Small Towns, Boutique Hotels, and What it Means for Bed & Breakfast Innkeepers

Cheshire Cat Inn

Small inns can boost their potential using the same tactics as the boutique inns. Simple steps include delivering high-end accommodations at practical prices. Boutique hotels are often associated with cosmopolitan cities but that same concept is spreading to smaller towns like Santa Barbara, Calif.. And it’s working. The Victorian Cheshire Cat Inn is in its 32nd year and is more vibrant than ever.

As the innkeeper at a small bed and breakfast, can you attract these same travelers to your establishment?


Luxury Accommodations at Non-Luxury Prices

Travelers, especially younger ones, want the amenities of a five-star hotel but they are not able to afford five-star prices. Many bed and breakfast inns are able to deliver five-star amenities at reasonable prices and more easily than other lodging types.

Luxury –  Use high-thread count linens, triple sheet your beds and offer turndown service; don’t forget the chocolate on the pillow.

Hipness – Add to the hip vibe of your guest rooms by placing locally made soaps in the bathrooms. Use local art, find local restaurants and promote the area’s most local and most unique.

Extras –  A gourmet breakfast can be the literal icing on the cake when it comes to luxury while on vacation. A glass of wine upon arrival can set the mood for the entire vacation experience.


Seeking Experiences

Boutique hotel chains are buying vacant historic properties and remodeling them while preserving charm and character. (They have finally caught on that historic properties are cool!)

We at i Love Inns have noticed in the last 10 years that many historic inns have thrown the baby (history) out with the bath water. Now’s the time to reframe it. Does your inn already have a story? Was it the home of an important person in your area’s history? Has anyone famous ever stayed in the building? Has the building served another purpose in its history and are elements of that still visible? For example, if the building was once a general store, do you have the old-style cash register that was once used? If the building has been renovated, what historic elements did you keep? Be sure to promote how guests can walk in someone else’s shoes by staying at your inn.

Another element of a vacation experience is the the unbeatable views available at many small inns. These are view properties where a big hotel would never be allowed. Few large city hotels can boast dramatic mountain views or a private dock on waterfront property. Open the window blinds at a hotel and you find views of a parking lot. Open the blinds at a small inn and you find manicured gardens, or the streets or a quaint town, or sweeping vineyards.

Space for Social Engagement

Boutique hotels are incorporating large spaces for social engagement in their floor plans. One of my biggest disappointments was a small town B&B in Tenn. where the parlor and dining room were now rooms.

I just got back from a visit to the Cheshire Cat in Santa Barbara. The inn’s expert innkeepers have figured out how to combine Boutique with Victorian.

They offered large gathering spaces with beautifully organized groupings. You could sit on sofas or in the corner of a turret with table for 4. And the evening hor’s deuvres were abundant and unique. Local Santa Barbara wine was featured.

And the crowd? A wonderful mix of newly weds, middle aged couples and families with a kid or two. The innkeeper adeptly shepherded the family to a quiet corner, the newly weds with other couples and let us girlfriends mingle.

The Cheshire Cat Inn’s Secret to adding Boutique to Victorian?

  1. Christine’s constant attention to what’s hip in Santa Barbara
  2. Unique breakfast offerings
  3. Generous and varying snacks and local wine
  4. Crisp decore – a mix of California Craftsman comfort, and a fabulous, intelligent refresh of an older Laura Ashley decor

Cheshire Cat Inn


While the footprint at a B&B may be smaller, most inns already have the market on social engagement activities. Evening wine and cheese hours are a perfect way to give guests the satisfaction of getting to know new people as much or as little as they wish. While sipping chardonnay or a local brew, they can learn about area attractions and restaurants to include in their current getaway or to encourage them to return again. Smart innkeepers join the conversation to provide resident knowledge.


More Social Activities

B&Bs can also consider a unique variety of social activities to boost business. Partner with a local brewery to provide a beer tasting weekend. Talk with the nearby yarn shop to offer knitting getaways. Meet with local author and writing associations to deliver writing classes or lectures.

You Deserve to Benefit From the Boutique Hotel Trend

After all, you were here first. And most innkeepers have their finger on the pulse of their town and know the best ways to promote the local flair. Tweak your offerings so you fit into the trend and let this latest wave work to build your business.