The Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce held a Bed and Breakfast Owner’s Round Table Discussion Forum May 30. Topics of discussion included marketing efforts, tourism, sustainability, and regulations. Bed and Breakfast owners were joined by Chamber President Liz Juffin and a panel of community leaders including Tourist Office Executive Director Arlene Gould, Mayor Lee Posey, Tourist Commission Chair and Sharpco Hotels Group Representative Lauryn Sharplin, and LA Bed and Breakfast Association board members Sherry Gomez and Janice Delerno.
One thing the Bed and Breakfast owners share concern over is the amount of things there are to do for their guests on Sundays. They said the lack of businesses that are open on Sundays impacts their chance at having repeat customers.
Posey said he was a retailer for 36 years and tried talking to some of the downtown business owners about running a skeleton crew on days when they’re usually closed. One B&B owner suggested a rotation plan, so there’s always be a few stores open each weekend. Posey said that would be a good step in the right direction.
The Tourist Office no longer opens on Sundays due to budget cuts. It does however leave brochures and maps on a table outside its office when it’s closed. One owner asked if it could plan to be open for major holidays.
Juffin said business owners are informed when large convention groups come into town in case they’d like to adjust their hours to take advantage of the increased traffic in their stores.
A pair of restaurant and B&B owners said after deciding to open their restaurant on Sundays, it’s been almost consistently as good as their Friday or Saturday nights.
Another concern is that B&B owners have been told by their guests that when they first contact the Tourist Office for accommodation information they’re told about Natchitoches’ new hotel first. “We just want a little change in the script,” he said.
Speaking of the new hotel, B&B owners are concerned that when some searches online for “Bed and Breakfasts in Natchitoches” the Chateau St. Denis is the first link in the results. The link to the boutique hotel states, “Historic Natchitoches – A Bed & Breakfast Lovers Dream.”
“It’s false advertisement,” said one B&B owner. “All our B&Bs have dropped a third in income,” said another owner.
Yet another concern was the fact that the Chateau St. Denis doesn’t charge sales tax on a $9.95 add-on fee on top of its nightly room rate. Posey said the City is getting an Attorney General opinion on the matter.
“I don’t think it’s fair personally,” he said.
Delerno said the problem seems to be that the market has become spread so thin it’s hard for everyone to make money. B&B owners have had to deep discount their rooms and go through discount sites to fill their occupancy. These sites take a cut off the top of the already discounted rate. Owners are upping their occupancy to keep their revenue.
Sharplin shared that hotels along I-49 are in the same boat as the B&Bs. The occupancy can be great, but with rates dropping, the revenue isn’t showing.
Delerno suggested the B&Bs work collectively to find ways to offer events to entertain tourists. “Everyone in the state sees Natchitoches as a bed and breakfast destination. A rising tide floats all boats,” she said.