The real reason for the first week of our trip, was to get me to Cornell University to take a course; the second toward a Certification in Strategic Hospitality Management. Last year, I took Strategic Hospitality Management, a course which ran during the last week of school, so I flew to Ithaca and back by myself. This year, the course I was taking, Strategic Marketing for Restaurants and Hotels, fell during the first week of summer vacation. D’Arcy had been chosen as the Nova Scotian representative to mark the PCAP Assessments (The Grade 9 Science Exams written across the Country) in Ottawa during the second week of July, so we decided to turn it into a family road trip!
I thoroughly enjoyed my course at Cornell last year, but this year was even better. The course was interesting, led by Professor Dr. Rob Kwortnik, who has been honoured seven times as a Teacher of the Year by students at the Cornell Hotel School. I can see why – he’s very engaging and personable. My class of 26 was made up of hospitality leaders from 15 different countries. I was fortunate to have two other Nova Scotians attending with me: Rob Pretty, owner/manager of the Halliburton House Inn in Halifax, and Shawn Lewis, Food & Beverage Manager at the Prince George Hotel in Halifax. As is often the case in Nova Scotia, we discovered many, many connections.
The course material and discussions gave us lots of food for thought and you will be seeing some changes on the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website after we get home. One of the things that I really had to think about was the question, “What makes your property special? What makes you stand out from your competition?” That’s a tough one for us as a bed & breakfast. Why do our guests choose us over our competition?
Is it our downtown location, within walking distance to restaurants, shopping and attractions? There are two other B&B’s located in downtown Truro. Is it our beautiful historic home? There is another B&B which is a historic home, and all of the B&B’s in Truro are beautiful in their own way. Is it our reasonable rates and good value? Our prices fall within the same range as the other B&B’s in our area, so it isn’t that either.
Is it our fantastic breakfast served each morning with local ingredients whenever possible? Hmmm. Each of the B&B’s in our area serve a wonderful breakfast. We’re all friends, and have eaten many meals together over the years, so I know that they are great cooks! However, we are the only B&B that is peanut & treenut free, and we do advertise that we are allergy aware. This is one thing that sets us apart from our competition, although I know that the others all cater to food allergies as best as they can, as well.
To explore the idea further, I then had to look at why guests choose a B&B over a hotel. We find that our guests are looking for a personal experience at our Bed & Breakfast. B&B guests want authentic, culturally relevant experiences. They are not looking to be anonymous, like in a hotel. In short, we are our brand. Our guests get to know us through our website and our blog, and even through Facebook, Twitter, and Trip Advisor, and then choose to book with us. Often, they will book because we have things in common: teachers, outdoor enthusiasts, quilters; people who love music, the arts, local food, running, gardening, and reading. People definitely book with us because they are confident that we will accommodate their dietary restrictions safely. (We understand there is nothing worse than an allergic reaction while away-fro-home!) I think we already give people a pretty good sense of who we are, but we can become better at it. This course has given me some tools to do this and I’m excited to make some changes that will hopefully make our guest experience even better!
As I said last year, attending Cornell University was something of a dream when I was taking my Bachelor of Tourism & Hospitality Management at Mount Saint Vincent University years ago. I loved reading the Cornell Journals when doing research. I am very grateful to the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for their support of Executive Education and supporting the dreams of tourism operators in Nova Scotia! I know that the Nova Scotia Tourism Industry will be strengthened as a result of the participation of its industry leaders!