August 2007 – On My Mind

I am what could be considered a fairly seasoned business traveler. In my professional career, I have been to over thirty states for business meetings, conferences, trade shows, etc. For the longest time, I was a loyalist with one of the big-box hoteliers, doing my best to rack up those points, so I could redeem one free night every two years. And since time is probably the most valuable currency these days, I tried spending as little time as possible finding and booking my lodging needs. I went directly to their web site, logged in, found the city, identified the best price, and hit click. While I have stayed at a number of bed and breakfast facilities with my wife on pleasure trips, I cannot remember once considering a bed and breakfast property for a business trip. Why is that? I can think of a few possible reasons, which I will get to in a minute.

Now that I am with PAII, I am making a commitment to stay at inns on business and pleasure trips whenever possible. What better primary research is there? But don’t worry if you get a call from me to stay at your inn, I am not a quality control inspector. I simply want to talk with innkeepers to learn more about your businesses and needs. Since late June, I have stayed at inns in Marshall MI; St. Paul MN; and Cape May, NJ. I have one booked in Stony Brook, NY for an upcoming family wedding. I am enjoying my stays, but what’s “on my mind” right now is our industry as it relates to the business traveler.

Now that I am actually pursuing inns for my business lodging needs, I am becoming aware of the various ways in which I can find and book my stays. To all those innkeepers who actively seek out opportunities to ensure your inn comes up in search engine results, and who participate in various industry-specific web portals—thank you! As a business traveler, it is essential that I can go to as few sites as possible to find as many inns as possible—and to find what features or amenities are most important to me. I consider myself a fairly typical business traveler, and here is what would make my experience (and probably many others) golden:

1) High speed Internet access in my room (Ethernet or wireless—doesn’t really matter—as long as it’s reliable and fast). It’s nice to see from PAII’s Industry Study that 85% of inns report offering wireless Internet access. If you can give me access to a printer for urgent needs, I would be in hog heaven.
2) The option of an express, to-go breakfast, in case I need to catch an early morning flight.
3) List of nearby dine-in or delivery options for late-night meals, in case I get in late.
4) Map of jogging routes, if I want to run 3 to 5 miles. Most inns do not have workout equipment (like many hotels), so I need help with finding safe exercise options. A deal with a nearby gym for your guests’ use might be a good thing too.
5) An in-room desk is best for working on my computer, but if that’s not possible, a lap-desk for use in the bed would suffice. Anything, so that I don’t have to put my hot laptop directly on my lap.
6) Lastly, we business travelers enjoy having our very own iron and ironing board. If my room’s closet or wardrobe cannot accommodate these items, it would be great if you would offer these at check-in, so I don’t have to bother you at 11 p.m. or 5 a.m., when I actually do my ironing.

One question I plan to ask the opinion leaders in innkeeping world—what are we doing at the macro-level to attract the business traveler? I am sure there are thousands of inns across the country which are perfect for business travelers. We need to get the word out word out, and it’s starting! We have a great story to tell and fantastic product to sell. USA Today recently ran a story on B&Bs as an optimal choice for business travelers. Click here to read it.

What are you doing to attract the business traveler? Drop me a line at jay@paii.org.

Author: Jay Karen

Jay is the President & CEO of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.

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