The Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Association annual conference was held this past weekend in Minneapolis (April 18-20). The event attended by Bed and Breakfast owners throughout Minnesota was highlighted with speakers from as far away as New Jersey (Jay Karen CEO from Professional Association of Innkeepers International), Washington (Jeff Logan Vice President from Inside Out Solutions) and Texas (Sara Shusta from bedandbreakfast.com) and as close as St Paul (John Edman director of Explore Minnesota Tourism).
Barbara Young, from Grand Marais’s Poplar Creek Guesthouse B & B and the Association’s President chaired the conference. Other B & B’s in attendance from Northeast Minnesota included: A. J Thomson House, Mathew S. Burrows Inn, Ocott House, Solglimt on the Water B&B from Duluth; the Morning Glory B&B from Grand Rapids, Woodland Trails from Hinckley and the Mitchell-Tappan House from Hibbing.
According to Young, “The overall message of the gathering was that occupancy is improving and will continue to improve for the B & B industry and methods of social marketing (twitter, Face book, blogs etc.) are necessary to keep ahead of the curve. The trend is that in a sluggish economy vacationing close to home is popular, practical and safe. This certainly points to B & B opportunities.”
The conference featured workshops promoting packaging with trails and birding; methods of adding value to inn’s offerings and diversification of small business. Additional workshop leaders included a pastry chef; a photography business owner; a health department expert; an energy resource consultant; a marketing guru and a bird guide. Green Journey the Association's new green self-certification program was “kicked-off” at the conference. This unique program – the first Green Lodging certification program in Minnesota - awards from one up to five green leaves for varying degrees of sustainability for member owners of B&Bs. Innkeepers will be encouraged to keep making green improvements to their property in practical ways to improve their rating. The venue Crowne Plaza in Brooklyn Center was in fact chosen partially based on its green initiatives.
According to Pam Thorsen, the Association’s director, “We were impressed with their recycling, their energy savings and their willingness to work with us in not serving bottled water for example.” Many of the vendors at the event also were offering practical “green” solutions to innkeeper’s needs.” According to Young, “This was of one of our finest conferences. Through our workshops and vendors, we gained even more knowledge on improving and promoting our businesses and how we as innkeepers can better work together to improve all our businesses. In addition, I think I can speak for all who attended this year’s conference, we certainly had a great time.” The Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Association is a non-profit organization whose aim is promoting the state’s Quality Assured member inns as well as offering support, networking and education for innkeepers.
Organized in 1985 with 12 members, the Association now has 115 members The Assocation sponsors a conference annually, webinars at least monthly and is planning regional workshops promoting Green Journey, other Assocai\tion programs and to discuss members needs. A guidebook is available online to download or by mail from www.minnesotabb.org.