California plays host to one of the most accomplished and emulated Bed & Breakfast Inn associations in the nation. Capturing millions of tourist dollars each year, this non-profit cooperative of inns has gained the attention of policy-making politicians, corporate partners, business leaders and… the traveling public at large.

Following is the tale of the inception, development and unparalleled success of the California Association of Bed & Breakfast Inns – CABBI.

Stepping back in time to February 1991, we find a pair of splintered Bed&Breakfast organizations residing within the Golden State. Though strides had been made to unify the then existing “north” and “south” factions, that year’s joint annual B&B conference had a dismal attendance at best.

“A big part of the problem,” recalls Don Martine, owner of The Martine Inn (Pacific Grove), “was that these organizations were run by volunteers who could only devote a small amount of time each year. It was a very ineffective way to run things.”

Martine suggested the upstart of a new, unified association that was inclusive of all B&B Inns within the state. And, of utmost importance, he wanted this new entity to be not-for-profit, member-driven and have a professional staff.

Martine’s proposal was readily accepted. Corporate Events, a Soquel event and marketing firm owned and operated by Sandy LaRuffa-Hazen, was the logical choice for professional management.

LaRuffa-Hazen readily agreed to take on the role of Executive Director. Don Martine stepped in as president. A five-member board of innkeepers was established. And CABBI was born.

Uppermost in the minds of the California innkeepers was the need for a cohesive organization that could impact legislative decisions that affected the Bed & Breakfast industry. The innkeepers also desired group services at affordable prices (insurance, credit card agreements, and the purchase of daily-use goods for the inns). Corporate partnerships were attractive, but presently unreachable. They spoke of “desperately wanting” inn-to-inn networking, education about innkeeping, and a collective way to publicize individual Bed & Breakfast Inns. And then there was the coming of the Internet – a very foreign concept to most innkeepers at that time. CABBI was designed to meet these needs.

The membership grew steadily as LaRuffa-Hazen, Martine and the Board of Directors canvassed the state. Then, the state of California asked to distribute the just published CABBI Directory of inns. “That one move by the state opened everything up,” LaRuffa-Hazen explains of the eventual 300 plus inns that gathered beneath the CABBI umbrella.

Annual CABBI conferences became a source of networking, education, inspiration… and a much needed recharging for those in the hospitality business. A legislative committee was formed and the Bed & Breakfast presence began to be felt by policy makers in Sacramento and Washington D.C. alike. The CABBI Directory increased in size and scope attracting an ever widening source of advertisers and distribution channels.

A gift certificate program was established allowing the traveling public to buy a vacation stay for family, friends and co-workers. Quarterly CABBI newsletters became a primary vehicle of communication for members.

The CABBI membership was enabled to tap into a wealth of sources for vitally needed services and products at more affordable, group rates. Then, the highly-respected association established a significant presence on the Internet with a web site: Calif-BedandBreakfast.com, later to become www.CABBI.com.

In 2002, the CABBI board wanted to embark in more agressive marketing activities to reach the traveling public. CABBI hired the Strategic Marketing Group (SMG) in July 2002 to develop a new competitive strategy and long-term marketing plan designed to increase awareness of CABBI member inns to new segments in addition to the traditional romance market. CABBI inns are now promoted as ideal venues for families, business meetings and retreats, personal getaways and other uses beyond romance. SMG has helped to implement the plan since 2002 and was responsible for transitioning the CABBI website into a portal site that more efficiently connects the potential B&B guest to the inn. SMG also created CABBI’s new positioning statement, “Experience a Room with a Different View” that is now included in every marketing initiative. Today, CABBI marketing efforts are diverse and include a monthly email newsletter, cooperative print ads, online ads, strategic partnerships and a comprehensive public relations program generating coverage throughout the state. Usage of the CABBI website has continued to increase dramatically since July 2002 as well as the direct links to CABBI member inns.

Then, in March 2005, LaRuffa-Hazen sold Corporate Events to Carl Ribaudo with the SMG based out of South Lake Tahoe, CA. Carl had met Sandy a dozen years earlier when they both had representative seats on the CALTIA board of directors. Sandy and Carl represented “niche” tourism industries – Sandy the bed & breakfast industry and Carl the Lake Tahoe ski industry. A tight professional and personal relationship was established leading to the hiring of SMG in July 2002 for the development of the new plan and marketing direction for CABBI that has resulted in increased awareness of CABBI member inns to broader markets.

Glyn Davies, a former president of the CABBI Board of Directors—and owner with wife Linda of the AAA five-diamond Simpson House (Santa Barbara)—sums up the impact of the nation’s Bed & Breakfast Inns and Innkeepers:

Travelers are often looking for a personal, retreat-like experience that can’t always be found in hotels. Inns offer a unique opportunity to step into another place and time. Creating an environment where guest can leave behind their cares and daily burdens is an essential aspect of the service we provide.

If the past dozen years illustrate CABBI’s achievements within the Bed & Breakfast industry, then the future holds unlimited possibilities for members.