Lack of Color: The Booming Bed & Breakfast Industry’s Lost Diversity

Only 1% of 30,000 establishments nationwide are African-American owned

Magnolia House, Hampton Virginia

Why is that?

Edwards: I’m not sure, but when we first got in, we recognized that part of our duty was to be constantly educating African Americans especially about what bed and breakfasts’ actually are.

Lee Henderson Johnson: It’s about location, location, location, and property ownership. There are too few owners of color of bed and breakfast type properties and a lot of times these properties are extremely expensive.

Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes: Issues of privacy. This a business run out of your home. A lot of times African American families aren’t comfortable opening up their homes to strangers.

Greenwood: If we look at the industry today, it’s not an easy industry to enter financially. And I think that’s the biggest obstacle. Because you first have to acquire the property. And you are acquiring property in areas where people want to travel to. So it should be around a popular community or area. And in most cases B&B’s are distinctive properties. So now you’re buying a premium piece of property in a highly desirable area. So that could be a barrier right there in terms of trying to get the financing. You’re not even sure if there is redlining still out there. Or if African Americans are having a harder time getting bank loans. But I think that’s probably the first thing to look at.

Mell Monroe: It’s not a hard license to get assuming you have a clean plate and you own a house that is close to a landmark or has some attractions. It’s not like there is an organization that was formed and blacks are excluded from it. Anybody who wants to open a B&B can.

So do black-owned B&B’s predominantly cater or market to black guests?

Edwards: My guests are from all walks of life. I’m very quick to tell you that if I had to depend on my people for my income, I would be broke and out of business right now.  While I can’t tell you exact numbers on diversity in other inns, I do know that we get a lot of first-time black B&B goers and they tell me that they have never had a B&B experience before and would prefer to have it with someone who looked like them. Especially so they wouldn’t feel intimidated if they felt like they had to ask questions about how certain things are done or how to conduct themselves at an inn.

Greenwood: I definitely feel that blacks have an affinity for trying to patronize black-owned properties because their interests might be better catered to. By that I mean if you’re coming to a place where you don’t have to worry that the person opening the door is going to have a look of shock on their face. There’s also the likelihood of other guests of color being there who you can bond with and share experiences. I think that as a people we take pride in supporting one another. A large percentage of my guests are African American, but I attract others because if you offer quality products everybody is attracted to that.

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