“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.
A torrent of stats from theBandBer.com today, all about the impact of social media and mobile on the accommodation sector. The dominant theme is that big hotel chains are investing more and more heavily in these areas. We all know that the invaluable thing about B&Bs and guest houses is the way they offer travellers a personal, human-scale experience which the chains can’t match – while frequently providing the same modern amenities at a much more reasonable price. But where the likes of Four Seasons go, other properties, of whatever size/type, tend to follow, sooner or later (think online booking and publishing reviews on websites.)
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.
A lot of statistics on subjects like online accommodation booking or the influence of social media on travel tend to hail from America, which always seems to be ahead of the UK when it comes to adopting new technology for business. However, it looks as if at least one innovation – the increase in the use of mobile devices like iPhones, Androids and iPads – is having a significant effect on the habits of British holidaymakers (and not just those who are going abroad.)
GUEST BLOG. Iain Stewart, Co-Director of Freetobook, mulls overs the implications of this latest development and offers some advice for Scottish tourism businesses who now have to find an alternative system that will provide online booking.
It came as bit of a bombshell to lots of hospitality businesses when VisitScotland suddenly announced the withdrawal of its online booking system. Many, including myself, would argue that this was long overdue. VisitScotland’s foray into this area over the last 10 or so years has left many Scottish tourism businesses disgruntled and wary of online booking….not a great record.
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.
Simmering tensions between owners of legitimate bed and breakfasts and Airbnb seem to have finally erupted in the US. It’s quite understandable that experienced innkeepers who have spent years perfecting their service should be irritated by the idea of homeowners with no professional hospitality experience being encouraged to compete by a company that includes the letters “bnb” in its title – thus implying that the two experiences are somehow equivalent.
Julia Cox runs the South Lodge B&B with her partner, Colin. The South Lodge is the only accredited 5-star accommodation in or around Milton Keynes and is ranked #1 amongst 130 Buckinghamshire B&Bs on TripAdvisor. Writing exclusively for theBandBer, she shares her secrets for attracting business guests and keeping them happy.
“It’s probably a well-known fact that if your B&B is in an area that attracts business guests they can be a really good source of custom: reliable, grateful for home comforts and out all day! For the regular traveller it’s a huge relief to avoid staying in a faceless hotel where a freshly made breakfast and a quiet night is rare. Since opening South Lodge four years ago, at least 40% of all my bookings are business travellers. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to guests chatting over the breakfast table, vying for ‘who’s stayed here the most’!