BED AND BREAKFAST INN: A bed and breakfast (or B&B, also spelled BnB) is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and breakfast, but usually does not offer other meals. Since the 1980s, the meaning of the term has also extended to include accommodations that are also known as "self-catering" establishments. Typically, bed and breakfasts are private homes with fewer than 10 bedrooms available for commercial use.
Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen.
B&Bs and guest houses may be operated either as a secondary source of income or a primary occupation. Usually the owners themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms, but some bed and breakfasts hire staff for cleaning or cooking. A property which hires professional management is uncommon (unlike inns or hotels) but may exist if the same owner operates multiple B&B's.
Some B&Bs operate in a niche market. Floating bed and breakfasts are boats or houseboats which offer B&B accommodation; the CCGS Alexander Henry museum ship was one example. In some communities, former lighthouse keeper quarters have been turned into B&B rooms after the light has been automated or decommissioned. In resort towns that are frequented by gay and lesbian tourists, some B&Bs focus on serving that community or are owned and operated by same-sex couples.
Many B&Bs in the United States try to create a historical ambiance, with old properties turned into guesthouses decorated with antique furniture. For example, the Holladay House in Orange, Virginia is an 1830s Federal-style brick building that has been converted into a bed and breakfast. Likewise, in the southern Vermont village of Arlington, the 1847 home of Martin Chester Deming was converted to The Arlington Inn with 16 bedrooms. In the last ten years, B&B and Inn owners have been launching upscale amenities to improve business and move "up-market." It is not uncommon now to find free wireless Internet access, free parking, spa services, or nightly wine and cheese hours. Due to the need to stay competitive with the rest of the lodging industry, larger bed and breakfast inns have expanded to offer wedding services, business conference facilities, and meeting spaces as well as many other services a large hotel might offer.
The custom of opening one's home to travelers dates back the earliest days of Colonial America. Lodging establishments were few and far between in the 18th century and, apart from a limited number of coaching inns, wayfarers relied on the kindness of strangers to provide a bed for the night. Hotels became more common with the advent of the railroad and later the automobile; most towns had at least one prominent hotel.
During the Great Depression, tourist homes provided an economic advantage to both the traveller and the host. Driving through town on US Highways (the Interstate Highway System did not exist at the time), travellers stopped at houses with signs reading Tourists or Guests, indicating that travellers could rent a room for the night for approximately $2. The rooms brought needed income for the home owner and saved money for the traveller, representing an intermediate option between inexpensive campgrounds or cabins and costly railway hotels. (The motel fad of the 1950s and 1960s later filled this niche, now occupied by economy limited service hotels.) Coloured folk could consult The Negro Motorist Green Book, a printed directory, to find lodging at which they would be welcome despite racial segregation and widespread discrimination.
After World War II, middle-class Americans began travelling in Europe in large numbers, many experiencing the European-style B&Bs (Zimmer frei in Germany, chambres d'hotes in France) for the first time. Some were inspired to open B&Bs in the U.S.; tourist home owners updated their properties as B&Bs. The interest in B&Bs coincided with an increasing interest in historic preservation, spurred by the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 and assisted by two crucial pieces of legislation: the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and the Tax Reform Act of 1976, which provided tax incentives for the restoration and reuse of historic structures.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, B&Bs increased rapidly in numbers and evolved from homestay B&Bs with shared baths and a simple furnishings to beautifully renovated historic mansions with luxurious décor and amenities. Printed directories listed options in various cities. By the mid-1990s, the Internet made it more affordable for innkeepers to promote their properties worldwide; it provided on-line reservation software and allowed travellers to view detailed photos, videos, and reviews. B&Bs are found in all states, in major cities and remote rural areas, occupying everything from modest cottages to opulent mansions, and in restored structures from schools to cabooses to churches.
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