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B&Bs cater to business guests but retain charm and graciousness

Bed and breakfast inns represent a different kind of accommodation for travelers. Here they may feel they’re guests in someone’s home rather than staying in a commercial establishment. This may be especially true for business travelers looking for a soothing place after a hard day’s work. More B&Bs are catering to the needs of business guests without sacrificing their hallmark charm and comforts.

In Vicksburg, Bill and Shirley Smollen own and operate the Stained Glass-Oak Hall B&B where they have four guestrooms plus a carriage house out back. Bill Smollen says they aren’t seeing as many business guests, especially international ones, as they did before September 11, 2001. Still, they provide an outgoing fax machine and high-speed Internet access for guests.

“I stay up with things; that’s important and we have high-speed Internet access into all rooms. I just have to take the modem to the rooms,” he said. “We find that recreational travelers bring business with them and have to check e-mail. I’ll let them get on my computer if they need to.”

Smollen, a past president of the state B&B association, says a lot of guests at his 100-year-old house come by car from the Midwest on their way to New Orleans.

It’s a different story at the Oliver-Britt House in Oxford where owners/sisters Mary Ann Britt and Glynn Oliver say they haven’t added high-speed online access, but are talking of doing so next year. “It sounds like a great idea, and it’s on our list of things to do,” said Mary Ann Britt. “A lot of people bring their laptops and can hook up and use it.”

This guesthouse on Van Buren Street was built in 1906 and was opened as a B&B in 1982 with five guestrooms. Britt says they’re running a 40% to 50% occupancy rate and stay booked solid during football season.

The innkeepers do a lot of faxing for guests, but Britt feels many guests are glad not to be in a chain motel environment. “This is a relaxing environment and a different kind of experience,” she said. “For a long time we didn’t have televisions.”

She says the majority of their business guests seem to be there because of the B&B’s close proximity to the University of Mississippi campus and use business amenities at offices there. “Many stay with us because they want to walk to the campus or to the square,” she said. “We have a unique situation in Oxford.”

Because most of their guests rush off on business or to visit their children at the university, the Oliver-Britt House doesn’t serve breakfast on weekday mornings. They do, however, have a wonderful resident manager who cooks great breakfasts on weekends, Britt said.

Carol Simmons, manager of the Fairview Inn on Fairview Street in Jackson, says they’ve had a fax machine for guests for quite some time and just recently added high-speed Internet access to further serve the needs of business guests.

“We have some real upper-scale guests and they were asking for it,” she said. “During the week, the majority of our guests are business travelers and they are different from leisure guests.”

Business guests are apt to arrive at all hours of the day and night, so Simmons runs a 24-hour-a-day front desk and check in. She also accommodates these guests with a special kitchen that’s always open. It’s equipped with an ice machine, microwave, coffee maker and soft drinks.

“It they get in from a plane at any hour and want a glass of wine, that’s no problem,” Simmons said. “Or if they need food, we’ll find some fruit and cheese for them.”

The manager of this 1908 Colonial Revival mansion turned B&B with 18 rooms says business travelers are also different from other travelers in that they request wake-up calls and do not sleep in. The Fairview Inn provides breakfast seven days a week.

“We’ve learned our guests and what they like and we really treat them like family,” Simmons said.

Another Jackson B&B, the Millsaps Buie House on North State Street, estimates that approximately 70% of its guests are business travelers. A lot of those are guests in town to do business with state government.

“We do serve breakfast every day and allow guests to have a guest to eat with them,” said manager Judy Loper. “Business guests appreciate being able to start the day with a breakfast meeting.”

She says that even visitors from up North like the cheese grits casserole once they’ve decided to try it.
This B&B also has a library that accommodates 10 people for conference meetings and a parlor suitable for meetings of 20 people. The house was built in 1888, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has 11 guestrooms.

“We have such lovely guests from everywhere and believe we’re helping to create a positive image of Mississippi,” Loper said. “The main thrust for us is to have Southern hospitality, and the house lends itself graciously to that.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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