The bed and breakfast has long been a central part of Vermont’s image as a tourist destination. In recent years, the state’s small inns and B&Bs haven’t had their own organization, but that is now changing with the formation of a new association that is designed to give innkeepers a bigger voice in state policy and more power to market themselves to visitors.
To paraphrase one inn owner at the first-ever meeting of the Vermont Inn And Bed And Breakfast Association, ‘if an innkeeper works really hard Monday through Friday and is successful, they also get to work on holidays and weekends!’
Perhaps that lack of time is responsible for the lack of an organization to represent B&Bs.
Vermont has hundreds of small inns which have relied mostly on Chambers of Commerce to represent their interests.
Don Huber owns the Sinclair Inn in Jericho. Huber says without their own organization, inns haven’t been able to lobby effectively and make sure their concerns are heard.
"We had no input into what the state does for lodging tax. We had no marketing input for their tourism operations. The industry brings in a lot of money to Vermont and the state should be interested in not just the Sheratons and the Holiday Inns," says Huber.
An association will also make it easier for the state’s inns to share ideas and get the word out to potential visitors that inns aren’t about claustrophobic rooms, creaky beds and shared bathrooms. They offer modern amenities and a personal touch.
Megan Smith is Commissioner of Vermont’s Department Of Tourism And Marketing. As a former inn owner, Smith is familiar with the challenges inns face in marketing themselves.
"The problem is the little places that are so special, they’ve gotten such a bad rap, some deserved and some undeserved over the years," Smith says, citing the frequency of sitcom and comedy routine jokes made at the expense of B&Bs.
Smith had long wanted a statewide organization to help promote the small inns and bed and breakfast businesses.
When a national B&B organization offered to help promote Vermont inns through a new Website, she used money from the state’s travel and tourism budget to make it happen.
That was the catalyst for starting the new statewide organization.
The Vermont Inn And Bed And Breakfast Association currently has about 75 members.