11 months ago

B&Bs: Don’t let Airbnb eat you for breakfast

Airbnb has taken the world by storm, but not without controversy.

NB: This is an opinion from Mary White, CEO of BnBFinder, bed-and-breakfast directory.

Just last week the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) announced its plans to fight back against Airbnb’s dubious, unregulated business practices.

The key players in the hospitality industry are taking sides, making arguments, or, at the very least, feeling the impact.

There is however, a smaller faction of the lodging industry that is suffering from Airbnb’s success, perhaps more than the other segments: the Bed & Breakfast industry.

The letters “BnB” have long been associated with Bed & Breakfasts and/or Country Inns, and as such, Airbnb’s name is causing serious damage to B&B brand identity, and sowing confusion among potential customers.

Airbnb properties are not B&B’s at all, but rather a diverse array of short-term rentals.

The definition of a B&B is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodations and breakfast. This is not a new concept by a long shot – B&Bs as they are known today have been around for decades.

Legitimate B&Bs not only serve breakfast, but are also licensed, inspected, and insured in order to protect guests. They are also required to pay a variety of taxes. Airbnb hosts do none of these things.

A name like B&B cannot be trademarked, which is how Airbnb was able to utilize the name. The name however is infringing upon an entire industry.

In an effort to crack down on unregulated rentals, cities such as New York have made it illegal for residential Class A buildings to have paying guests for fewer than 30 consecutive days.

The unintended consequence, however, has been the closure of many beloved, long-running and highly regarded NYC B&Bs.

Unlike the AH&LA, the Bed & Breakfast industry does not have deep pockets nor do they have an incorporated unifying association fighting on their behalf.

But that doesn’t mean their argument should not be heard – in fact, B&B industry stakeholders should be yelling the loudest.

The power and success of the Airbnb business model is without argument impressive. That said, competition and changing industry landscape is one thing, but suffocating an age-old form of hospitality because of an oversight in regulations and infringing on a brand is quite different.

Peter Scherman and Rick Wolf of The B&B Team, a consultancy, in the bed and breakfast industry with over 20 years of experience.

While recognizing the power of Airbnb in the industry and admiring the success of its business model, Rick and Peter are all too aware that the success coming to Airbnb is largely in part due to the public acceptance of the business model, which they contend is a major part of the brand infringement problem.

Says Scherman:

“We believe that all those who participate in Airbnb by providing rentable inventory should be held to the same standards of accountability as those they currently compete with.

The bottom line is that a level playing field honors the uniqueness of new and different places to stay while ensuring that travelers are protected and honest businesses are not hurt by an inequitable environment.”

NB: This is an opinion from Mary White, CEO of BnBFinder a US-based search and marketing agent for nearly 2,000 bed and breakfasts worldwide.


Hotels: take your heads out of the sand and get over the Airbnb threat

Beyond the sharing economy-hipster hype – The REAL Airbnb effect

Airbnb catalyzes messaging and guest experience, asking hosts to rally to change laws

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  1. Helen Holmes

    I’ve just had a look at BnBFinder Bed and Breakfast Directory and THEY ARE NOT B&Bs – certainly not the Australian ones. Apartments, big multi-storey hotels – not B & Bs – that is just as much a misnomer and airBnB!

  2. David Peterson

    We love our Air BnB Guests!! A truly interactive and wonderful crowd. Wake up and smell the coffee B&B owners!! Every single one of our guests who have booked with us through Air BnB has been of exceptional quality. These are folks who truly want to interact with you the B&B owners and they even let you review them after they check out. How cool is that…

  3. Helen Holmes

    I think the most damaging thing about Airbnb is that people think they have stayed at a B&B even though they have stayed in a teenager’s room while they are at uni during term-time, or the home of a flight attendant who is away a lot. They don’t realise that a room in a real B&B is a proper dedicated guestroom with the owners there to look after them. Airbnb’s advertising tag is ‘Make money. Rent out your room’. That is MOST DEFINITELY NOT the aim of real B&Bs and most have gone through a lot in time and money to set up according to local laws and stay registered.

  4. Bruce Kuehnle

    I too own a B and B and I have been on Air B and B since 2009. I recently emailed all my former Air B and B guests and almost none of them said they Chose Air B and B over a conventional Bed and Breakfast. I HAVE generated quite a bit of revenue from Air B. BUT, it’s not nearly the average daily rate that I used to get from “traditional” B and B guests.

  5. Kim Wilson

    All we as BB owners is that the law is enforced equally across all businesses – in the UK that is food hygine, income tax and VAT and all the fire requirements. A possible illegal BB in the UK has just burnt to the ground – luckily the owner did have a comprehensive fire alarm and fire doors installed – but how many don’t? and how many don’t have the correct insurance if anything should have happened to any of the guests? because domestic won’t pay out for a business and business won’t pay out for an illegal operation.

  6. Beer Bergman

    More airbnb news and resistance… are B&B’s suffering from the new business model? One thing is sure, many of them are on airbnb (and I am one of them).
    But indeed, facing closure of B&B’s because new laws, targeting airbnb/housetrip/wimdu models, are instead harming existing businesses, is a very unpleasant consequence of focussing too much on the most clamorous stakeholders (hotels) against the new models while not having enough knowledge of the industry.

    For a B&B owner, Airbnb can be another channel and it is not a bad one, at least when you feel happy with the same sort of “cosmopolitanism” narrative as couchsurfing does promote. But this is true for many other platforms: there are as many platforms as there are needs.
    Does it make less people come to the traditional B&B’s? Perhaps. But it may also just be a better filter: not everybody feels like staying in every type of hosting facility. Many people will easily change hats in different situations: they will go and stay in a hotel and a B&B on their christmas break holiday, rent an airbnb home for their spring break and go out camping in summertime.
    The best bet for B&B owners who don’t want to advertise on AirBnb would probably be to take a close look into what makes airbnb so different from the traditional channels and platforms and which different trends can be distilled from the houses that are exposed on Airbnb in order to renovate, adjust, or distinguish from the experiences proposed by the “sharing economy” (and yeah, ok, how sharing is it?) players.


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