rural inn

How to Start an Inn Business: Steps and Tips for Beginners

Inns are renowned accommodation establishments that have been around for centuries, dating back to the Roman Empire and horseback traveling times. Nevertheless, despite it’s long history, inns are not a thing of the past, and their popularity is still trending.

Opening an inn will offer your guests a unique experience they can’t get at a regular vacation rental or hotel. Inns are here to stay, so let’s look into how to start your own inn business today.

What is an inn?

Inns are establishments where travelers can find a room for the night. They usually include some sort of restaurant that serves food and drink too. In the times of horse travel, they also provided accommodation for horses. Typically, inns are located in the countryside or along a highway, but nowadays, they can be found almost anywhere.

Difference between a hotel and an inn

In modern times, the word “hotel” and “inn” are often used interchangeably; for example, Holiday Inn is a hotel chain that uses the word “inn” for branding purposes. However, historically, there are some differences between the two establishments.

oldest inn in england


According to the traditional definition, hotels are establishments in a city or downtown area that offer extensive amenities, such as pool, spa, or gym options, and luxury services like room service. Inns, on the other hand, tend to be smaller and quaint establishments that offer lodging and food in rural areas. It’s not uncommon to see single-building inns with a limited selection of rooms and services.

Inns also usually have a cheaper price per night than hotels and are considered less luxurious. Most inns also do not have the star rating system that hotels use. The only ratings available for inns are on listing and travel sites.

How to open an inn? Follow these easy steps!

Opening an inn can be pretty similar to opening a vacation home, but let’s go over the steps so you can make sure to start your inn journey on the right foot.

Conduct research

As with every business venture, you should start your process with research.

Learn about the inn business to ensure that it’s an industry you want to enter, investigate the area to investigate whether it’s popular among travelers, calculate how much money you could make, and check if the competition will allow you to have a chance to enter the market.

researching inns

You want to operate an inn that can offer something that sets you apart from your competitors and make guests choose your business instead of a standard hotel or vacation rental home.

Remember, just because there are hotels in the area doesn’t mean an inn can’t thrive in the same location. But to do so, you need to differentiate yourself and understand your target audience’s needs.

Acquiring or starting your own business

To enter the inn business, you will have to either purchase your own property to turn it into an inn or acquire an already established business.

Starting your own business will have cheaper initial costs than acquiring a set inn business, but there might be a lot of work and money that needs to go into fixing the place up and getting it ready to welcome guests. However, the more strategic renovations you do, the more valuable your inn will become to guests so you can charge a higher daily rate.

Acquiring an established inn business has the advantages of the space already being ready for customers to stay in and having guests already familiar with the location. Still, it will cost you a lot of money to buy out the business from its previous owner.

Both methods of starting your inn business will provide you with the opportunity for success; it just depends on what is available in your area and how much money you want to spend upfront.

Customize the space

Whether you decide to build your own business or acquire one, you might have to redo the space to fit customer needs. This can mean remodeling the bedroom or bathrooms to raise the value to guests or even renovating the whole place to start welcoming customers.

customizing space

With every renovation you perform, be sure to add value to your inn. The aesthetics count, of course, but the look and decorations of your inn are only as valuable as your guests make it out to be. You will only make money if you receive bookings, so keep your guests in mind when customizing the space.

Get licenses and permits

When starting your business, you will likely need a business license and other permits depending on your plan with the inn.

Check with your local government for the necessary documentation to run an inn. Different governments might have permits for inns specifically or group inns with hotels. The best way to find out which licenses and permits you need for your area is by doing your research.

Welcome customers

Once your inn is fixed and ready to receive guests, you should start advertising your rooms on various listing sites, such as Airbnb, Vrbo, or Make sure to take quality pictures for your listing to wow guests through the front door.

Getting good reviews and utilizing SEO is essential to show up at the top of the results page. You should also list all the different amenities you offer and be sure to sell the homeyness of your inn and what sets you apart from competitors. You can even consider taking the next step and creating your own vacation rental website to start getting direct bookings.

Best beginner tips for running an inn

You’ve got your inn set up and running, but learning the ropes of being the perfect innkeeper for your guests can take some time. Here are some tips on how to run a successful inn business.

running an inn


Think of the small things

As with any type of host, any small gesture you make for your guests makes a difference. The inn and hosting business is all about the people and the customer at the end of the day. If there’s anything you can do to make someone feel more at home, then you should do it.

That can mean providing a special breakfast for your guests or having a gift basket ready in each room for check-in. Providing excellent customer service, being there for your guests when they need something, and accommodating their requests go a long way.

You don’t need big performances to earn a guest’s respect or gratitude. Your inn is your business, and you know best how to be an excellent host and innkeeper for your guests.

Play into the family factor

If a traveler wanted a standard and formal stay, they would probably stay at a hotel. If they choose to stay at your inn, they want an experience that a corporate hotel can’t offer. Inns usually attract families and couples either looking to escape their everyday life or those traveling through the area.

It’s also very common for innkeepers to live on or around the property. Running an inn can be a family affair as your spouse, children, and any other relative can get involved in the business. Inns provide a family-friendly and cozy environment for travelers, and often people come to an inn for the intimate experience. Having your whole family run the inn for other families can be a great selling point to attract customers.

Get comfortable with being a handyman

Because inns are usually located in rural areas, calling someone to fix your plumbing or do minor repairs can be very costly. It would help if you learned how to do simple handiwork around the property to save money.

Of course, if something big breaks, such as a pipe bursting or your roof leaking, you can still call in an expert, but it helps a lot if an innkeeper can perform minor tweaks and fixes on the inn. This way, you can also cater to your guests immediately if something needs to be fixed during their stay.

fixing a window hinge

Be ready to run a 24-hour business

Being an innkeeper is a 24-hour job. Most innkeepers live either on or near the property because you never know when a guest will pull up to your inn. Of course, with online reservations, you will have an idea of when most of your guests will arrive, but you could always get a midnight traveler looking for an available room.

If you are located in a rural area, you might be the only option for a bed to sleep in for miles, so weary travelers can be expected at any time of day or night. Being an innkeeper means always being alert and ready for possible guests to arrive.

Why you should start an inn business

Even though owning and operating an inn can make you a profit, it’s not a business you want to get into if you want to get rich fast. Like most vacation rentals, inns are highly seasonal establishments that take a lot of effort to run.

But if you love hosting, all your hard work will feel like nothing because inns allow hosts to provide their guests with a very hands-on and homey experience that you just don’t get with other rental types, apart from maybe bed & breakfasts.

Getting into the inn business might not be the easiest task, but who doesn’t love a good challenge? You’ll be faced with an exciting project that has the potential to greatly supplement your earnings if done correctly. Wondering how much? Get an estimate with our short-term rental income calculator.

If you love hosting and have an entrepreneurial spirit, owning and operating an inn will be sure to pay off through the experience.

What do you think about this article?

5/5 - (3 votes)
Show Comments (0)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ready to take more direct bookings?

No set up fees, no credit card details, no obligation. Try Lodgify free for 7 days.