Fry serves as president of the state B&B association
NATCHEZ — Ron Fry has taken the Mississippi Bed and Breakfast scene by storm during the past seven years, all while sheltering his own guests here in Natchez.
Ron and his wife Eleanor started the Devereaux Shields House Bed and Breakfast in 2005 and quickly turned it into a successful business.
Now Fry will look to use his expertise to advance B&B quality across the state as the newly elected president of the Bed and Breakfast Association of Mississippi.
“(The BBAM) was very helpful to us back in 2004-2005 when we first stated and now we are passing the baton to new members with aspiring B&Bs,” Fry said.
The BBAM is a trade association that provides member benefits to B&Bs across the state and also promotes improvements in Mississippi B&Bs and tourism.
Fry was elected president in January, and he said he is excited about leading Mississippi B&Bs into the future.
“I am looking forward to contributing my energy and knowledge,” he said. “We have done exceptionally well, because we took it as a serious venture. I consider Natchez the capitol of B&Bs in Mississippi, but they are only as good as the support they get.”
Fry has three major goals as president of BBAM.
First, he wants to improve the member services provided to B&Bs that are associated with BBAM.
“You don’t want to get on a train that’s not going anywhere,” he said. “We would like to expand the benefits we can offer to members.”
Second, Fry wants to increase membership in BBAM. He said approximately 60 out of the 175 B&Bs in the state are members of the organization.
Fry said the more members the organization has, the more options it can provide to state tourists looking for places to go.
“We want to encourage visitors to the state to visit Mississippi one porch at a time,” he said.
Fry said BBAM and the Mississippi Tourism Division work together to encourage tourism to the state by providing the BBAM brochure at every visitor’s center in the state. The brochure includes information on each member B&B in the state.
Finally, Fry said he wants to help Mississippi’s B&Bs better market themselves.
“We found through surveys that some people don’t use B&Bs, because they don’t realize it’s an option,” he said. “We want to get the word out that it’s a wonderful alternative to hotels.”
Fry said innkeepers must stay ahead of the curve when it comes to advertising.
“(You need to) use modern advertising and marketing methods,” he said. “You need a website, so you can be out there in today’s market.”
Fry also said its important to have memberships in a number of B&B services including, bedandbreakfast.com, tripadvisor.com and bbonline.com.
In addition to letting tourists know where the B&Bs are located, Fry also wants tourists to know what to expect at each inn.
“B&Bs greatest asset is its uniqueness, but it’s also the greatest challenge,” he said. “Guests don’t know what to expect, because B&Bs are quite different. We try to coach our members to provide things to do to promote a good guest experience.”
The BBAM inspects each member B&B annually using a detailed check list to determine if each member inn is safe, comfortable and a good representative for the state and city, Fry said.
The BBAM also provides training for innkeepers of any B&B in the state to come learn about every aspect of running a B&B.
Fry said running a quality B&B generally comes down to the basics once the guests have arrived.
“You better have a memorable guest experience,” Fry said. “You’ve done your job if you have met or exceeded expectations.”
Providing a comfortable stay with a good, full breakfast and information on the attractions of the town are important for a total guest experience, Fry said.
Fry said being able to read what his guests desire from their B&B experience is a key part of his job.
“It’s a fine line knowing what guests want and filling those needs,” he said. “Some just want to be left alone, and you have to determine what they want and satisfy that.”
Fry said innkeepers run B&Bs for a variety of different reasons and each inn has different financial goals.
“You have to decide for yourself where you are in the spectrum,” he said.
But Fry recommends B&Bs that have moneymaking aspirations join BBAM and start marketing their inns.
Fry said approximately 10 of Natchez’s B&Bs are members of BBAM. Eventually Fry hopes to have a local association for Natchez’s B&Bs that will provide similar services as the statewide association.