Fairly or unfairly, the classic image of B&B owners is of people over a certain age: usually a couple who have either retired or decided to get out of the rat race. This not only underestimates how stressful B&B ownership can be, but also ignores the growing trend for people to choose it as a career much earlier in their lives. At theBandBer.com we’re always keen to challenge outmoded views of the business, so we were delighted to hear from Marin & Allison, who own the lovely Pines of Dresden B&B in Dresden, Ohio, an hour away from the state capital, Columbus.
Having met one another in Malibu, fresh out of college, Marin & Allison spent seven years travelling across large parts of the western and southern United States along with a large part of Asia. In 2006, after four years of living in Japan, they decided to return to the USA and open their B&B. I was intrigued to find out what made them choose B&B ownership as a career and what their experience of it has been like so far.
An exclusive interview with accommodation owner Caroline Cashmore about her experience of “daily deals” site, KGB Deals
We all know that the Cold War has been over (officially anyway) for more than 20 years now. But who would ever have imagined that UK hotels would be signing up with the KGB!
Allow me to explain. Regular readers of “theBandBer” will remember that a little while back we reported on the Groupon experience of Neil & Sally Taylor, owners of the Torcroft Hotel in Torquay. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to Caroline Cashmore, who owns and runs the Glazebrook Country House Hotel with her husband, David. Rather than Groupon, they decided to participate in a promotion with a similar deal-of-the-day site, called KGB Deals.
Christine Slade is an experienced “BandBer”. For the past 11 years, she has owned and run the highly praised Kiddicott Farm (ranked 2nd out of 77 Exeter B&Bs and Inns on TripAdvisor). Having started out with Yellow Pages and postcards in the windows of local shops, she has seen all the ways in which marketing a B&B has evolved over the years.
Her lovely property is set in 55 acres of glorious East Devon countryside, just 3 miles from the historic Roman Cathedral City of Exeter. All the en-suite bedrooms have rural views and the dining room overlooks the gardens and orchard. Surrounding the property, the pastures and meadows are home to deer, badger, fox and many native birds, including resident families of buzzards, sparrow hawk and kestrel.
So, the Torcroft Hotel’s Groupon campaign is now over. But last week, I caught up with Neil & Sally Taylor to find out how it was going. When we spoke, they were four days into their great Groupon adventure.
Given these tough economic times, a lot of B&B-ers have been pondering the idea of using Groupon to boost sales. But what factors do you have to consider before signing up with them? We asked Neil and Sally Taylor, who own the Torcroft Hotel in Torquay and have just started a Groupon offer right now.
Every B&B owner has an opinion about Channel 4’s “Three in a Bed” and “Four in a Bed”, whether they’ve participated in them or not. Do these shows help bed and breakfasts by offering the wider public a unique insight into the richness and diversity of the UK’s accommodation sector? Or do they sabotage property owners by misrepresenting them and confirming people’s (often inaccurate) prejudices about B&Bs? Certainly a phrase that often crops up in reviews is “car crash TV” – that special fascination you feel when someone utterly self-deluded reveals their folly in all its gruesome detail. Toe-curling stuff, but you can’t stop watching.
The rise of social media has provided B&Bs with an invaluable new channel through which to reach new customers. But it has also brought independent property owners from around the world together in an unprecedented way. For the first time in history they can share experiences and advice in an open, immediate way. They can recommend services and help one another avoid pitfalls. When things go wrong, they no longer have to suffer in silence or in isolation. Social media is making “BandBers” stronger every day. It’s also allowing important new voices to emerge on the Internet: voices that can draw upon substantial experience in the hospitality business to inform, challenge and encourage all of us to raise our game.
There’s definitely a lot of buzz right now surrounding San Francisco start-up Airbnb and the innovative way it allows accommodation owners to connect with potential customers. Since its debut in 2008, it has booked more than two million nights of lodging all over the world.
In Part 2 of our interview, I chatted to Susan about TripAdvisor, business travellers, how she became a B&B owner herself and how she supports people who already run their own property. (You can read Part 1 here.)
theBandBer: You’ve said that it took you 5 years to open a B&B from making the initial decision. Why was this?
Susan Poole: The first couple of years were spent on research: trying to find reliable information. I needed to work out what kind of revenue I had to aim for if I was going to earn a proper income and whether or not a single person could do it on her own. I was also waiting for the point when both my kids left home. The next three years were spent searching for appropriate property: one that balanced what I wanted vs what I needed to make enough money to live on.