B&Bs For Vets: Rules of participation and ideas to make it fun in 2013

Any innkeeper (PAII member or not) can participate

All participating B&Bs and inns will be listed on both sections of www.betterwaytostay.com where vets can find participating properties – the Google maps on the individual state and province pages, and the area under the Vets promo page.  Vets will find B&Bs using both sections of the site.  We invested in some website programming that allows for non-PAII members to show up on the maps, normally reserved for PAII members, which is new this year.  While having members and non-members together on the site might not be the case for all Better Way to Stay promotions, thanking our vets is the spirit of this, and making it as easy for them as possible is important to us.  Once the Vets promotion is completed in November, non-member records will fall off the site.  But, we hope non-members will join PAII and remain with the association to keep your listing on Better Way to Stay permanently.  We value any innkeeper who wants to give free nights to deserving vets!

Listing your participation

All participating inns and B&Bs (both PAII members and non-members) will be listed on the Vets Promotion page. This page will go live to the public with offers from participating inns and B&Bs around September 30th, or once we have about 100 offers listed. Please read these instructions carefully.

  1. Go to http://www.betterwaytostay.com/vets-signup/.
  2. Click on the link that applies to you (either PAII member or Non-Member)
  3. If you are a PAII member your profile will automatically appear, where you will have the option to “submit a special offer” or “edit a special offer”.  No need to do anything with this form, but confirm that the profile information is correct.  From there, click submit and that’ll take you to the next screen where you can enter your offer for B&Bs for Vets. Enter the information there. NOTE: IF YOU POSTED A B&Bs FOR VETS PACKAGE LAST YEAR OR THE YEAR BEFORE, CHOOSE THE OPTION TO EDIT YOUR VETS PACKAGE, THEN MAKE CHANGES FROM THE EDIT MODE. 
  4. If you are NOT a PAII member, you will be asked to create a profile. First you will need to offer an email address and a password will be emailed to you. After you receive the password, log-in, create your profile and submit. Another screen will appear allowing you to set up your B&Bs for Vets offer.
  5. Members & Non-members, remember a few important things:
    • Be sure to complete every field in the sign-up process. If you leave one blank, your listing will not register.
    • Be sure to include http:// before your website, otherwise the listing will not be recognized.
    • If you want to include a photo, the smaller the file size,  the better. The max size for photos is 1 MB, but we suggest using a smaller, low-res size for easy loading.

Your listing will not appear immediately.  A PAII administrator must approve your listing before it can go live.  Approvals happen once or more per day.

Vets gather to pose on the porch at the Gables B&B in Cheboygan, MI

Vets gather to pose on the porch at the Gables B&B in Cheboygan, MI

Rules of Participation for B&Bs

  • In order to participate, each B&B must offer at least one free room on Sunday, November 10, 2012 or Monday, November 11, 2013.  The free room must have no restrictions, i.e. offers of buy one night, get one night free will NOT be approved.
  • 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? Scroll down  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 and 2012.  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.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Get the details about their service so that you can thank them publicly and privately.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.”
  11. 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).
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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: