Monday, February 14, 2005

Great Idea for a Small Hotel

A Time to Share by Norma Pérez

Rebecca owns an 11-room bed & breakfast in northwest Florida, the panhandle rough edge of a state with world-renowned attractions far to the south. In 2003, Rebecca’s little hotel registered 91% occupancy…all year. On average, she had 10 of her 11 rooms filled every day of the week. In a region with several competitors (including chain hotels), no major theme parks, no unique natural wonders, no large cities and boasting a room rate in the $90-110 range, how does she do it?


Every afternoon, from 4:00 to 5:15, Rebecca dons elegant dresses and serves tea in her hotel’s “parlor,” a comfortable room with several armchairs, two settees (“I never use the word ‘sofa’”) and four polished mahogany tables. A large silver tea setting gleams brightly in the sunny room, casting reflections on a small array of biscuits, crackers, cookies and finger sandwiches. Every guest is invited to drink tea, enjoy the finger food and talk to Rebecca and each other. No TV, no radio, no music, just marvelous tea and conversation.

The entire experience costs the guests nothing, but they wouldn’t trade it for anything as they comeback to share it again and again. “I now know when certain people are coming to my hotel,” says Rebecca, “Because we’ve talked so much, they’re like family. And when they come back, they bring one or two more people. Next year, I may add some rooms!” However, thinking about the warmth and sharing she and her guests enjoy, she adds “But then, I’d have to stop serving tea because of the noise and dust.” She shakes her head. “My guests are happy with what I have now. And that makes me happy, too.”


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