What does it really take to attract Millennials to a bed and breakfast? The generation, born between 1980-2000 (currently ranging in age between 20-35), makes up 24% of the U.S. population; on par with Baby Boomers. In other words, the 77 million Millennials that are out there, are the clients of the future. Bed & Brunch pr talks with Linda Wolf, who runs Made INN Vermont in Burlington, and attracts travelers of all ages, including this coveted group.
How have you used social media to attract Millennials to your inn?
We haven’t devoted as much time and energy to social media as we plan to. We’ve hosted a Yelp event, and our guests have been great about tweeting, posting comments on Facebook, and all the review sites.
Your website has a very cool, hip, yet savvy/local feel…even the font is unusual. What were your main goals with the website?
The website is still a work in progress, but we wanted it to project a sense of fun, our uniqueness, that we aren’t “old-fashioned” and stuffy, and we wanted it to be informative – about the inn and our policies, as well as promoting our local area and all the recreation, fine dining, and entertainment possibilities that the Burlington area offers. We thought long and hard about how we could create an enjoyable look and atmosphere. I’m here all the time, this is my home, and attracting the right guests is important.
You purposely call out lace doilies and oatmeal as a departure from what you do. What else is different about your inn?
We’re not conventional, we’re hip, we’re eclectic and quirky, we like mixing the old and the new, antiques contrasted with contemporary art – and that translates to the room design, the décor, our breakfast menus. Our guests tend to be younger, or at least young-at-heart. I think we reflect the local vibe – Burlington is Vermont’s largest, most metropolitan city and on many Top Ten lists. We draw visitors from all over the country and the world. We have an international airport. Our inn has been featured in international media coverage and for guests looking for a different experience beyond the typical “quaint” B&B experience. I think they appreciate our spirit and essence. I believe our particular “brand” has been well-appreciated, because we’ve been honored with some significant industry awards since we opened.
How did you come up with the items you would put in that “our story” section?
Well the history and the timeline of the inn on our website, while written from a humorous perspective, is also the truth: it took far longer, and much more financial investment than we anticipated. But the end result was worth it. We’re the smallest B&B in town, but the highest rated. And this being a historic property, we had every intention of restoring and protecting the architectural integrity, from the gorgeous woodwork, to the high ceilings and distinctive windows. When we put together the “our story” section we thought about what was special and different from most other inns. We have a chalkboard wall in each guestroom, our vinyl records, lights that change color under the beds, antique chandeliers, vintage toys and collectibles.
You mention in-house sangria. Is that a family recipe? How did that come about? What about the Organic weekend mimosas?
Both are my personal recipes. We are licensed to serve wine and beer only, and we exclusively serve The Alchemist’s award-winning IPAs “Heady Topper” and “Focal Banger.” They can be nearly impossible to obtain in other parts of the country and some guests have told us about the exorbitant prices they’ve paid to get them where they live. As far as the sangria, I add some citrus to it and people love it. I’m always trying to come up with a perfect wine cocktail that works within our licensing. On weekends, with breakfast, we serve mimosas made with fresh organic orange juice and we procure produce, dairy products, maple-cured bacon, honey, and some baked goods from local suppliers and farms.
What have you learned about marketing to Millennials?
My daughter and many of my staff since we opened are Millennials, so of course we recognize they are smart and savvy. They are also “green,” socially conscious, not “flashy,” they appreciate good value and locally sourced products. That all very much describes Vermont and especially Burlington. They are also social-media connected and Millennials draw Millennials…word spreads. Burlington has a major university and university medical center as well as five other colleges and technical schools in the immediate area. It has a thriving nightlife, fine dining, all kinds of summer and winter recreation, gorgeous scenery, and just our downtown pedestrian marketplace, which is only a short walk from our inn, draws over a million visitors per year. At Made INN Vermont, we’re emphasizing an experience. People enjoy coming into this unique space, having games, artwork, and vinyl, things to play with. We also have a 24/7 coffee station; Millennials like their independence. My generation likes being served. These younger guests like doing things for themselves and they like bringing their fur kids (their dogs), and we are the only dog-friendly Bed & Breakfast in the Burlington area. We also welcome children of any age. And I must mention our very sweet, 19 yr.-old inn kitty “Cutie Catie.” She’s our last surviving feline and I think a B&B must have a friendly kitty.
Do you try to mainly get Millennials or are they one of the groups you strive to bring in?
I never thought in terms of Millennials when I first came up with the concept for the inn. But I naturally have a youthful design concept. I wouldn’t say that I was specifically targeting one age group. We probably get an equal amount of Baby Boomers. Many of our guests are from the LGBT community. We have a good many guests with young children, and as mentioned, dog owners. We also attract creative, artsy, musical guests, a lot of professionals and academics, and we’re also a favorite of Canadians coming across the lake from Quebec, or travelers stopping in Burlington first before going on to Montreal, or simply touring New England.
