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Smaller hotels, bed and breakfasts surviving pandemic better than larger counterparts

Posted at 11:53 AM, Dec 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-24 12:53:40-05

BENNINGTON, Neb. (KMTV) — Oft's Bed and Breakfast in Bennington has been offering stays at the historic house since 2010. After more than a decade in business, owners Gordon and Linda Mueller say 2020 has definitely presented its challenges.

“Somebody calls and wants a room, what we do is we make the reservation and then we black out the day before and the day after," Gordon said. "So instead of getting revenue from three days, we get revenue from one."

The family home has been converted to have two rooms in the main house and a large suite in the barn.

Though they’ve had to space out guests, the couple says guests are staying longer. They've seen healthcare workers seeking refuge for a few days, children wanting to be near their elderly parents and those just looking to avoid any crowds.

With no mortgage, some pensions bringing in a bit of money and only the two of them managing the bed and breakfast, the Muellers have been able to make ends meet, even after closing for about three months earlier this year.

According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, low cost and little staff have helped out a lot of smaller hotels this year.

“One, because most are limited service where they don’t have a large number of employees to begin with," said AHLA President, Chip Rogers. "Second, the cost of real estate is not going to be nearly what it is in an urban center. So your mortgage or your debt is going to be much lower.”

Still, going into the new year, the Muellers feel a bit of uncertainty of whether or not business will be back to normal.

“There are people out there that are anticipating that, ‘Hey we’re going to get back to normal,’" Gordon said. "But I think by large, most people are just still waiting to see, when are we getting vaccinated, when are the case load and the hospitals gonna lessen.”

They are thankful that the beds have stayed full, but they do miss connecting with their guests around the breakfast table.

“We offer something in that breakfast that you don’t get at a hotel," Gordon said. "How often do you sit down and actually visit over a meal?”

And as far as Christmas travelers go, the American Hotel and Lodging Association says this year, only 30% of people are expected to travel during the holiday season, compared to 70% last year.

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