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Debi & Juliet

By Honeypot Marketing, Jun 19 2014 08:00AM

....or self-catering cottage, small hotel, or host overseas students.

It can seem an easy source of income if you have a spare room, spare annexe, converted barn or some space in your home that you’re prepared to give up to visitors and in some ways it can be. It’s a flexible way of generating an income – if you want to take some time off then you can just tell enquirers that you’re full or if you just want t take guests on a few days a week.

It is hard work, though and you shouldn’t underestimate the amount of sheets and towels that need changing, and the amount of bleach and polish that you’ll get through (other eco-friendly products are of course also available). The biggest requirement really, in order that you stay sane, is that you actually like people, with all of their needs and habits (some of which can be surprisingly irritating!) I once stayed at a B&B in the West Country, and was having a very interesting chat with the owner about her 12 years experience as a B&B provider. The startling and rather sad comment that she made towards the end of the conversation was that, after 12 years in the business, she hated people. Time for a change of career, perhaps?

Here are our 10 top considerations when setting up an accommodation business:

1. Get advice. There are various tourism bodies out there who will give you FREE advice. Start with your own local borough, district or county council.

2. Get your red tape sorted. If you’re providing food (breakfast, lunch, evening meals or packed lunches) you must register with the local Environmental Health team. It’s not onerous, but they may come to visit to give you information and hints and tips on food handling. Even if you’ve cooked for 50 years, things change, and there’s always something you can learn! You may also need planning permission, but usually not. It doesn’t hurt to check with your local planning department, though. You will need to complete a self assessment for fire awareness and for disability awareness. There are templates and explanations online, or you can ask the advice of regional tourist boards, or the national grading scheme suppliers, Quality in Tourism. It’s simply a written record of your consideration of these aspects of your business and not, as many people think, a requirement to make sweeping changes to your property that would make your business financially non-viable. And don’t forget to check your home insurance policy – are you covered if someone trips, falls and injures themselves whilst staying with you?

3. Put yourself in the shoes of your guests. Consider your accommodation as if you were a guest – are the mirrors at the right height and near an electrical socket for the hair dryer? Is the bed comfortable? Do you have emergency information available for guests? Do test your accommodation to see if it really ‘works’. Also, consider making your accommodation stand out from the crowd. For example, do you want to attract walkers or cyclists? Then consider what they really need to make their stay as comfortable and hassle-free as possible – perhaps provide secure cycle storage, places to put muddy and wet boots and clothing. Anything to make your guests feel right at home.

4. Consider getting a star rating. These days there are lots of accreditation schemes around. Consider becoming part of the national star rating scheme for accommodation, or entering the local assessment scheme. There is an annual charge, but it does give potential visitors an idea of what they should expect from your accommodation and is a useful marketing tool to attract visitors looking for a particular level of accommodation.

5. Think of a name for your accommodation business. Make sure it doesn’t spell something unsavoury when you leave out the spaces in the name, so that it’s okay when you use the name as you website domain name! Whilst we’re on the subject of website domain names - be sure to register your website name with your own name and address details, so that you own it and not your web developer or agency. If they register the domain name on your behalf in their name or their agency name, you are tied to using that supplier and may not be able to change to another supplier without changing your website address too and losing all the web traffic you might have built.

Read our top tips for setting up an accommodation business 6 to 10 in our next blog....

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