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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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Eva

    Air bnb in the U.K. attracts more of the cheap skate end of the market. With millions to spend on marketing they are becoming a household name but not everyone wants to stay in unregulated accommodation where you may have to stay with a host. Some people do though. Proper B and Bs need to try to reach the younger generation somehow, but will the younger generation grow out of wanting cheap unregulated accommodation as they grow older anyway?

  2. philip

    It has been very confusing to try to connect with a true Bed and Breakfast and have air B&B, VRBO, Homeaway, etc pop up. By the time you pay for cleaning and the service charge you could enjoy a beautiful room AND gourmet breakfast. I have no idea what you can do about the situation

  3. Macdonald Don

    As a B&B owner, why not embrace using Airbnb and independant booking platforms such as Little hotelier in parallel?

  4. Paula Edwards

    BnB are a traditional form of hospitality going back years. The concept of boutique B n B hotels is the new age corporate takeover of what was / is inexpensive, in home stays while traveling and a means of income for the families owning the homes. You’very already taken over the banks must you take over tradition and history as well, and a means to and end for some. In traveling in the world some of my best stays were with families in their homes!!! Get over it corporate world. Stop turning our world into a corporate boutique for the rich and famous!

  5. gary minnick

    Its just a domain name and it has nothing to do with a trade mark.
    it could be:
    it could be cheap bnb
    it could be bnb
    it could air breakfast and bed
    it could be a hundred other things.
    a traditional bnb is n established entity. An airbnb is here again and gone tomorrow, sort of like a taxi ride.
    its just simple competition and when the members realize that it is hard work, they lose interest or become full bnb’s
    all you bnb owners started with an idea, well, this is simply another idea. why are you not taking advantage of your higher level of expertise in rentals anyway??

  6. i love Air B and B


    • Amy Mackey

      Yes I may be a hater of Air B and B but we have had good reason. We have watched our neighbor’s home used as a weekend and weekly home used as a home for young, inconsiderate people all summer. We have had to call the police with almost every new group that comes in.
      Unlike a real B and B, there is nobody on site to be sure they are not screaming and breaking bottles at 3 am. When they say there will be 4 people staying there are at least 10. This would not be allowed by a true B and B so DO NOT call it the same thing.

  7. Alice

    What does the last B in Airbnb stand for if guests don’t get breakfast? Bugger all maybe…

  8. Roy Guimond

    We are newbees to the B and B business, and currently all our bookings come through Airbnb. We have had to cut our profit to compete with room rentals in our area. We have a wix generated website , however it is not generating any bookings . Why !

  9. Janet

    I stayed at an AirBnB establishment last week. It certainly did not live up to expectation. The host was friendly. He did carry out some hours of ‘cleaning’. But…..
    The house was not his home, it was just a nice house with all rooms set up as bedrooms, 3 of them, we were shown one bathroom although there were two. That was a major problem. The bathroom did not stay clean very long as other ‘guests’ did not clean up after themselves. The host was outwardly friendly, but was very quick to remind us of the Rules! The house was not clean as his cleaning did not include the use of a vacuum cleaner. Linen and towels were provided, but soap?
    Breakfast was a mention of there is toast and you can make tea but the kitchen did not open till 7.30 and it was closed, locked at 10 pm, so we could not put anything in the fridge! The host left the place overnight and went elsewhere, so I did not feel at all as of I was in someone’s home! I think it was just his office. The first morning we had our picnic breakfast at the office table, he wasn’t very communicative. He had three houses he rented out in this way charging more per night than a 4 * hotel with breakfast, so not good value for money. Beware those who consider Airbnb, it wasn’t as I had been led to believe! The second day I had to have picnic breakfast in the bedroom. There was no access to kitchen or living room! An ahotel would have been much better value and far less impersonal! Is it really legal to have someone staying in a 4 storey house with no firescape? Hope this helps others. Janet

    • Anonymous

      Charging more than a 4 Star hotel? Doubtful. Extremely doubtful.

      From the sounds of it, you were renting a room. A singular room as opposed to the whole apartment. And you say that the room rental ITSELF was priced higher than a hotel? Very doubtful indeed. Or, at the very least, you got conned and deserved to pay an exorbitant price for such a subpar deal. If that is the case, there is great ocean-front property that I know of to sell to you from Wyoming.

