The advantages of staying in small independent hotels or B&Bs
In these times of economic crisis, for an increasing number of companies looking to cut costs, choosing smaller accommodations (like bed and breakfasts or small independent hotels) over hotel chains could be wiser. Although most business travelers stay in hotel chains (Hilton, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, etc), smaller accommodations have been trying to attract business guests by offering the same amenities with, often time, better service. Via Her examines the advantages that smaller accommodations hold over big hotels and why they are a good option for women business travelers.
Better, more personalized service
Do men or women get better hotel treatment? For Lorena Romero, owner of Casa Palermitano, a B&B in Buenos Aires, in large hotels in Argentina, people are more accustomed to seeing businessmen than women and therefore, men tend to get better treatment than women. “For example, if a businessman and businesswoman are both in a rush to check out of a hotel in Argentina, the hotel staff are more likely to attend to the man first”, she adds.
Independently, with fewer guests to cater to, smaller accommodations will give you personalized attention-you are more than just a room number! Most of the time, they will remember your name, your preferences, and are more likely to indulge any specific needs you may have. Nancy and Dan Ward, owners of Inn on Main Street, a B&B in Weaverville, NC agree. “See if your hotel manager has a half hour in the evening when he’ll buy you a glass of wine and chat about your kids and his, and share his take on the best restaurants nearby”, says Nancy. A satisfied guest is likely to return, and that is key to a smaller hotel’s business.
A home away from home
This is the buzzword of any good bed and breakfast. It is nice to come back to a more comfortable, relaxed set up after a hard day’s work instead of dealing with the impersonality of a large hotel. Rather than spending the evening alone in your room as a lot of us tend to do while on the road, smaller accommodations are often a friendlier, more homely setup. For instance, many of these hotels have a common area, where you can socialize with other guests like yourself, or kick back with a glass of wine, a newspaper, or just watch some TV. “I think a lot of women feel more like being in a family in a small hotel as opposed to the feeling of solitude that one gets in a big hotel”, says Lorena.
A smaller accommodation could provide the chance to meet other travelers, creating friendships or even business networking opportunities. The Inn at Main Street, for instance, has seen women guests bonding over dinner and swapping emails at the end of a stay. According to Lorena Romero, several guests establish business relationships while meeting at Casa Palermitano, bonding over breakfast at the communal table.
Get a better feel of the city you are in
Given the more personal and informal setup of smaller accommodations, you are more likely to be drawn into friendly conversations with the owner, manager, hotel staff, or other guests. This offers a great way to interact with locals or get information or swap notes with someone more familiar with the city. You can get some great insider tips about where to go or what to experience (or even what not to do) in the city-information that tourist guide books cannot provide. “It’s like going to visit friends; you can skip the dining guide and online ads to get essential information straight from those who know such things”, adds Nancy.
As women traveling alone, our individual safety is a top priority. Here too, smaller accommodations hold an advantage over large hotel chains. The Wards at Inn on Main Street say they recognized the need to listen to women business travelers because they were the ones most alienated by the hotel chain experience. Businesswomen spoke of apprehensions about getting a glass of wine or even dinner alone for fear of getting hit on. “Employees of large hotels are trained to provide addresses and information but little safety information. Being a woman and having traveled a lot by myself, safety advices are priceless”, says Lorena.
Smaller places are more likely to be better at keeping tabs on when you leave the hotel and when you are likely to be back. They will have a good idea about your regular schedule or plans and will sound an alert if something is amiss. Nancy Ward points out another benefit of being in a more homely setup. “We like to think hotels offer good security, but the fact is that when you’re in what feels like Grandma’s house with only a handful of other people staying there, you’re going to sleep better.”
Smaller accommodations are more cost effective and offer better value for your money than large hotel chains. A study by American Historic Inns, a publisher of Bed and Breakfast guidebooks in the US, showed that guests at B&Bs earn rewards ten times faster than at a Marriot, for example. The study revealed that with the Buy-One-Get-One-Night-Free reward programs, you can save between $75 and $650, depending on the room rate at a B&B, while you must spend $2,500 before earning a free night at the Marriot.
You get a lot of the amenities that a bigger business hotel would offer at lower costs-a huge advantage for companies looking to cut costs without having to compromise on the comfort of their employees. In addition, frequent guests or even companies can negotiate better room rates or upgrades. Smaller accommodations are more likely to oblige than large hotel chains. They work well for everybody-both you and the company.
As hotel chain executives feel that providing hair dryers, shower gels, skirt hangers, and so on are enough to keep their women guests happy, they fail to realize that catering to businesswomen should extend beyond just amenities. It is this shortcoming that smaller accommodations like bed & breakfasts are trying to cash in on. So, the next time you are traveling, consider staying at a smaller accommodation for a change. Swap the cold impersonality of a large hotel chain for a home away from home, interesting company, and enjoyable free time after work. The richer experience could make your trip worthwhile and fulfilling in more ways than one.