The following article, written by Colleen Cosgrove, was featured in today’s Chronicle Herald Newspaper:
The last decade has not been kind to Nova Scotia bed and breakfasts.
A 19 per cent decline in overnight stays plagued the industry from 2005 to 2009, but numbers have been on a slow decline since 2000.
Nearly 100,000 visitors used a bed and breakfast in 2000 but by 2010, the number dropped to 59,000.
But on a snowy mid-winter day in December, when paying visitors are scarce and the summer tourism season is months away, Nova Scotia bed and breakfast owners are confident there are better days ahead.
Travellers are increasingly on the hunt for an authentic travel experience and a stay at a turn of the century farmhouse or a grand seaside estate can offer just that, said Anne McDonah cctowner of Belgravia Bed and Breakfast. “That’s why people are coming to Canada and to Nova Scotia,” McDonah said from her home in Truro this week.
“By being in a house and not a hotel, guests are getting the inside scoop on places to go and things to see and do in the community. It offers a chance to live like a local and a (bed and breakfast) offer that authentic experience.”
McDonah, who is on the board of the Nova Scotia Bed and Breakfast Association and teaches tourism management at Nova Scotia Community College, said bed and breakfast owners are promoting the authentic travel experience and offering “value-adds” to their operations to combat the downward trend.
Guests at Belgravia, for example, enjoy local produce delivered weekly to the house while guests at the neighbouring Suncatcher Bed and Breakfast can take a stained glass workshop or enjoy a genuine lobster feast complete with a how-to-eat lesson.
Neighbourhood overflow means Belgravia is booked over the holidays, but McDonah is using the slower season to revamp the company website and think up seasonal travel packages to entice guests year round.
There are about 1,100 overnight options in Nova Scotia. Between 400 and 425 of these are bed and breakfasts. The numbers ebb and flow regularly.
Location plays a big role in visitor traffic and the long-term viability of a bed and breakfast, said association president and Suncatcher owner Gerry Mailloux.
“Major cities and towns are more likely to reap the benefits,” said Mailloux, a veteran bed and breakfast owner who has worked in the industry since 1986.
“They seem to draw more business travellers than they used to and I think people are starting to realize the value of a (bed and breakfast).”
The growing popularity among business travellers has spurred many owners to offer amenities like free WiFi and printer and fax access.
The downward-trending numbers didn’t discourage Barbara Dean from opening her first bed and breakfast, Gowan Brae Bed and Breakfast, in Middle Musquodobit in August.
Retired and living in a sprawling 1830s-era home, Dean said her operation is merely a fun hobby and she expects many owners have the same approach.
“We have few overhead costs, just extra food and a bit of extra hot water here and there,” Dean said. “We all live in our bed and breakfast so I imagine it’s a hobby for most of us.”
In its first four months, Gowan Brae welcomed guests from as far away as Switzerland, Holland and western Canada and as nearby as the Annapolis Valley. How these guests decide on spending the night in Middle Musquodobit is something the association is working hard to understand, Mailloux said.
“We advertise here, there and everywhere but part of the problem is tracking where your guests come from and how they ended up with you,” he said. “We only have so many advertising dollars to go around ….. but at the end of the day as long as there are people still coming to stay, that’s what counts.”