      As for the breakfast included bit . . . please. AirBnB is for rental. If you truly expect the host to whip up a nice breakfast for you then your expectations are way above the clouds and out of the stratosphere of reality.

      I just spend get breakfast at one of the many cafes around the place that I stay at. Save some money and then spend it on breakfast at a nice cafe somewhere. If you couldn’t see or find any cafes then that is on you for not doing your due diligence.

      Do yourself a favor and stick to hotels instead of creating fiction or . . . even worse: paying a “4-star” hotel price for a single room, instead of the entire apartment, and then thinking that there was nothing wrong with that.

      HA! Get out some more.

      • Laura Williams

        You are very rude and acerbic. I would never rent from you.

  10. Louis Rossi

    My wife and I opened 3 years ago in our home in Rochester the Rose Garden B&B. It required a couple years of plans and meetings and permits etc. We went before the Planning Board , the Zoning Board , my wife visited all of our neighbors to ask for their support. We had lead tests done, had a full fire system installed which is directly connected to the police and fire department etc., etc. My alarm gets tripped we have police and fire in the driveway within 5 minutes, our guests are always safe. We have a huge insurance policy written by State Farm specifically for a legit B&B. We quickly were rated #1 in the city due to our great reviews. Sadly our busy has suddenly fallen off by over 25%. Tonight, 6/27/2015 airbnb has 184, illegal, undocumented, rentals available in Rochester starting at $27.00 per night. Our least expensive room in our 1907 Victorian/Arts and Crafts home is $108 plus tax. Given what looks like no change soon in how airbnb is regulated we will most likely close within the next 3-5 years. We work so hard and are so proud of what we have built and we are being displaced by money grubbing people who hope their luck doesn’t run out some night when a “guest”, at their unregulated bnb, burns to death in a house fire because the fire department got there too late. Thanks, Lou Rossi

    • Julienne

      Great comment. Same applies in Sydney Australia. It seems guests would rather stay in a place that is unlicensed, uninsured and does not comply with fire regulations. On top of this it is illegal to smoke in an accommodation facility in NSW. Presumably smokers can get away with this at airbnb residences because they are not a registered accommodation facility. I still don’t know what the difference is between a b&b and airbnb facility, except registered businesses pay tax, insurance, and annual fire maintenance fees.

    • Helen

      We’ve closed now, and yes airbnb were part of the problem. We even registered on airbnb but the system is against proper B&Bs because the main sort is by cost. Most B&Bs include breakfast but you don’t even get a look-in because people ONLY look at price, not VALUE! Maybe it’s just the way things are going – Uber taxi services are very similar. We are glad we made our decision – if we had guests in we were working very hard for little return and if we didn’t have guests in we were stressing about paying the bills. We had enjoyed it but keeping prices low enough was a real bummer! Hope you manage to hang on in there Louis

    • Jason Lite

      It sounds like all of you don’t like competition.

  11. Kimberly martin

    I just spent my first night at an AirBnB property. It was immaculately clean and modern. They had tea/coffee facilities but no breakfast. I agree AirBnB sounds like Bed & Breakfast but it all to me comes down to cost. Here in Australia we had Formule1 low cost accommodation until ibis bought them out and jacked up the rates by at least $20. And the conditions are mostly dirty plain and well you only stay there for a roof over your head. For less than an ibis budget, I get a nice bed, in a quiet location with a proper shower and toilet. So good luck to this model, it’s up to the guests to check the feedback before they book. Similar to the effective eBay feedback system which quickly weeds out the bad hosts. I will be leaving a good review and glad I had somewhere got $61 instead of $100 plus just for a roof over my head and s comfy bed.

    • Helen in NQld

      You don’t only get a roof over your head with a bed and breakfast – you get registered, inspected, insured accommodation! OK so you paid $61 instead of $100 but the latter would have almost certainly included a cooked breakfast. Further though, if you had had an accident at the latter you would be able to get compensation – good luck on that with the former option. Finally by not choosing the proper B&B you have contributed to putting a small family business OUT of business. I suggest you read through the comments from B&B owners. Airbnb is certainly one of the factors behind us closing. We were number 1 on Trip Advisor but just can’t compete with all the unregistered properties.

  12. 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!

  13. 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…

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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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