“Any ful kno” (as Nigel Molesworth used to say) that one of the most effective ways to get an economy out of a slump is to boost exports. One way to do this is to devalue your currency and make exports cheaper (exactly what Greece, Spain etc can’t do right now). But another way is to avoid taxing the hell out of the revenues generated by whatever it is you’re exporting – regardless of whether it’s a product, or, in the case of B&Bs, a service. High taxes on UK accommodation stifle the recovery, pure and simple.
Right now, bed and breakfast owners have a rare chance to help the country in terms of both exports and domestic consumption. Staying in a B&B – especially a rural one – is often one of the most delightful experiences for visitors to the UK: it gives them an invaluable chance to experience domestic life in another country without sacrificing anything in the way of comfort and modern amenities. B&Bs are also a crucial generator of jobs and GDP in the local economies that we so desperately need to stimulate (in order to stop the UK becoming, business-wise, “London… and everywhere else.”)
There’s has been some interesting bed and breakfast-related stuff in the New York Times over the past couple of weeks. Nancy Galloway and Andre Laporte – a retired couple who run the Wedgwood Manor Country Inn (Crawford Bay, British Columbia) – took part in the newspaper’s regular “You’re The Boss” feature, which allows owners of small business to solicit advice from its huge readership.
Generating revenue of roughly $100,000 in 2012, the Wedgwood Manor Country Inn is undoubtedly successful, with its website attracting between 800 and 1,000 visits per month. It’s also listed on Canadian B&B sites like bbcanada.com and cabinrentalbc.com, at a cost of c$4,000 per annum (about 85% of their marketing budget.) None the less, Nancy felt that they could still do more and was keen to have fresh insight into her property’s web presence: “It is like having a great editor… You need someone who is looking at your work with a fresh perspective. I am too close to our site and the comments were quite helpful and we are taking many to heart.”
“I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. All these directory sites with “Gold”, “Platinum”, “Silver”, “Bronze” categories – as well as a free listing – are missing a trick. As I’m sure most people have realised, a “free” listing is worth about as much as you pay for it. So, they list you for free, then point out how few bookings you’ve got, because you have a free, low-priority listing, and press you to upgrade. Inevitably, you don’t, because you have only negative experience of their site and, as Clausewitz said: “Never reinforce failure.” I’ve got “Scoot” trying to do this with me right now.
Yvonne begins by describing the difficulties she found herself in just 3 years ago and how she overcame them: “My room occupancy rates were completely in line with ‘Europe wide industry statistics’ at 21.58% (the Europe average is 21.5% according to Bed & Breakfast.com) and I started to build up an overdraft. Then I started borrowing elsewhere to keep the ship afloat and bit by bit I edged into more and more debt.” However, by changing her strategy, she managed to stop the decline: “I started to increase massively my room occupancy rates, in fact so much so that in a year they soared from 21.58% to 37.68% a MASSIVE 74% increase.” Last year her occupancy rate hit 49.01%, which, she points out, is “almost unheard of in the B & B industry.”
In this new GUEST BLOG, Craig Stewart, co-founder of online reservations company Freetobook, share some advice on making sure that your bank isn’t ripping you off when it comes to credit card handling charges.
“I won’t make any friends in the banking industry for saying this, but here goes…
If you already have a deal which is bad or average then it’s worth shopping around now. You could save money, as your bank may be taking advantage of you.
In our latest GUEST BLOG, Sarah Murison, owner of the Two Rose Cottages B&B in Midhurst, West Sussex shares the things that keep business guests coming back to her bed and breakfast.
“Two Rose Cottages Bed and Breakfast has not been open long, and so far most of our guests have been business people: mainly, but not only, business women. I asked them why they chose us, and they told me about nine services that have turned this little bed and breakfast into a home-from-home for the business traveller.
It looks as if 2013 will be another challenging one for owners of B&Bs and other independent properties. With that in mind, we’re offering you the chance to download “Over 50 Tips to Boost Your Online Bookings”, a FREE EBOOK that… well, it does what the title suggests really, providing a whole range of advice for bed and breakfast owners on how to thrive in the modern, Internet-driven world.
It has been produced by our friends over at Freetobook and it is an invaluable, 43-page tutorial that takes you from the basics of creating a website for your bed and breakfast, to marketing yourself online in a cost-effective way and using channel management to bring in extra business from Booking.com, TripAdvisor and others.
GUEST BLOG. Lee Perkins is the Managing Director of the Small Business Division ataccountancy and CRM software specialist SAGE UK. Drawing upon his wide business experience, he offers some great advice about making your B&B dream financially sustainable.
“There’s no doubt that during the downturn, cash flow in many small business, like B&Bs, has been hit hard. People have got less money to spend and are generally less confident about spending their cash compared with a few years ago, which has often meant a negative knock-on effect for revenues, margins and sales leads.
As recently reported by the Financial Times[i], the Government’s Funding For Lending Scheme (the successor to the discredited Project Merlin) doesn’t seem to be working: “There is little evidence that households and businesses are benefiting from the new scheme, under which 13 UK banks applied for £60bn in low cost loans from the BoE. The savings from accessing cheap money could theoretically be passed on to borrowers, but there is no sign yet that lenders are doing so.”
Now, Bob Marchant, owner of the Tudor House B&B (a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence winner for 2011 and 2012) has written an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, protesting about how fundamentally meaningless the FLS is when it comes to supporting small business like bed and breakfasts. This is a matter of interest to many BandBers in similar circumstances. Here’s Bob’s letter in full…