The Future Of Travel: “B&B’s that appeal to the younger traveler” With Hana Pevny of Waldo Emerson Inn & Candice Georgiadice

The small independent hotelier will have no choice but to use technology to stay relevant if they want to stay competitive in today’s market. Not only with the brand hotels but also with the new offerings like stays via AirBnB. As part of my series about “exciting developments in the travel industry over the next five […]

The small independent hotelier will have no choice but to use technology to stay relevant if they want to stay competitive in today’s market. Not only with the brand hotels but also with the new offerings like stays via AirBnB.

As part of my series about “exciting developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hana Pevny has spent a lifetime travelling the world and acquiring the knowledge necessary to create an experience worthy of the most discriminating traveler. Hana was born in the former Czechoslovakia, but raised in Houston, Texas. After a successful career in the early days of the tech industry followed by a period of executive leadership in private equity and non-profits, Hana switched careers and started managing private estates. Wanderlust and a passion for fine food and luxurious surroundings have taken her to six of the world’s seven continents. Her love of travel is matched by her love of fine cuisine: Hana has a culinary degree from Leiths School of Food & Wine in London and she has worked as a private chef and culinary instructor in London, Aspen and Zakynthos. When Hana decided her next adventure would be as an innkeeper, she spent two years searching for the perfect setting to make her vision a reality before she first saw the Waldo Emerson Inn. She knew immediately that this historic home would be where she made travelers feel at home, with her imaginative attention to details, gourmet breakfasts, and delight in sharing the adventure of Kennebunkport’s many sights to see.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Looking back at my career everything I’ve done as a “job” for past 30 years has been a piece of a puzzle leading to owning an inn and being my own boss. My technology background has given me the skills and understanding of the importance of today’s digital tools for marketing and managing my business. My culinary education and estate management background has provided me with the ability to effective manage the property and delight my guests with gourmet breakfasts. Having lived in both Europe and in various parts of the US has given me the cultural understanding to relate to the various backgrounds of my guests.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One of the most interesting things to happen to me as an innkeeper is learning about the spirits that live with me in this 266 year old home. When I was renovating the property, carpenters working on site reported individually they felt someone looking over their shoulder when working. I mentioned this to a friend who’s daughter journeys to spirits in the historic homes in the area. She came on two occasions and told me we had a spirit in our basement. The inn was a safe house on the underground railroad so we assumed it was someone housing here during that period. I was asked what I wanted to do with him and I said he had free will and could leave but was always welcome to come back. Fast forward to August, we had a lovely couple staying from Nashville. In the morning, they told me something was going on in their room and they were going to reach out to their daughter, a medium. Within 48 hours I received an email from their daughter telling me the spirits in the house came to her to communicate with me. I took all this with a grain of salt but she has worked for several government agencies as a paranormal investigator so I listened with an open mind. I bought the Waldo Emerson Inn as a single owner / operator but now share my space with 5 spirits.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Shortly after I took over ownership of the inn, I had a couple check in and both had gender fluid names — Chris and Dana. I called each the wrong name for the entire weekend. Lesson learned to always verify and repeat the guest’s name!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The TV show Newhart (1982–1990) had people laughing out loud when Larry with his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl made their appearance. The Waldo Emerson Inn currently employs three Hanas. We call it Gilmore Girls meets Newhart in Maine.

I’m a baby boomer, former tech executive and London trained chef and current innkeeper of the Waldo Emerson Inn, which I run with help from my other Hanas. My goddaughter is the assistant innkeeper and she was named after me: our second Hana. And as if two of us weren’t enough, we have a third Hanna (different spelling) working at the inn as well. Guests also enjoy the multi-generational part of it: me as the middle-aged innkeeper with two very hip and very tattooed young gals helping run the inn. And we’ve added an international twist: I was born in Slovakia and raised in Texas, my goddaughter Hana was born in Germany, and our third Hanna is half Columbian. Certainly the makings of a great reality show!!!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

Our industry (the small independent hotelier in resort destinations) primarily caters to the leisure traveler yet we rarely take the time to travel ourselves. I see operators that are afraid to take time for themselves and to step away from their properties. By traveling to other destinations and other properties it provides an opportunity to gain new perspectives on enhancing your own product and experience. It’s not only a well deserved break but a great learning opportunity. See what little things are making a difference and incorporate in your own guest experience delivery. Don’t be afraid to “copy”. I try to have a “take away” from every stay.

When I was driving my car from Texas to Maine prior to the closing of my inn, I stayed a few days at a resort in Tennessee. Not only did I want a break from my cross country trip but I wanted to know what they do to make the guest experience extraordinary. While we offer two very different products in two very different parts of the country, it was the little things that mattered that I now practice in my inn operations — for example, we offer complimentary snacks — potato chips, candy, cookies, sodas, etc for all our guests. I happened to stay there on my birthday and was presented with a lovely card from the manager. While we offer enhancement celebration packages (champagne, flowers, cakes, etc), if we know someone is celebrating a birthday or anniversary we always leave a personalized card with complimentary mini french macorons.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m always grateful for my parents and their support and encouragement to strike out on my own. As immigrants they were always grateful by moving to the US to give me the opportunity to achieve my dreams. An uncertainty in communist Eastern Europe.

