Tina & Thomas Jimenez built on Hilo, Hawaii a romantically secluded bed and breakfast called The Bay House. Serenely laid out in a exquisite paradise, they built the bed and breakfast where guests have felt the warm and love that comes innkeepers who strive to give a true Hawaiian “Aloha.” Tina’s motto, she shared with me, expresses insight on how guests will have cherished memories upon the moment they arrive at their inviting bed and breakfast.
Q: How long have you been in business?
About 18 years.
Q: Why did you decide to go into innkeeping?
When I was a teenager, I would read a lot. I read a book called Hotel by Arthur Hailey. He wrote a lot of books about different industries. I was trying to think what I wanted to do in life as I was ready to go to college. It sounded not just like fun but you could work hard, make things nice for people and take care of them. My mom thought it was very broad. There were not a lot of colleges that offered a degree in hospitality. I went into the peace corp. I became a registered nurse.
When I had children, people would come visit us and I loved it. I realized I could make money while entertaining guests. This was something I had wanted to do from a long, long time.
When we moved to Hawaii, my husband, who is a surgeon, was all for my idea. We looked at property in the town of Hilo. We opened the bed and breakfast in January of 1997.
We used travel agents. We used guide books and once you got into a guide book, “you had arrived.” Soon, Google came out and organized all the searches. We needed to work with guide book s before the internet took over.
Q: What is your signature breakfast?
Everyone gets a basket for their room of banana bread, tropical fruit, omelet, and more. They can eat with their significant other. In the common area I have more of the things of what was in their basket.
Q: Where are the majority of your guests from?
Most people come from the mainland. Many people from California, Colorado, and New York. It kind of depends on whose economy is doing better. At the start of my bed and breakfast, I got a lot from Minnesota.
Guests from other countries are Australians and Germans. I am willing to check them in early knowing they come in from long flights.
Q: What’s the best thing you have done for your business?
Website. It is the window dressing. Next is TripAdvisor. That is where a lot of people look for a place to stay. It makes it easy for people to surf the web and find us. TripAdvisor has gone through some changes. Now, it is my main source now.
Two other things that helped the business were we got a credit card machine and my bookings doubled.
Next, online reservation systems came out so I didn’t have to spend so much time on the phone. I have discovered people want to book the reservation online.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Juggling all three of my children while doing the bed and breakfast. My oldest started kindergarten the year before I started the bed and breakfast. I needed to drive my children around. I did have a helper for a little while until she fell in love and moved to the mainland.
Now, my children are grown and I can completely focus and pamper my guests. I also, have hired a bookkeeper. Until, I got helpers, I didn’t realize how hard it was to do everything. I have found I can’t get mad at them if they forget to do something as I often would forget to do some things when I was responsible in doing what they are now doing for me.
Q: Biggest lesson learned in the industry?
When someone does some thing wrong just turn the other cheek.
A lot of these people have dreamnt about this for a long time. I can’t imagine telling someone there are the house rules. Very few, one in a thousand have a negative attitude. I tell my guests to call me. If they don’t tell me, I won’t know something is wrong. I will fix what is wrong or find someone who can fix it. I get right on top of it. It spills into all areas of my life. Instead of just waiting, I find out what went wrong. I have developed the confidence to find solutions without waiting for somehow the problem to resolve itself.
One time we had a super hot spell and usually we get a lot of rain so we do need an air conditioning system. A couple came in and didn’t know I don’t have air conditioning. As hotels are the only ones with air conditioning. I was happy to help them find a hotel. They are not my captives. If someone comes and this is not what they were looking for, I am happy to let them go.
Q: What motto do you live by?
Everyone that I meet is my friend until proven otherwise. I learned this from my mother in-law. She showed me a completely different way of life. Everyone was interesting to my mother in-law. She was completely non-judgmental.
Q: What is unique about your bed and breakfast?
It is ocean front and in walking distance to down town. We built the bed and breakfast ourselves. We built it as a bed and breakfast and finished it in late 1996.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to go to yoga. Now, that my children are grown, I am going to join the rotary club here. I really want to give back to this town. They have wonderful speakers and it is only one hour of service a week. I don’t want to sit around and talk. I want to be constructive and meet people in our community.
My husband still works part-time for Kaiser. He helps out here. He is my partner, right hand, and “honey do” man.
Q: Any little known facts about your lives or town?
Hilo has had a least two tsuamias that destroyed the town because of earthquakes in Chile and the another earthquake in Alaska many years ago. The people have seen a lot of tragic and have helped each other. Everyone worked together. It is an old town and people who live here will stay here. It has been more closed off than other parts of Hawaii with a lot of suspicion of strangers. It was not as touristy. People, who come here get to see what Hawaii is real like. Although, the internet is changing that. Now, there is a good blend of new and old.
Q: Any fun guest stories you want to share? Such as unique guests, crazy situations or celebrity guests.
We had a bunch of playgirl models with their promoter come stay with us.
When I first started the bed and breakfast, a lady came up in a taxi from Kona who had made a reservation by phone. She had flip flops on and was wearing socks. She had a big bruise by her ear. I called the bank to see if she had enough money. They said that she didn’t. She had gone into a parking lot of an expensive hotel and found a car that she liked. She stole the car and the person’s identification and went on a high speed chase with the police. She hit the steering wheel which is how she got the bruise. Unfortunately, they didn’t press charge within twenty four hours so she was let go. She belonged to a group of thieves who called here as they knew exactly where she was and pick her up quickly when she realized we was “on to her”.
Q: Do you have helpful innkeeping tips you would like to share?
Everyone is a friend. Open the door with a smile and open arms. Guests have traveled very far on an airplane to come to Hawaii.
Did You Know?
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is found in Hawaii County with Hilo being the nearest town. Studies in this volcano active park give scientists evidence on how the Hawaiian Islands came to be. It has one of the most of active volcanoes in the world called Kilauea. Volcanic eruptions which have occurring since June of this year have caused tremendous problems for the people there including when the lava hardens, it is almost impossible to break through it. This very day, lava is flowing very close to the Pahoa marketplace.