Staying at a high standard Bed & Breakfast

Blog by Terry Richmeier & Manzar Lari

 

When planning a trip to Boquete, Panama, or any other place in the world one has many options in choosing a place to stay. For some of us it’s important to have a pool, others a serene space all their own is critical, and still others may have their own quirky demands! That’s why not all “high standard” Bed & Breakfasts and Inns are created equal. Although one thing that these places do have in common is that they are properly licensed, follow strict health codes, and all the other legal requirements of the country they are located in. This “standards of operation” help insure that the guests receive the best levels of service and accommodations and can be rest assured that the facility is functioning in a legal and responsible capacity.

 

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Along with the many choices of Hotels, Motels, Inns and Bed and Breakfasts available, finding the one just right for you can be quite a process. Do you do a “Google” search and go directly to the top websites on the first or second page? Do you use the same hotel search as you used in the past because you understand how that one works? Or do you go straight to “TripAdvisor” to see the top rated places to stay? The options are endless and can seem overwhelming!

In addition to the more traditional accommodations like hotels, Inns and Bed & Breakfasts, recently several websites have come out that offer short-term stays in private homes. Such websites are VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner), Airbnb.com (Air Bed and Breakfast), and FlipKey.com to name a few. With so many choices, how does one make a good decision?

With the new “Private Stay” accommodations and the websites that are used to advertise these places, we wanted to share with you some things you may want to consider as a savvy traveler so that you have the best vacation experience possible. You can then compare these private accommodations with other types of accommodations such as Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and Hotels.

When considering staying in someone’s personal home you may want to think about the following:

1. Are you safe?

 Many private residents may not have a proper fire alarm system. Several may not have an evacuation procedure or an emergency plan should you need urgent help. Many times there are no security cameras and the neighborhood hoodlums know this and may intend to harm you and your vehicle given the opportunity.

 Is there a safe mounted into the wall of the place that you are staying? Often time passports and expensive jewelry can have a way of disappearing from the rooms. This may cause unnecessary problems for you and robbing you of your peace-of-mind. The process to file a police report and filing to re-create your passport can be really daunting.

Is the foundation and structure of the establishment you are staying at strong and stable? Homes often times can have decay that has happened over the years, creating an unsafe environment for your stay. This can happen when places don’t follow the strict regulations to operate as a business. Many times these issues are not known by the owner as there are no regular inspections.

 

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2. Sanitary conditions?

 

Is the kitchen clean and sanitized? With bacteria all around us, it’s very easy to get sick from a piece of meat that was incorrectly stored or an egg that was not properly cleaned off the counter top and created a contamination. Accommodations that have gone through the process of being certified by the department of health are frequently reviewed for health and sanitation and can offer you a peace of mind.Have your bed linens been washed and disinfected? This seems to be a no-brainer item that you would really not think you would have to worry about. The truth is that bacteria can live within sheets that are not properly disinfected and our research shows that some owners try to save money by fluffing the sheets instead of washing them and remaking the bed. Poor housekeeping and shabby conditions of the home that you are staying in should be researched by reading the reviews of the place you are staying at.

 

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3. Is the Bed & Breakfast operating legally?

Each country has its own laws about legal operations of Bed & Breakfasts. In Panama, it is important that the Bed & Breakfast is registered with the Tourism Authority, has legal permits to operate as a Bed & Breakfast, has “Aviso de Operacion” (business license), has had Department of Health certification and, in addition, each individual has to have valid green and white health cards in order to cook and serve food respectively. In order to keep up with the Health Department certification, regular fumigation and maintenance of the facility is also crucial. Since the facility is functioning as a commercial business, proper smoke detectors in each room and fire extinguishers in designated areas are some of the requirements from the “Bomberos” (Fire Department). In addition, a Panama government “Factura” machine has to be installed and proper reporting of taxes for each of the sales has to be logged into the machine daily. These sales taxes have to be filed (and paid) no later than the 15th of the subsequent month to the government.

The above information includes the main requirements to function as a Bed & Breakfast in Panama. How do Panama businesses fare compared to similar U.S. businesses? In our research, this is what we have found:

Regulations regarding Guest Houses and Bed & Breakfasts and even room rentals by owners have standards that must be upheld in the U.S. However, most other countries do not have any regulations that can be enforced upon your behalf. Here is an article on Madison WI to allow room rentals with required regulations: http://reason.com/blog/2013/10/31/madison-wi-votes-to-allow-airbnb-room-re

In one other article, these same concerns are talked about and advice to help you make the best decision for your needs. http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/travelers-ed/airbnb-and-beyond-tips-for-safe-legal-vacation-rentals

 

In Panama, room rentals and short term rentals effect the entire country as there are no taxes paid by the private room rentals and parties. Our research shows that in Panama private properties cannot be rented for fewer than 90-day rentals. Short-term rentals are only allowed for Bed & Breakfasts, Hostals, Inn and Hotels that have proper permits and licensing to do so. Not following these regulations essentially adversely effects tourism in a big way. Not only does it affect legitimate businesses monetarily, the government is robbed of a chance to rightfully collect taxes and fees on these services. Fewer tax dollars means lower level maintenance as we will watch roads continue to decay and become unsafe for travel, there will be decrease in police and government officials on the payroll.  Without the fire and safety inspections, the life of the tourist can be greatly at risk. In 2009 Panama made it Illegal for private residences to rent short term in Panama. Here is an article from “PanamaGuide.com” that was written by Don Winner:

“On 13 August 2009 Panama’s new Administrator General of the Tourism Authority of Panama issued Resolution Number 52, effectively making it illegal for anyone other than a hotel to rent out private property, apartment or house, for a term of 90 days or less. Their reasoning is that this activity of short-term private rentals of apartments is in effect an unfair business practice, and that these people are operating “on the margins of the law.” The Director of the Tourist Authority, Salomon Shamah, feels people who offer their privately owned homes or apartment for short term rentals are in fact acting as hotels, but they are not paying the same 10% tax as required by the hotels, nor are they subject to the same standards of fire and safety inspections as the hotels. The resolution is clear – this activity is now prohibited in Panama”. (For the full article, please check out PanamaGuide.com)

Here at Casa de Montaña we have done whatever we can to set-up and operate as a legitimate Bed & Breakfast. We want our guests to have a peace-of-mind when they stay with us that we have done our best to meet and exceed the standards set by the local authorities and governing bodies to insure an enjoyable stay for our guests. Hope to see you soon at Casa de Montaña!

 

 

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