We provide a staycation from the norm, and even draw some guests who live in the area. We get a lot of honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries and birthdays. We find that Millennials are looking for good value and we are all inclusive, we don’t have any added or hidden price extras. We start with a full continental breakfast while we prepare the hot breakfast. Guests can snack on local fruits, granolas, yogurts — all made in Vermont. We cook each breakfast to order and have a different menu every day though there are some staples, like maple bacon, country potatoes, fresh farm,eggs any style you like, and a long list of made in Vermont Cabot cheeses. Guests can come downstairs in their robes if they want ,or we can deliver breakfast to your room. We’re flexible, it’s about giving guests good, individual experiences.
I notice guests get to choose the style of bathroom when they check in. Is that always decided on-the-spot?
Guests must book one of our four distinctive rooms and then when they check-in, they have a choice of private bathrooms that are only a few steps from the guest rooms. Two of the baths have old-fashioned claw foot bathtubs with rainfall showers, two of the baths have walk-in showers. We try to accommodate special requests for either type of bathroom in advance when we can. The inn is a split-level Victorian, so private baths are off the first landing, then three steps up to the second-floor guest rooms. Each bathroom is private, you have your own key and it’s your own private bathroom, you’re not sharing it with anyone but it is separate from the room.
Do you think it’s important to have a mobile version of your website?
Everyone appears to be using their smartphones to find everything these days. Our website is mobile friendly.
What’s your experience with the Millennial travelers to your inn?
We love our guests and they appreciate us. Many of them are repeat guests and we offer them a discount. If anything, we’ve experienced their individuality. But if I had to generalize – true, Millennials may not to be as frugal as their parents’ generation, but they are still cost-conscious. They are looking for good value. They are pursuing their careers, paying off student loans, saving for a mortgage, etc. A great many of our guests are coming to celebrate a honeymoon, anniversary, birthday, or other special occasion. We always surprise them with little touches like special helium balloons and mini-cupcakes, perhaps champagne – just a little something extra. They appreciate that and I’m certain many of them have planned ahead and budgeted for their special celebration.
In your opinion, what are the top 3 things Millennials really want from their lodging?
For starters, they want a clean, comfortable, and relaxing place. I’m sure many of them lead busy professional and personal lives, and they’re looking for a “great escape.” Of course they want media, so we offer free WiFi, on-demand premium cable channels, and an absolute guest favorite: we have a record player in every guest room and a selection of vinyl throughout the inn. We even have under-bed LED lighting. And half of a B&B experience is, of course, breakfast. Our locally-sourced breakfasts are always complimented, and compared to the price of breakfast or brunch in a downtown restaurant, that definitely adds good value to their stay.
What types of activities are they coming to do in the area? Do you play up or package to those?
Every type of summer or winter sport or activity is offered in Burlington and the Lake Champlain area. We have popular attractions like VT Teddy Bear factory tours, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory tours, Shelburne Museum, Shelburne Farms – the list is long and diverse. We have a page on our website devoted to all the activities and sites of interest. We’ve arranged some discounts with local businesses for our guests. It is impossible to be bored in Burlington.
What might you suggest to a fellow innkeeper looking to attract more Millennials to their property?
I’m not going to suggest that our way works for every property and innkeeper – we’ve definitely found our niche and an appreciative guest cohort – I would only suggest to innkeepers: don’t be “old fashioned” and “stuffy” – lighten up, interject a bit of fun and unusual touches into the B&B experience. And if they can, welcome dogs!
We grew our style out of Burlington finds and started reclaiming, refurbishing, redesigning, and creating a living organic presentation, less over-the-top designer style, less everything perfect and chic; yet everything is welcoming, interactive, and still stylish, just a different kind of urban-downtown chic. The INN started out of my daughter’s, Shelly Voorhees, original concept and idea of ”Mom – let’s buy this old mansion and create an inn.” She is an incredible creator and artist, and up until recently it was mostly her art adorning the INN. Werecently installed new artworks, very modern, fitting with our “hip” contemporary styling within our historic framework.
Made INN Vermont B&B offers an authentic urban hospitality, different from a typical country inn. We offer guests a ”home away from home,” a place they look forward to getting away to for decompressing. With our intentions to provide locally sustained and prepared good food, good service, and genuinely good design, we think we have created a very special historic inn in Burlington.
Our Trademark is “Come for the Design. Stay for the Experience” and that is what we work toward doing here – creating happy memories and good experiences.