Here’s to a great year for B&Bs in 2019!
by David Weston
Chairman of the Bed & Breakfast Association
The start of a new year is a good time to review the last one, and look ahead to the coming 12 months. That is especially true of such a momentous year as 2019.
Firstly, looking back at 2018 – perhaps the Bread and Breakfast Association’s busiest year ever, and certainly one that saw strong growth in our member subscriptions. The year started with the very welcome news that the Advertising watchdog, the ASA, had banned the TV ad for Booking.com promoting “free cancellation” which we had written to them to complain about. That “misleading” ad and the relentless push by OTAs towards free and late cancellation has cost our members huge amounts in excessive cancellation rates, so the ban was a welcome move in the right direction.
January & February also saw preparations for the first-ever National B&B Day – which to our amazement even included an “Early Day Motion” (No. 1068) being tabled in the House of Commons by the MP for Shetland, which proposed:
“That this House notes that there are some 25,000 B&Bs and guest houses across the UK, with a combined direct turnover well in excess of £2 billion; stresses the important role that B&Bs play in rural and coastal areas, where they are often the only tourism accommodation and play a key function in supporting local livelihoods; urges all hon. Members to visit local B&Bs on 24 March 2018 for National B&B day; and calls on the Government to support B&Bs as an integral part of the UK’s tourism sector.”
“B&B Day” dawned on Saturday March 24th and sure enough, up and down the UK, many MPs visited B&Bs or guesthouses in their constituencies, in a very welcome show of recognition and support. I accompanied the Minister of Tourism, Michael Ellis, to visit a B&B in Northampton North that morning. The event’s sponsor eviivo had arranged London taxis painted to look like B&Bs to tour the capital, and #BandBday trended at No. 8 on Twitter at one point, as celebrities like Gyles Brandreth tweeted about B&Bs.
If B&B Day was 2018’s biggest promotional push, there were also a few big events on the policy front that were equally important. In Spring, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Tourism, which we had given evidence to, published its report on the “Sharing Economy” (eg Airbnb and similar “platforms”), which (echoing our plea to them) strongly recommended “leveling the playing-field” of regulation and enforcement. We visited the Minister to press for the APPG’s detailed recommendations to be acted on.
In July, the Government brought into force the Package Travel Regulations. Those were less welcome, as they tie the hands of B&Bs trying to “add value” or to recommend a local supplier. Meanwhile in Brussels throughout the Autumn, we pressed the case for B&Bs as the EU developed new “P2B” regulations – ie to cover the dealings by giant OTAs with small businesses like B&Bs. We hope the result will make the relationship a slightly fairer one.
Much more happened last year besides these brief snapshots, of course, as our members will have heard.
Looking to 2019, the first highlight will certainly be National B&B Week (18-24 March), when we hope to build on last year’s great start, and make an even bigger splash. Hopefully that will provide a bit of a boost to the season’s start, to help counteract any uncertainty around Brexit – assuming that happens (at the time of writing, nothing is certain!)
What is certain is that we will be here to fly the flag for British B&Bs, and fight your corner, as ever. Here’s to a happy – and prosperous – 2019!
The Bed & Breakfast Association is the UK trade association for B&B, guest house and independent hotel owners, and exists to inform, support & represent owners. Membership costs £60 a year. The Association is a non-profit organization with no shareholders, dedicated solely to the interests of its members.