CABBI InnSpire Conference Keeps B&B Innkeepers on the Cutting Edge of Online Marketing Innovations

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Travelers may seek out bed and breakfast inns to escape from the high-tech world, but increasingly, the marketing tactics for the inns are anything but low-tech. Last week, at the California Association of Bed & Breakfast Inns (CABBI) InnSpire Conference and Trade Show in San Diego, half of the seminars were devoted to topics such as mobile marketing strategies, search engine optimization, blogging, and Internet and social media tools. The 20th annual InnSpire Conference ran January 30-February 1, 2011 at the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott.

Travelers may seek out bed and breakfast inns to escape from the high-tech world, but increasingly, the marketing tactics for the inns are anything but low-tech. Last week, at the California Association of Bed & Breakfast Inns (CABBI) InnSpire Conference and Trade Show in San Diego, half of the seminars were devoted to topics such as mobile marketing strategies, search engine optimization, blogging, and Internet and social media tools. The 20th annual InnSpire Conference ran January 30-February 1, 2011 at the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott.

Unlike other segments of the hospitality industry where staffing is large enough to permit employees to focus on individual areas of expertise, bed and breakfast innkeepers wear dozens of hats, ranging from chef to gardener to housekeeper to online marketing strategist. "Keeping up with new skills related to technology can be overwhelming, but it's critical to the innkeepers' success as ever-increasing numbers of travel decisions are made online," said CABBI Program Coordinator Jenn Wheaton.

Jim and Carol Beazley have owned the Beazley House Bed & Breakfast Inn in Napa for 30 years--long before the age of websites and online reservations. They were among the 100-plus attendees at the 20th annual conference. "CABBI's InnSpire conferences have taken us from doilies to data sheets and armed us with tools we've used to lead the hospitality industry despite our small numbers and even smaller properties," said Jim Beazley. "For 20 years, the conference has gotten B&B innkeepers out of our caves and into the light of the 21st century. We've gone from hand writing confirmation letters to emails to twitter in the time it has taken hoteliers to turn on their fax machines."

Marilouise Micuda, owner of the Bed & Breakfast Inn at La Jolla, glanced about the conference room filled with baby boomers and a smattering of younger innkeepers. "CABBI's progressive workshops bridge the educational gap between the generations of innkeepers, challenging the younger 'techies' while encouraging the older 'late bloomers' to embrace the future," said Micuda.

A recent hospitality graduate from San Diego State University, Nikki Tofolo, came to the conference at the urging of her internship director. Tofolo works as a front desk clerk and blogger for a bed and breakfast inn. "I was looking for confirmation on what I'm doing right and how I can improve," said Tofolo. She said she gained insight far beyond her formal coursework.

Next year's CABBI InnSpire Conference will be held January 22-24, 2012, in Sacramento. For more information, visit http://www.innspireconference.com.

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