|By Rachel Peterson, The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 18, 2005 - Lucrative? No. Thriving? Probably not. But it's a business and lifestyle that continues to attract entrepreneurs, and fits today's tourism demand.
Even through $3 a gallon gas rates, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an overall drop in international tourism, the bed and breakfast business here is growing, said Joe Sanchez, a member of Flagstaff's tourism commission and owner of Aspen Inn.
Sanchez has been in the industry about nine years, and he said he doesn't plan on quitting anytime soon -- even though an average owner stays in the business eight to 10 years.
"We're still loving every minute of it and growing," said Sanchez, who over the past five years has weathered a few ups and downs.
The B&B industry was in decline before Sept. 11, 2001, and again in 2003 when war was declared on Iraq.
But by 2004 business was back to 2000 level, and this year has been even better, said Gordon Watkins, president of Distinctive Bed and Breakfasts of Northern Arizona, a marketing association created for the 11 B&Bs in Flagstaff and Williams.
Following a flourishing winter when heavy snowfall attracted many domestic travelers to the ski slopes, Watkins' Inn at 410 hit record-high occupancy rates in June and July, with year-to-date sales 15 percent higher than 2004.
"Locally, I'd say everybody is pretty well up in terms of their occupancy," he said.
That's not expected to change anytime soon as B&Bs become more accommodating for today's traveler: People in search of relaxation who spend more time in one location, Sanchez said.
"At a bed and breakfast you can experience your vacation. You get these wonderful breakfasts, you get to interact with the innkeepers, and they know the good hikes and the best restaurants," he said.
In addition, this year's record-high gas prices and continued global instability has made regional domestic travel more popular than international travel, bringing in the bulk of northern Arizona's tourism from the Valley and California, Watkins said.
Even with this year's rise, the number of guests could be even higher with improved marketing strategies for these target areas, he said.
"When people are sitting down in the Valley in the heat and they see a cooler place to go, they say, 'Hey, why not go to rim country?'" Watkins said of the frequent advertising of other Northern Arizona destinations.
"It really is time for the city to start to pay attention to the tourism and the marketing it takes." Currently, the city spends about 30 percent of the earnings from the Bed, Board and Booze tax on marketing Flagstaff, compared to 80 percent of a similar tax spent on tourism marketing in Scottsdale. That means that of about $4 million generated annually from taxes on lodging, restaurant and bar sales, about $1.7 million will be spent to enhance tourism advertising this year. Other projects, such as city parks and economic development, also are funded by BBB revenue.
"Flagstaff has a very lukewarm attitude towards tourism," Watkins said.
"The Grand Canyon is one of the top 10 tourism destinations in the world ... and really the B&Bs here are one of the best bases for sightseeing and traveling in Northern Arizona.
"People can stay here four or five days and never be bored with all the options they have. But people have to know about it." Enhanced marketing could enable the B&Bs to boost rates and ultimately bring in more BBB tax revenues, as well as improve the economic viability of the owners, he said.
Already it's difficult for many of them to take a day off or hire additional staff because of a city ordinance that caps the number of rooms per inn at four.
"Burnout is big because it's a high demand job for people that can't get away," Watkins said.
His experience is slightly less demanding, with nine rooms built in his inn prior to the ordinance. He's also the only B&B owner in Flagstaff with hired staff.
Regardless, most owners say they aren't going anywhere for a while.
The English House Bed and Breakfast just opened about six months ago, and another Flagstaff B&B is on the way. It's admittedly a time-consuming business, but rewarding, said Laurel and Richard Dunn, English House owners.
"Both of us came from kind of high-pressure, stressful jobs in California," Laurel said. "We just wanted to be in a smaller town and feel more connected to the community." So far so good, she said. Even though their days start early and require a person "to be on" non-stop until bedtime, the Dunns have figured out ways to take breaks.
"We kind of have a social happy hour here -- we offer a glass of wine or beer after check in," she said. "It is kind of a break for us and its also kind of energizing." Sanchez also said he'll be in the business for years to come.
"It's the most rewarding business I've ever been in," Sanchez said. "It keeps getting better and better, so I've got it set up to do this for a long time."
B&B BREAKDOWN -- 9 bed and breakfasts in Flagstaff have a total of -- 55 rooms available at -- $79 to $260 nightly rates, with -- 2-3 night stays required on the weekends from -- April 1 to Oct. 1 and holidays.
Northern Arizona B&Bs Arizona Sled Dog Inn 10155 Mountainaire Road Flagstaff, AZ 86001 525-6212 www.sleddoginn.com
Aspen Inn Bed and Breakfast 218 N. Elden St.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001 773-0295 www.flagstaffbedbreakfast.com
Comfi Cottages of Flagstaff 1612 N. Aztec St.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001 774-0731 www.comficottages.com
Conifer House B & B Inn 1701 W. Stevanna Way Flagstaff, AZ 86001 774-2438 www.coniferhouse.com
Elden House 4159 N. Grindelwald Way Flagstaff, AZ 86004 526-3558 www.eldenhouse.com
England House Bed and Breakfast 614 W. Santa Fe Ave.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001 928-214-7350 www.englandhousebandb.com
Fall Inn To Nature Bed and Breakfast 4555 S. Lake Mary Road.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001 714-0237 www.bbonline.com/az/fallinn/
Inn at 410 Bed and Breakfast 410 N. Leroux St.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001 774-0088 www.inn410.com
Legacies Bed and Breakfast 450 S. 11th St.
Williams, AZ 86046 928-635-4880 www.legaciesbb.com
Starlight Pines Bed and Breakfast 3380 E. Lockett Road.
Flagstaff, AZ 86004 527-1912 www.starlightpinesbb.com
Terry Ranch Bed & Breakfast 701 N. Quarterhorse Road Williams, AZ 86046 635-4171 www.terryranchbnb.com
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Copyright (c) 2005, The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff
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