One easy way to learn more about careers in the field is to read books about the field. Here are two book suggestions: How to Open and Operate a Bed & Breakfast, 9th edition, by Jan Stankus (Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press, 2011) and Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies, by Mary White (Hoboken, N.J.: For Dummies, 2009).
The PAII publishes a newsletter and books on innkeeping, holds conferences, and maintains a very informative Web site (http://www.paii.com). If there are inns in your town, interview the owners and spend a day or two with them as they perform their daily duties. The owner may even have part-time positions open for someone to assist with preparing breakfast or cleaning the rooms—employment of staff has increased in the last few years. Some bed and breakfast owners occasionally hire reliable "innsitters" to manage their inns when they're out of town.
Even a job as a motel housekeeper or desk clerk can give you experience with the responsibilities of innkeeping. Bed and breakfasts, hotels, and resorts across the country often advertise nationally for seasonal assistance. For years, high school and college students have made a little extra money working in exotic locales by dedicating their summers to full-time hotel or resort jobs. Waitstaff, poolside assistants, kitchen staff, housekeepers, and spa assistants are needed in abundance during peak tourist seasons. In some cases, you can get a paid position, and in others you may be expected to work in exchange for room and board. Even if your summer job is at a large resort rather than a small bed and breakfast, you can still develop valuable people skills and learn a lot about the travel and tourism industry.
Most of the bed and breakfasts across the country are housed in historical structures: the Victorian houses of Cape May, New Jersey; Brooklyn brownstones; a house in Illinois designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Many are furnished with antiques. As a result, bed and breakfast owners sometimes double as guides to their area's history and historic sites, but their primary work is attending to guests and maintaining the property.
As the name "bed and breakfast" suggests, a good homemade breakfast is an essential part of any inn stay. Most bed and breakfast owners start their day as early as 5 A.M. to begin preparing breakfast. After serving guests breakfast and cleaning up, there are business concerns to address, such as answering e-mail messages, calling prospective guests, and taking reservations. Once the guests have left their rooms, a bed and breakfast owner can clean the rooms and do some laundry. This may be followed by grocery shopping, bookkeeping work, preparing brochures for the mail or e-marketing, or other routine tasks. Among all the daily tasks, bed and breakfast owners must reserve some time to get to know their guests and make sure they're enjoying their stay. It's important to learn likes and dislikes, give them sightseeing suggestions, restaurant tips, and other helpful information. It is such close attention to detail that makes a bed and breakfast successful. The guests of bed and breakfasts are looking for more personal attention and warmer hospitality than they'd receive from a large hotel chain.
The owners of bed and breakfasts give up much of their privacy by allowing guests to stay in the rooms of their own homes, but they do have their houses to themselves from time to time. Some bed and breakfasts are only open during peak tourist season, and some are only open on weekends. And even those that are open year-round may often be without guests. For some owners, inconsistency in the business is not a problem; many bed and breakfasts are owned by couples and serve as a second income. While one person works at another job, the other person tends to the needs of the bed and breakfast.
The Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), a professional association for the owners of bed and breakfasts and country inns, classifies the different kinds of bed and breakfasts. A host home is considered a very small business with only a few rooms for rent. Because of its small size, the owner of a host home may not be required by law to license the business or to have government inspections. Without advertising or signs, these homes are referred to guests primarily through reservation service organizations. A bed and breakfast and bed and breakfast inn are classified as having 4 to 20 rooms (although some B&Bs have more rooms). Typical B&Bs usually have between 4 and 11 rooms, with the average being 6 rooms. They adhere to license, inspection, and zoning requirements and promote their businesses through their Web sites, brochures, print ads, and signs. A country inn is considered a bit larger, with 10 or more rooms, and it may serve one meal in addition to breakfast.