B&Bs For Vets: Rules of participation and ideas to make it fun in 2012
Last year when the Better Way To Stay website allowed non-members to register (for both the Kick Gas and Vets programs), we encountered a lot of difficulty. PAII staff found ourselves spending way too many hours correcting data mistakes made by innkeepers, having to erase duplicate entries, responding to password and username requests, etc. It meant taking time away from the cause at hand – to promote B&Bs and our Vets program. Thus, PAII leadership (including board, advisory council, staff, etc) showed 100% support of the idea of displaying only PAII members throughout the year on the Google maps that show on each state and province page on the Better Way to Stay web site. In laymen’s terms, if you’re a dues-paying member of PAII, you show up on the map. If your membership expires, you drop off the map. If you don’t pay dues, you don’t show up. But, we still promote associations and directories on each state or province page, which leads visitors to plenty of non-members.
However recently, as word got out that non-members won’t be displayed on the maps for the B&Bs for Vets promo, the cry went out. For this year’s B&Bs for Vets promotion, PAII decided to bend the rules mandated by its board and Better Way To Stay Team and include non-member participants on the web site, however they won’t be displayed on the map. A list of non-members, alphabetized by state and province will be maintained with links from each of the state and province pages. To read more on the background behind this rationale, click here.
Rules of Participation for B&Bs
- In order to participate, each B&B must offer one free room on Sunday, November 11, 2012 to vets.
- B&Bs may choose to include more than one room in the B&Bs for the Vets promotion. It’s up to the innkeeper. While you must offer at least one free room for your participation to be approved, you can offer discounts on additional rooms or discounts on additional nights for Vets. NOTE: Some innkeepers create either a lottery or a waiting list and wait to award rooms until closer to Veterans Day. Other innkeepers create forms which interested Vets complete, allowing the innkeeper to get more information about the vet seeking a room and then awarding rooms accordingly. This is one way to “vet the vets” and insure that deserving veterans get your free rooms.
- We suggest that innkeepers ask for some sort of ID is provided to prove vet status. Active and Retired Military will have Military cards that can be checked for validity; vets won’t have those and are harder to verify, but should have DD Form 214 as proof of military service. They can be asked for discharge papers, but those contain private information. Please note Active Military are those who are presently serving in the armed forces. Retired Military served for years and/or retired from a career in the military and veterans refer to those who served all or part of an enlisted term. Sample Military ID: Would you like to see what a retired military ID looks like, just so you know? Click here for a sample to review.
- Innkeepers are highly encouraged to take a credit card number to hold a reservation for the free room. In 2010 there was a significant problem with no-shows and the credit card hold helped to prevent this from happening in 2011. In the event of a no-show, participating veterans should know their card will be charged for the full value of the room.
- Innkeepers are responsible for posting their offers on the BetterwaytoStay.com site. They are also responsible for updating their listsing on the Better Way To Stay website when their rooms are full.
- Although participation only requires one free room, we encourage inns and B&Bs to offer as many as they can. We discourage innkeepers from making only one room free so others can be sold at a discount. The spirit of the promotion is about giving vets a free room.
PAII members can customize their offers and should communicate all aspects of that offer in their listing on www.BetterwaytoStay.com. If you are a PAII member, simply log in using the same user name and password you do for the PAII website.
If you are not a member of PAII, CLICK HERE and complete the form so information about your inn/B&B can be included on the list of non-member offers.
Rules of Participation for Active/ Retired Military and Vets
- A military ID or discharge papers are required to prove military duty and active or prior military duty will be verified.
- A credit card number is likely to be required to hold the room. The card will be charged for the full amount of one night’s stay in the event of a no-show. The room is only free if the guest shows up.
- Rooms are limited. Once they have filled at an individual inn, military and vets can try another inn, but are asked to be respectful of innkeepers if there are no rooms available.
- Know the innkeeper’s policies. Vets should be aware that not all inns and B&Bs allow children. Please be aware of the property’s guidelines and rules before making a reservation.