One particular person I’m extremely grateful for is Nancy Rogers. She was the first person I worked for in an assistant/house/estate manager position. Nancy has very high standards and knows exactly what she wants and how she wants it. She is a fabulous hostess. While in her employ I had the opportunity to experience private air travel, holidays on yachts in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and visits to her multiple homes with various levels of staff and service levels. While this certainly is a lifestyle many of us only see in the movies I learned a great deal about the importance of attention to detail. Whether it’s the placement of flowers in a guest room or making sure every amenity is available, like toothpaste and floss in the bathroom, just in case a guest forgets.

We may only be a six room inn but we pay attention to all the little details to create a luxurious stay.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

I operate a six room bed and breakfast. Staying in this type of accommodation conjures up visions of staying in your grandmother’s house. Antiquated rooms with no TV and wifi. Typically accommodations for an older traveler. We are implementing the latest technology to give today’s traveler a unique experience of staying in a historic property (in our case a 266 year old inn) but with the latest technology in communications and entertainment. We are targeting a younger traveler who wants the authentic experience without giving up their technology.

I installed Smart TVs and Amazon Echoes in all my rooms. This puts the power of in-room entertainment in the hands of the guest.

Additionally we offer, “self check in” as an option on our reservation system, which has lead to a change in how we communicate with our guests. By offering this option in a small inn, my staff and our guests are not tied to our manned check in hours of 3–6pm. We send two emails prior to a check in date but once a guest has chosen this option we switch to text to let them know how to find there room on check in day. 80% of the time this leads to concierge services such as “where do you recommend for the best lobster dinner” by text. Texting then continues to be the communication of choice during the guest stay. This provides instant response and information and provides a better guest experience.

We also use motion-detected night-lights in the toilet, which change color…and are always looking for the latest technology to enhance the guest experience without losing our historical charm and elegant whimsy.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

By using the latest technology whether it be in the room or in our communications prior to arrival, we want to enhance the guest experience by providing a high touch model and give them the control over the success of their stay. We are trying to change the perception of staying at a B&B to appeal to the younger traveler. A unique experience with the latest conveniences.

Whether having Netflix to not miss the show you’re currently binge watching to the flexibility of self check check in or concierge services. Direct communication and instant gratification via text allows for interaction with inn staff without the direct face to face interaction usually required to deliver these services.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

The small independent hotelier will have no choice but to use technology to stay relevant if they want to stay competitive in today’s market. Not only with the brand hotels but also with the new offerings like stays via AirBnB.

Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to travel?

To the traveler, the industry needs to stay on top of current technology platforms for marketing, watch the trends and platforms — instagram, snapchat, etc and migrate as needed to your audience. Use technology to communicate with your guests prior to arrival to learn their preferences — email, text, apps. Then customize the guest experience based on your knowledge to create a memorable stay to build brand loyalty.

Internally hospitality companies need to change the way they manage their business based on the very short booking cycle and competitive third party travel sites. Understand your cash flow cycle and your actual costs to determine how competitive you need to be without reducing your brand.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

My perfect vacation experience is a combination of self-catering with luxury options. I like staying in a place where I can make my own coffee and breakfast in the morning but still have the option of fine dining in the evening. I like the ability to workout followed by a day at the beach with a lazy lunch and some spa time in the late afternoon. If I’m doing a more urban vacation like Europe, I enjoy sightseeing but mostly walking aimlessly to experience the culture of the city and finding hidden gems to enjoy local cuisine. My own personal version of Parts Unknown.

Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We are doing everything possible to recycle and reduce waste in our daily operations. Specifically we send our used guest amenities (soap and shampoo) to Clean the World. Clean the World Foundation is a global health organization committed to improving the quality of life for vulnerable communities around the world. They provide sustainable resources, programming, and education focused on water, sanitation, and hygiene for all those affected by poverty, homelessness, and humanitarian or natural crises. They give discarded soap and shampoo bottles a second life in many of the countries which supply labor to the hotel industry. Albeit a small property we are delighted to participate in their program and bring cleanliness to the world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Do not be afraid to proclaim your food and dietary needs whether for medical reasons or simply by preference. Don’t be ashamed to tell us if you’re celiac or don’t like zucchini or currently on the Keto diet. As a hospitality professional, I can’t provide you the best service if I don’t know what you like or don’t like. There is nothing worse than putting down a wonderful breakfast with bacon to only be told you’re a vegetarian after the fact. As a business owner it cuts down on my expenses and food waste.

Own what you eat and don’t be afraid to let us know!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook — Waldo Emerson Inn

Instagram — Waldo Emerson Inn

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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