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What is a Bed and Breakfast?

Part of a worksheet series for aspiring bed and breakfast innkeepers

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A bed and breakfast is generally known as a private home where a guest is provided a place to stay for the night. In some cases, the bathroom provided for the guest is shared with the family or another guest -- although the majority of guests now expect (or demand) a private bathroom (usually en suite, or "in the room"). Breakfast is usually included with the price of the room.

A bed and breakfast provided in a private home is sometimes referred to as a homestay.

In addition to converted private residences, some establishments are considered bed and breakfast inns. The same concepts of "room and breakfast" apply. The major difference is that an inn has more rooms available than the usual one to four found in a private home. Inns often provide meals in addition to breakfast, as well as other services not always provided in a private home.

These two terms are used in the industry to distinguish the difference between a stay in a private home and an inn. But remember, no two homes or inns are alike. They vary even within the same geographic area. These differences are part of what attracts people to stay at a B&B home or inn and are a significant part of their popularity. Each one has its own personality.

Generally, a B&B is not the reason for a guest to visit an area, but in some cases B&Bs have done such a masterful marketing job that this has changed. People read articles in a variety of publications and sometimes are attracted by a bed and breakfast and plan to visit the area specifically to stay at that B&B.

Travelers usually are attracted by recreational, cultural or historic sites, or by business they have in a particular area. Business travelers, especially women, sometimes seek out bed and breakfast accommodations as an alternative to the typical lodge, motel or hotel facility available in an area. B&Bs provide the traveler with a different lodging experience as well as what many consider a safer environment.

A Brief History of Bed and Breakfasts

The bed and breakfast concept has existed in one form or another since the beginning of man. Monasteries served as bed and breakfasts for travelers, and in some cases still do.

Bed and breakfasts have been very popular with the traveling public in Europe for years. It was in England, Scotland and Ireland that the term "B&B" first came into use. Tourists will see B&B signs in many windows there. The term "bed and breakfast" is not used in many other countries. Terms such as paradors, pensions, gasthaus, minskukus, shukukos and pousados are used to describe what Americans and English-speaking Europeans think of as a bed and breakfast.

The United States also has a history of bed and breakfasts dating back to the time of early settlers. As the pioneers traveled the trails and roads across this county, they sought a safe refuge in homes, inns and taverns. In fact, some of those historic accommodations now serve as B&Bs.

During the Great Depression, many people opened their homes to travelers to bring in some additional money for the family. The term "boarding house" was used at this time. After the Depression, this type of lodging declined and many people had the idea they were just for low-income travelers or drifters. In the early fifties, people may remember the term "tourist home" being used. This too was essentially a form of bed and breakfast. Once motels were built on the new highways, they were soon forgotten.

In large part because of the number of Americans traveling to Europe in recent years and rediscovering B&Bs, there has been an exponential increase in interest in the U.S. Today, the B&B is not viewed as a low-cost lodging facility but as an attractive alternative to the typical standard chain hotel or motel room. Today, some bed and breakfasts offer amenities not unlike those found at the most upscale hotels in the world.

This series of worksheets and information was originally written by Eleanor Ames, a Certified Family Consumer Sciences professional and a faculty member at Ohio State University for 28 years. With her husband, she ran the Bluemont Bed and Breakfast in Luray, Virginia, until they retired from innkeeping. Many thanks to Eleanor for her gracious permission to reprint them here. Some content has been edited, and links to related features on this site have been added to Eleanor's original text.

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