David Weston of the Bed & Breakfast Association 'fights the corner' for this £2 billion 'cottage industry'

Monday, 21 November 2011

Bye Bye to the B&B? No way!

There was a very negative article in yesterday's Independent on Sunday under the headline "Bye-Bye to the B&B". It began: "Fusty bed and breakfasts with their loud carpets and louder landlords have remained stubbornly unchanged for decades. And now they could be facing face their final chintzy curtain".

It went on to quote Alex Polizzi, Channel 5's 'Hotel Inspector', as saying "I am not at all surprised budget hotels are killing off the grotty B&B – and I am quite pleased. B&Bs got a bad name because of the standards. I get depressed at how often I have to say cleanliness is important. People are being more discerning."

The article, to be fair, did talk about the threats to us all from the "aggressive" expansion of the budget hotels, and about B&Bs moving upmarket, and quoted James Berresford, VisitEngland's chief executive, saying "Over the last decade, accommodation in England has improved in leaps and bounds." The main thrust, though, was depressingly negative.

I was upset to be misquoted in a way that meant readers might assume I was agreeing with the general tone of gloom and doom of the piece. I have asked the Editor for a "right of reply", and let's see what he says...

What I actually told the journalist, at much more length than he quotes of course, is that B&Bs ARE competing with budget hotels - we ARE fighting back, with individual decor, a friendly welcome, and a freshly cooked home made breakfast - which the budget hotels' boring, soul-less rooms, hotplates of congealing "scrambled egg" and cheap catering sausages cannot rival.

Yes it is tough out there, but the best B&Bs are the best places to stay. To (mis)quote the article, "B&B does stand for Brighter & Better service".

Monday, 14 November 2011

2012: the Minister calls...

More on the "20.12% offers" story (see below): the Tourism Minister, John Penrose, called me on 3rd November to flesh out the idea, ahead of another reference to it by Jeremy Hunt (the Secretary of State) when opening World Travel Market the following week.

I think he understands and accepts our point that we cannot (of course) cut our prices across the board - nor would we - but his officials will be giving the Association details of how B&B owners can benefit next year from a £3 million national advertising campaign pushing some form of headline offer based on "20.12%" - which could be confined to shoulder or low season, or to midweek stays, or stays of 4 nights plus, or to a third night, or whatever.

We are working with the Department to thrash out more detail, and will of course put this out to our members as soon as we have it. I hope the idea will now develop into something useful, harnessing some advertising millions for B&Bs in return for (say) "20.12% off your fourth night in low season" or some such formulation - each B&B can (we gather so far) use the headline figure in the publicity campaign however it likes within reason. There is a lot of work to do, and the devil will (as always) be in the detail - but this is where we can help the Minister's officials to make it as workable and effective as we can.

Of course, no B&B would have to get involved in the eventual promotion - but we will do our best to influence the idea in a sensible direction, then give our members the option of joining in or not.

And at the very least, we have now got the Ministers including B&Bs in the publicity campaign plan, rather than just hotels as often used to happen in the past. Our voice is starting to be heard...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

"Attack of the Trip Advisors"

Last night's Channel 4 programme "Attack of the Trip Advisors" was depressing viewing - albeit nothing new to any B&B owner. It did not touch on the fake or fraudulent reviews or the blackmail threats, only on the run of the mill unfair reviews.
The "reviewers" on the show came across as by and large, self-important inadequates, obsessives, pedants or abusive illiterates - or various mixtures thereof. No doubt there are many fair-minded, reasonable, succinct "reviewers" on TripAdvisor who don't obsess about the enormity of finding water in their kettle - but we didn't see those.
What was depressing was the unkindness and vindictiveness, the sense among "reviewers" that their only power is the power to wound or strike back. The anonymity allows them to say anything, fair or unfair, true or false, reasonable or petty - and TripAdvisor publish it worldwide, for ever.