Rise of the B&B

Tom Messett, chief marketing officer of online marketing expert eviivo, explains why the British B&B is proving more popular than ever.

British bed-and-breakfasts are experiencing a sustained surge in popularity. According to the quarterly eviivo National Bed and Breakfast Index, forward bookings for the period from September 1 to November 30 are up 18% year-on-year, on a like-for-like basis.

The data are based on forward booking information from more than 6,600 B&Bs and small independent hotels that are supported by eviivo nationwide.

Our analysis points to several reasons for this strong and sustained performance:

Bed and Brexit

The first factor is what we describe as the ‘Bed and Brexit’ Effect. Since Britain indicated that it was leaving the European Union, the pound has weakened significantly against the euro and other international currencies, reflecting uncertainty about the economic consequences of the outcome.

This has had a twofold desirable effect for Britain’s B&Bs. On the one hand, it has caused British holidaymakers to think twice about international travel, avoid the leap-frog flight and reacquaint themselves with the delights of British hospitality and tourism.

On the other hand, it is also caused international travellers to think more carefully about where they travel.

Many of the B&Bs that we work with have reported an uplift in the number of international guests as they’ve run the maths and worked out that their dollars, euros, etc, go considerably further and leave them enough change to buy the deerstalker, sporran, quilt or four-leaf-clover necklace that they’ve always fancied.

The second factor is driven in part by nostalgia. British parents are increasingly taking their children on short breaks in the UK. There has been a dramatic rise in forward bookings at B&Bs that describe themselves as ‘family friendly’.

Family friendly

On a like-for-like basis the year-on-year performance of B&Bs that market themselves in this way has risen 61% for the September to November period. Britain’s seaside, countryside, castles, lakes, mountains and rivers are drawing more and more family visitors.

Parents are realising that ‘getting away from it all’ does not necessarily mean hopping on a flight. It is much easier to pack the car and drive for a few hours. Britain has huge swathes of open countryside, forests and shoreline to be explored.

Surprisingly, only 2% of British land is built on. A journey in a car with an audiobook of Enid Blyton, JK Rowling, Arthur Ransome or Robert Louis Stevenson and lashings of ginger beer can transform a holiday for children into an adventure for the imagination.

The third factor, and perhaps the most significant, is our changing perception of home-grown hospitality. B&Bs are now viewed as fashionable and cool, driven by the sea change in the quality of accommodation and service offered.

More than ever, visitors want to feel integrated into the places they stay. B&B owners welcome guests into a local community, advising on places of interest, where to eat and how to find the delights that are off the beaten track.

It’s this service ethos, driven by ownership and passion, which is underpinning the guest experience and leading to a surge in bookings. The old image of the owners – him with a pipe hanging out his mouth and her with a hairnet on – is redundant. The only net on display now is the one available through free high-speed Wi-Fi.

Online environment

The fourth and final factor is the changing environment online. As recently as a couple of years ago, it was much harder for B&Bs to hang their vacancy sign online in a meaningful way, as they were outspent by large chains.

You’d spend money on a site, probably quite a bit, put it online and hope for the best. But there’d be no way of winning. The scale, complexity and sophistication of larger competitors made it impossible.

Now, thanks to better technology and affordable partnerships with online marketing experts, B&Bs can compete with the biggest hotels in the world. Your customers can find you, wherever you are.

As Britain approaches the EU departure gates, the future for small entrepreneurial B&Bs has rarely looked brighter.

Britain will always be a popular destination for international travellers. If the pound stays relatively low, this country will have an even stronger magnetic pull. For British holidaymakers, a UK stay will be all the more compelling and affordable.