Hawaii Island is home to most of the 192 bed and breakfasts legally operating in the state, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority’s 2012 Visitor Plant Inventory data.
With 88 properties comprising 383 units, the Big Island accounts for 45.8 percent and 55.9 percent of the state’s B&B accommodations, respectively, according to the data. Maui accounts for approximately 23 percent of the properties statewide, Kauai 14 percent, Oahu 16 percent and Molokai and Lanai 0.1 percent.
George Applegate, Big Island Visitors Bureau executive director, theorized the reason why most of the B&Bs are here is Hawaii Island’s shear size. Bed and breakfasts, unlike hotels on the island, are also spread among the districts, meaning people can be closer to the activities they want to take part.
“All of the islands in Hawaii combined would fit into the Big Island two times,” he said.
Applegate added another good reason might be that people are looking for a more unique and personal experience.
“You find a lot of that when you look outside the resort areas,” he said. “It’s just a different experience that’s kind of nice.”
The number of Hawaii Island B&Bs establishments is down from 91 in 2011, 95 in 2010, 96 in 2009, but up from 83 in 2008. An analysis of a decade worth of Hawaii Tourism Authority data showed Hawaii Island had the most bed and breakfasts in 2009, shortly before the start of the Great Recession, with 96 properties.
Hawaii Island Bed and Breakfast Association President Jerry Gardner said the industry has slowly been growing over the years. Currently 40 B&Bs are members of the trade organization.
“It’s grown a little, but not significantly,” said Gardner, who operates the Arts and Orchids Bed and Breakfast in Keaau.
Nevertheless, like nearly every industry, B&Bs have felt the impacts of the Great Recession, he said.
“It hit the Kona side the hardest,” he said.
The industry’s 383 units together are also essentially the equivalent of another large hotel, said Gardner. That is particularly important for East Hawaii where there are few hotels.
“We definitely need the bed and breakfasts,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of a big hotel.”
Applegate added that the B&Bs often make up for the lack of three-, four- and five-star hotels in East Hawaii.
“The upscale bed and breakfasts are always full,” he said. “They have a long waiting list.”
According to the U.S. Census, 3,380 B&Bs were operating in the United States in 2007. The data dates to 2007 because the agency is currently completing its five-year update and includes only entities that have a payroll. The Census estimated the industry’s economic worth to be about $1.04 billion.
However, New Jersey-based Professional Association of Innkeepers International estimates the U.S. B&B industry to have an economic worth of $3.4 billion. That number is based upon the approximately 17,000 operating B&Bs and the services and products they require to serve millions of travelers, both domestic and international.
The PAII data also noted the average daily rate for a B&B was $150 with revenue to the business estimated at $58.
A scan of various B&Bs rates from around Hawaii Island ranged from about $80 to more than $450 per night. The B&Bs range from simple, rural accommodations to the full luxury experience.
A vital necessity
The B&B business is vital to Hawaii’s tourism industry because it caters to different types of travelers — those not wanting to experience the island from a resort point-of-view. In addition, other niche travel areas include the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, the owners said.
“It’s completely different,” said Darla Maberry, owner of Hawaiian Oasis Bed and Breakfast in Kailua-Kona. “A hotel is sterile, it’s impersonal. A bed and breakfast is sort of like staying with family you just haven’t met yet.”
Owning a B&B also offers the opportunity to add a personal touch, an accommodation that can make someone’s vacation even more memorable. From accommodating those who refuse to eat vegetables and the dietary needs of vegans and celiac disease sufferers to directing a visitor to a special place off the beaten path not influenced by contracts or sales goals, the owners take pride in providing their guests a unique experience.
“It’s the little things you can do. There are so many fun things you can do to give people that extra thing that you won’t get in a hotel,” said Maberry. “You do it because you want to be able to accommodate them and their special needs.”
Moreover, that type of personalization that caters to those looking for the nonhotel experience, exemplifies the need to support the B&B business as part of Hawaii’s tourism industry, said Maberry. She also expressed concern about Oahu’s B&B ban, which was enacted in 1989 and grandfathered then-active establishments, and challenged without success in 2008-09.
“It’s a niche industry and it’s a very valuable niche that the islands need to foster and support,” she said. “It brings in very particular and wonderful guests. It’s a wonderful business and it’s good for our economy.”
Noted Rainbow Plantation Bed and Breakfast owner Christian van Dyck, “It’s an extremely important part of Hawaii (’s tourism industry) to cater to tourists who are looking for this experience.”
B&Bs, like hotels, are also required to collect the 9.25 percent state Transient Accommodations Tax and submit payments to the state Department of Taxation monthly.
“It can be a hassle to do the paperwork, but you have to keep up,” Maberry said.
The Hawaii Department of Taxation said the state collected $324 million in TAT fiscal 2011-12. Hawaii Island accounted for approximately $14.2 million of the total TAT collections.
That figure, however, may be slightly skewed because the department does not keep a breakdown of the TAT by industry but rather by tax district. That means if a large property, such as a Marriot, files all of its taxes from an office based in Honolulu, the TAT will not be reflected in the Hawaii Island number.