Thursday, February 25, 2016

Unique Budget Accommodations in Canada - What Travellers are Looking For

I just spent the last 2 months travelling across Canada and had the opportunity to stay at a variety of different budget accommodations. As a well-seasoned traveller I’m looking to get the best bang for my buck, but also have a certain level of comfort and experience something unique that has a story to it. So I wanted to share some things that really stood out for me during my travels – this is written for those of you wanting to start your own tourism accommodation business in Canada and be able to have something both competitive and unique.

A little goes a long way… I was travelling with my dog and partner so we were looking for a comfortable place to stay that was dog friendly. This became a challenge in some places and we had some bad experiences being forced to stay in smoking rooms because we were travelling with a pet – which led to an uncomfortable restless night’s sleep. One place that really stood out was in Squamish, BC – we booked a budget Hotel that was located in town in a historic building. We were usually used to getting a basic typical room with standard bed, generic comforter and sheets, and the cheesy photo of some sort of outdoor scenery that was probably purchased at IKEA. Basically it was evident that they purchased the cheapest products possible. However this particular place in Squamish had a different feel to it.

Upon check-in we were greeted by friendly front desk staff that were helpful with tips on what to see in the area and they were attentive to what we were hoping to get out of our stay. They were also the first pet friendly place that provided us with a nice dog blanket and food dishes so even our dog had special treatment instead of being treated as a nuisance. The rooms were small but each room had a different colour scheme and feel to it – you could tell that love and care was put into the place. They also had some added extras like a DVD player with a variety of movies to borrow from, some wine glasses to use, organic beautifully smelling toiletries – that were also available for purchase at the front desk, and organic coffee and teas. For a budget hotel they really put a lot of thought and care into making their guests comfortable and it stood out as one of my favourite places.

Cozy, Eco-friendly comforts… In BC there were a variety of destinations that really pushed for promoting local community and supporting locally grown produce and products. We stayed just outside of Nelson BC and had the opportunity to stay in an Eco-chic self sufficient cabin through a connection that we had with a close friend of ours. This particular cabin will now be available through Air BNB. The cabin was previously a chicken house that was redesigned into a cozy wooden cabin. It was built with local sustainable wood and can run somewhat ‘off the grid’ with the goal of being completely off the grid. There was a compost toilet, but it was a more sophisticated system that used minimal water and required minimal maintenance. So that said, the washroom was beautifully designed eco friendly system – you had all the comforts in a washroom like a spacious hot shower, and a flush toilet, but it was a sustainable design.  The cabin was heated with a wood burning stove and had a  gas powered modern kitchen. We were only going to stay there for one night but ended up staying for 3!

Air BNB provides a great options for those wanting to rent out their home, a guest suite, a cabin, or a room at their place for extra income. It’s a self-regulating system that is based on guest reviews so it is up to the individual owner to provide visitors with great service and value. A bad review can make or break your business.

Getting close with nature… One of the main draws that attract people to explore Canada is to get close and personal with nature. So by providing a peaceful place to stay that is surrounded by nature can attract many people. Another place that stands out is a self-contained suite that we booked on Salt Spring Island. It was an attached loft to the owner’s house located in the middle of the forest close to hiking trails. It had a skylight so in the evening you could see the stars! We had all the comforts we needed and the owner was very nice and helpful when we had any questions.

Good quality ingredients… This is a little side bar that strays away from accommodations, but still relates. We stopped at a family run Café that was also a bed and breakfast (but we didn’t spend the night). The café was packed with people from the surrounding communities and what made it special was that they offered delicious home cooked meals for a decent price that were cooked with locally grown ingredients and made with love. There was a great story to the place as well so you felt that personal connection to it. It’s always easy to tell as a traveller when extra love and care are put into every detail at a place and we felt this place provided that.

These basic types of accommodations and cafes are huge draws for Europeans, as well as long stay domestic tourists. Most Europeans are looking for a quieter stay, close to nature, that won’t break the bank book. When you set the tone with providing comfortable unique accommodations people are inclined to stay longer, provide you with a good review, and perhaps partake in additional activities and excursions in the area that help to grow your community’s local economy.

That said I’ll recap what I have learned that make a budget type place more special and memorable for visitors:
  • A little goes a long way
  • Cozy , Eco-friendly places are the way of the future
  • Design accommodations that are surrounded by nature
  • Provide good quality home grown ingredients

For more info on how ideas for how to get started with designing tourist accommodations or a café in your community contact me at

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