14 ideas to make it fun & successful
We compiled all the suggestions from innkeepers who participated inthe past for making the B&Bs for Vets campaign fun and successful. Be sure to read these suggestions and implement those that will work.
- Make sure you get all of the proper contact info, especially cell phone and email, and communicate to the vet with proper confirmation and reminders.
- Be sure to send a confirmation note explaining exactly what the inn is offering. Be specific about what is free and how additional nights are handled. Be very specific about the consequences of no-shows and cancellations.
- Have your webmaster create a form on your website where interested vets can complete information about themselves, their years of service, etc. Having more information about the vets might help to award rooms accordingly.
- Keep a waiting list with contact information once rooms are filled up, as cancellations will occur. Additionally, consider confirming 24-hours in advance with those who have been given rooms, to ensure they are coming. At that time reiterate the no-show policy in a friendly way.
- Get the details about their service so that you can thank them publicly and privately.
- Communicate a couple of times to make sure they know how important they are and that if they can’t make it that night, to let you know so that someone on the waitlist can take their place.
- Solicit additional giveaways and offers from local merchants to offer additional perks for those participating. Most innkeepers who did this found hearty participation from local merchants, attractions and restaurants.
- One innkeeper suggested inviting active duty military that were in the area to come for breakfast on Veteran’s Day if their rooms are filled. This will extend the hospitality and good will for those unable to stay.
- Many innkeepers suggested offering discounted rooms for the nights before and after the free day and/or discounts offered throughout the month/year for active military on leave.
- Have a plan in place for how to handle requests after you’re full and after the holiday. Create an additional offer you can make once your rooms are full and/or after the holiday so you won’t have to feel you’ve disappointed those you can’t accommodate. One innkeeper shared this important tip: “Be ready for lots of calls before and after Veteran’s Day. I had people calling as much as a month after the holiday wanting a freebie. Make a decision as to just what you can afford…the number of free rooms you are willing to give to a Veteran. You just can’t, as much as we would like be able to accommodate every Veteran that contacts you.”
- This is a nice opportunity to get some PR for your inn/B&B. Many innkeepers’ stories were highlighted on local and regional TV and newspapers last year. Be sure to reach out to the media to let them know what you’re doing. PAII has created a fill-in-the-blanks press release for you to use to inform the media about your offer(s).
- Additionally, take lots of photos and/or video both for use in your own blog postings (which should precede and follow this promotion) and also to share with the Better Way To Stay campaign for next year’s promotion.
- Work with other inns/B&Bs in your local area for referrals. Stay in close touch about who has rooms available and try to keep an up-to-date list, as you’ll have many anxious military and vets looking for where they can find a room.
- Be prepared for unusual requests – active military on overseas duty may ask if their spouse can come in their place and other unusual requests may occur. Think about how to respond ahead of time.
Sample Veteran ID Cards
Some innkeepers have asked to see a sample retired military ID. Here is one for your reference. Please note you can also accept active military IDs and copies of discharge papers too.
BB.Canada.com is suggesting their members accept the following forms of ID from military who are coming for the B&Bs for Vets program:
Any veteran will have this health benefit card, so it can be used as ID as they are only issues by Veteran Affairs Canada. Here are the other forms of ID that we are encouraging our B&B owners to accept:
- Any Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) Benefit Card (photo)
- DND ID card for National Defence (NDI 20)
- Record of Service Card (NDI 75)
- Discharge Certificate from any branch of the Canadian Military
- Statement of Service from any branch of the Canadian Military
- Certificate of Service (CF 54 or CF 75) from any branch of the Canadian Military.
- Valid DND Temporary ID card (NDI 10)
Here is a French and English version of the cards issued to veterans in Canada:
The Better Way to Stay campaign is considering adding a year-round promotion geared toward inns and B&Bs offering standing deals to vets. This will develop in the upcoming year.