|By Bob Quick, The Santa Fe New
MexicanMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 07, 2011--Santa Fe's bed and breakfast inns are hoping this summer season will be a busy one, but there's some concern that it's not going to be a return to the good old days, thanks to a weak economy and the scarcity of individual travelers. The high price of gasoline hasn't made things any easier.
Out at the Bobcat Inn on Old Las Vegas Highway, "our summer looks pretty good," said proprietor Amy Bobrick. "Our main visitors are from Texas, Arizona and Colorado."
The Bobcat Inn experienced "a really strong 2009," only to have a weak 2010, with bookings down about 20 percent. "This year we're coming back."
Bobrick said that a reason for that comeback is that prices at the Bobcat Inn are "much more reasonable" than many of the pricier B&Bs in Santa Fe. The Bobcat Inn has five rooms and a guesthouse.
The business also benefits from the proximity of The Bobcat Bite restaurant, which is right across Old Las Vegas Highway, Bobrick said. There's also the advantage of being in the foothills "where it's quiet."
The Madeleine Inn, in an 1886 Victorian home, is located in what an entry in the New Mexico Bed and Breakfast Association information sheet calls "a secluded garden setting near the Plaza and the Santa Fe Community Convention Center."
"We're doing better this year as far as occupancy," said Regan Buell, reservations manager. "It looks like we're going to have a pretty good summer because we're all booked up to September."
Both Indian Market and the Santa Fe Opera are busy times of year for the Madeleine Inn, Buell added.
Like many other B &Bs faced with a softer market at various times of year, the Madeleine Inn cut its staff, and now is down to three workers, Buell said.
At Inn of the Turquoise Bear, one of the oldest B&Bs in Santa Fe, bookings are usually strong in July and August -- so strong that visitors book three and four years in advance, said innkeeper Robert Frost.
However, he added, the rest of the year is often slow. "People just aren't coming. Our annualized reservations are now down about 70 percent since 2002."
In the most recent spring season, "we had nights in which there was no one in the house," Frost said. "That hadn't happened for years. There were periods in July that if I didn't have the weddings going on, I would be out of business."
As a result of the drop in visitors, "I'm down from seven employees," Frost said. "I simply can't afford to pay all those people."
Frost was also sorry to see the film companies lose some of the state incentives they received to film in New Mexico.
"We won't be getting the film companies anymore," he said. "That means Santa Fe will lose a number of jobs. I'm just a tad-bit irritated no one had a look at what the impact on small businesses would be."
Among the members of the New Mexico Bed and Breakfast Association is Belinda Bowling, owner/innkeeper of the Casa Escondida Bed & Breakfast in Chimayo.
Bowling has owned the business, which consists of eight rooms on six acres, for the past 11 years.
In assessing economic conditions over that time, "things are not what they were before the stock market crash," Bowling said. "I don't think we're anywhere near to a full recovery. I do think they're trending in a positive direction, but we're definitely not there yet."
Bowling has her property on the market for $1.3 million, and many people assume she's burned out after more than 10 years in business. But that would be wrong.
"I still enjoy what I'm doing," Bowling said. "But I feel like I want to give myself the opportunity to do something different."
Bowling has had some inquiries from people who want to make a lifestyle change and buy her B&B but are hesitant about living so far from Santa Fe.
When she does find a buyer, "it's darn likely I would acquire another (residential) property not far from where I live now," she said. "Moving to Chimayo has truly been a wonderful experience."
Bowling is working with several potential buyers of her property, but she's cautious about a potential sale. "I've seen a deal fall apart with just four hours to closing time," she said.
Contact Bob Quick at 986-3011 or email@example.com.
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Santa Fe New Mexican
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