful properties. But how about a B&B that’s a lighthouse. Or one that has a brew pub on the ground floor. The variety is astonishing, providing travelers with lots of new experiences.
What’s the best part of a B&B stay? For many, the breakfast is easily number one on their list. Our innkeepers have been kind enough to share their favorite recipes, with our cookbook in its sixth edition. From gourmet to granola, even dessert for breakfast, people love our recipes.
Greening of B&Bs
A number of WBBA members have taken the lead nationally in the “greening” of B&Bs. The practices they’ve incorporated that pay homage to the earth are inspiring. Guests can get in on the action too, particularly at those inns with organic gardens.
Innkeepers Moonlighting as Wedding Ministers
Better than the captain of the Love Boat, there are member innkeepers who are actually ordained to perform wedding ceremonies. Think elopements, immediate family, second marriages. Mini-moons are becoming popular too -- that’s when the happy couple steals away for a few days right after the wedding and before their big trip to Hawaii or the Caribbean planned for later.
Business Travelers Booking B&Bs
On the road a lot? Hotel rooms starting to look and feel institutional? B&Bs to the rescue. While most think of B&Bs for leisure travel, there are a growing number of business travelers, particularly women, who enjoy the comforts of home while away on company business.
Spa Therapists Come to You
It’s become one of the hottest trends in travel. Spas. Spa resorts, destination spas, urban spas, even spa communities. B&Bs are in the thick of this trend too, offering packages with spa services, even bringing the spa therapist to you.
B&Bs and Bicycling
Two-wheeling and B&Bs just go together. Some ingenious innkeepers have developed packages that allow guests to bike from one property to the next, with the owners taking care of transporting overnight suitcases. Many inns are near incredibly scenic bike routes, including state park trails and road routes.
On the Waterfront
There are nearly 60 member inns on the water. And by water we mean the Great Mississippi, quiet inland lakes, Lake Michigan, spring-fed streams, Lake Superior, even private ponds. This travel option is the antidote to the rowdy waterpark getaway or the expensive trip to the ocean.
B&B owners come from many walks of life. For many, it’s a second career. For some, it’s a new take on retirement. For yet others, it was a way to get off the fast track and follow their heart. The one trait they all share is congeniality.
GUESTS TELL US WHAT THEY LIKE BEST ABOUT A B&B STAY --
MOST REQUESTED AMENITIES, FAVORITE ACTIVITIES, AND MORE
A survey was completed just a few years back of 2,000 guests who had stayed at member inns of the Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association. The results have helped guide our members as they deliver on their “promise of hospitality.” The findings make for a fun read too.
- About one-third of the guests surveyed were staying at a B&B for the first or second time.
- The other two-thirds had stayed at B&Bs three or more times, heading back to favorites or exploring new inns along the way.
What Occasion Brings You Here
- The main reasons guests tell us they visit B&Bs is to “rest and relax” and to “celebrate a special occasion.”
- Other popular reasons to choose a B&B over other lodging options were because it seemed more like home than a hotel, and to have a new experience.
- About half of all visitors stay two nights, another 40% stay one night.
- The favorite seasons for B&B travel, beginning with the most popular, are fall, followed by summer, spring and then winter.
Breakfast is Served
- Proving that it’s all about the experience, 44% of B&B travelers enjoy gathering with other guests around the dining table for breakfast.
- On the other end of the spectrum are the 14% who like their breakfast served to their guestroom door.
- Guests were asked to choose three area attractions most important to them. Here are the top three responses:
- Walking trails/nature
- Also coming in high on the list were historic sites, local festivals and antiquing.
Most Important Amenities
- Guests were asked to rank as important or not important a list of nearly 30 B&B amenities. Here are their top ten:
- Private attached bathroom (95% of WBBA member inns offer this!)
- Quality linens
- Room door locks
- Full breakfast
- Information/maps on area attractions
- Meeting the owners
- Firm mattress
- Air conditioning
- Queen-size bed
- Not surprisingly, low on the list were in-room alarm clocks, TVs, VCRs and phones.
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TRAVEL WRITERS and REPORTERS: For more information, contact Carla Minsky, firstname.lastname@example.org or 920-924-0297.