Wednesday October 7, 2020
By Andrew Ward
The bud and breakfast concept has slowly but surely gained traction across several United States markets. The 420 friendly lodging space requires significant growth and maturation, as well as time to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite its modest positioning today, several in the cannabis space believe the sector could soon boom.
The Early Cannabis Lodging Scene
Interest in marijuana-friendly lodging began when Colorado first opened its rec market in 2014, without establishing social use venues. As each state passes cannabis reform, the same issue has popped up every time.
Solutions catering to the growing market, namely booking, came online as well. PotGuide was among the first early adopters in establishing online bookings for cannabis-friendly lodging, and while some states have only a few listings, interest has been sustained throughout the time we’ve been hosting lodgings.
Since the early days of legalization, interest in cannabis-friendly lodging has continued to trend upwards; even some hotels have entered the space (though in primarily cautious form). While not explicitly mentioning cannabis in many policies, a growing number of popular hotel lines appear to be relaxing their approach to smoking as long as guests keep consumption discreet.
Consistently, bud and breakfasts and tourism in general are some of the first things consumers ask about when new states pass legalization. Yet, few hospitality offerings have capitalized on the opportunity, and small success stories aside, the industry is still awaiting a tipping point of popularity. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has descended upon the world and put the future of the industry in question, just as newer lodgings were pushing to be the first to break through the barrier.
Cannabis-Friendly Lodging Progress Stunted By COVID-19
One such cannabis-friendly rental in operation is Detroit’s The Copperhouse. Led by Jess Jackson and her wife, the venture launched in January 2020. The space doubles as Jackson’s home with her wife and pets, giving the destination a cozy, family- and pet-friendly shared space atmosphere.
Their bud and breakfast originated in February 2019, when the couple would host gatherings and industry events out of the space. By January 2020, the home began offering guests a place to stay overnight, listing the rooms on cannabis lodging sites as well as AirBNB. The duo hit their goal of booking all the rooms each weekend after launching. "We were doing really well, then COVID came," said Jackson, detailing the March halt after a successful early run.
Vacation-rental data firm AirDNA, has reported that rentals dropped by almost half in March, from 547,000 rentals in the US down to 234,000. In an industry that’s still finding its legs, such a blow could be a serious setback.
What 420 Friendly Lodging May Look Like Post-COVID-19
Hospitality across the industry is reeling after the pandemic shutdown. Many lodgings remain closed or are just coming back online. That said, interest appears to be coming back online as well. Late May 2020 data from TripAdvisor revealed that consumers are searching for travel bookings once again. With that renewed interest, we may be receiving our first glimpses into the bud and breakfast industry's future as venues begin to reopen around the world.
Industry trends are seeing AirBNB and similar home-sharing services doing better than traditional hotels during the pandemic (as USA Today reported). The reasons are likely numerous, but large contributing factors seem to include the ability to avoid other people. Rental guests can make their own food in kitchens (avoiding risky restaurants and stores) and it is easier to avoid shared spaces (like hotel elevators, hallways and lobbies).
However, though people may be clamoring to return to traveling, the hospitality industry will not be what it once was for some time. Noticeable changes expected include a lack of regular amenities and an uptick in cleaning protocols. Afar writer Michelle Baran notes that on-site restaurants are likely to open only for takeaway service, while popular spots like the pool may be open, but with social distancing rules.
Furthermore, Baran noted that the American Hotel and Lodging Association developed a Safe Stay program to establish industry standards during the pandemic. While not all of these developments are sure to stay after the pandemic, many might become the standard for what to expect when staying away from home.
That may prove to be a boon for the bud and breakfast industry. It just so happens that a lot of the factors that improve social distancing and limit viral exposure are also ideal for cannabis-friendly lodging. Bud and breakfasts need to control and minimize smoke exposure which, by necessity, involves things like extra spacing and advanced filtration.
Bud and breakfast locations are already making pivots to stay in business. The Copperhouse started hosting events once again, beginning in June, modifying its protocols to fit current times. The first change was limiting the number of guests. “I don't think that that will ever happen again, in terms of fitting 20 people into one room,” stated Jackson. Despite the reduction in attendees, The Copperhouse has found ways to provide value to the community while adhering to social distancing rules.
Looking Ahead at the Cannabis Tourism Market
Those who spoke to PotGuide for this article recognize that bud and breakfasts make up part of a cannabis sector that is just starting to take shape. It will be setback by the pandemic for some time, but most see the space becoming a lucrative market as time progresses, the market matures, and legalization increases.
Lauren Mundell, founder and CEO of the Hi Curious app, a cannabis community platform for women, believes that inns and AirBNB type lodgings could offer a local experience, unlike other trips.
“Cannabis may only be sold in a dispensary, but most cannabis-friendly inns or BnBs have relationships with local businesses who can deliver cannabis to the location,” stated Mundell. The app founder added, “In states where delivery isn’t legal, it’s easy...go shopping and bring back some goodies to try.”
Just as with food, activities, art, and culture, selling the local experience is a trend that is unlikely to stop at cannabis.
However, those like Michael Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Massachusetts-based The Pass storefront and brand, think the market may continue to be hindered despite his wishes for it to reach his neck of the woods. "The bud and breakfast concept hasn't yet taken off here in the Berkshires, which is most likely a result from the residual stigma of prohibition," Cohen posited.
He added that those making moves in the market now might be well-positioned for the future. “There isn’t a craft, tasting, food, nature, and cannabis experience that we know of at least. It will come, and well-executed, true-believing early movers will sell out in a hurry.”
While all hospitality offerings are hurting as travel and tourism is restricted, the necessity of needing a place to rest one’s head will never fully disappear. Similarly, despite cannabis reform happening across the US and Canada, social use lounges are far from established, and travelers will still need a place to toke.
What are your thoughts on bud and breakfasts and 420 friendly lodging? Share your comments and experiences below!