The future of the Irish B&B
Statistics just released reveal that stays in B&Bs are down sharply. Not long ago this was a booming sector of the accommodation market in Ireland, so what went wrong?
There are excellent B&Bs in Ireland, but the truth is they are outnumbered by the legions of average, poor and plain awful places. The problem is that until you stay in one is no way of telling which type it is.
The Failte Approved sign indicates that basic requirements have been met: it means they are clean, well enough equipped and met the approval criteria. But how much you enjoy your stay is not really about the number of bathrooms or the size of the beds. These sort of things tell you nothing at all about the quality of the experience you will have.
Too often a B&B stay is like this:
You enter a hallway full of brochures and other tourism paraphernalia, are welcomed and shown your adequate but unexciting and often quite small room, are given a key and told when and where breakfast is served. Then you are pretty much on your own, free to come and go with nobody paying much attention to you.
You are not however encouraged to ‘hang around the house’ – in fact guests who do are often made to feel uncomfortable. There will be a bit of perfunctory chat while breakfast is served, in a characterless ‘guests only’ room, then you pay and go on your way.
There was a time when you really were treated as a family guest, or at least something close, now that is just a nice idea but a rare experience. Many B&Bs are purpose built, the family may not live in the part the guests sleep in and even if they do you will have nothing to do with them and may not even see them.
Two people sharing a room in a B&B will now regularly be asked to pay from €70 per night up €120 to in popular locations. With a little digging around you can get a hotel room in a decent hotel for that or a little more. In a hotel you have access to a bar and a restaurant, there will be someone to carry your bags to your room and staff available all day.
There will most likely be a night porter to let you in and get you a drink if you return late and you’ll have a place to hang around if the day is really wet. There may even be a pool or some other leisure facilities.
That’s a lot of added value for relatively little more money.
Those B&B owners who recognise this and offer a quality service, with true hospitality, a genuine welcome, a ‘home away from home’ atmosphere and overall an experience that their guests really enjoy are doing just fine and will continue to do so – word of mouth alone will see to it that such gems are valued.
Many of the others, if they don’t see the writing on the wall, are doomed.