Bye-Bye to the B&B

The rapid expansion of budget hotels and visitors' rising expectations are threatening the future of the traditional guest house

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.

The expansion of budget hotel chains and the emergence of travellers with high standards but tight budgets, are forcing the old-fashioned, low-grade guest house out of business. More than 1,500 B&Bs with fewer than three stars have closed in England since 2007, a cut of more than a third. In Scotland, one- and two-star B&Bs are down by 63 per cent, while the number of budget hotels is up 80 per cent. A third of guesthouses and B&Bs in the UK report having fewer guests in last month's school half-term than in 2010.

It could all spell the end of shared bathrooms, early breakfasts and nylon sheets. And one man, it seems, must take a large share of the blame – Lenny Henry. The comedian, actor and star of Premier Inn commercials has become the figurehead for the explosion in budget hotels.

Alex Polizzi, Channel 5's Hotel Inspector and granddaughter of the hotelier Lord Forte, said. "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."

Despite the economic gloom, tourism remains one of the UK's economic success stories and the advent of the "staycation" has helped the industry survive the downturn. However, B&Bs have seen sharp drops in bed occupancy rates in the past year or two. In hotels, bed occupancy is also down, but to a much lesser degree.

Premier Inn, Britain's biggest budget hotel chain, has huge expansion plans, including doubling in size in London by 2016. Patrick Dempsey, managing director of its parent company, Whitbread, said: "Our growth means that we can offer even more people a great night's sleep in the best locations."

Meanwhile, Travelodge has an "aggressive growth plan" to open 36 hotels across the country this year, and a similar number in 2012.

David Weston, chief executive of the Bed and Breakfast Association, said: "People are struggling to fill their rooms. Times are tough for everybody. It is now the norm to have en-suite bathrooms and flat-screen TVs. For B&Bs to compete with budget hotels they have to offer a much more personalised service."

Couples looking for a weekend break are upgrading to boutique hotels while hard-pressed families switch to self-catering accommodation or spend the night under canvas. In England the number of five-star B&Bs is up by almost a quarter, while self-catering businesses accredited to VisitEngland have risen by 31 per cent. James Berresford, VisitEngland's chief executive, said: "Over the last decade, accommodation in England has improved in leaps and bounds."

Sam Nayer, 45, owner of the Escape B&B in Llandudno, north Wales, says people are looking for something better than what they have got at home. "B&Bs can offer something different – a more personal service than hotels, a home-from-home feel. Lots of hotels are bland. Many of the more traditional B&Bs are starting to move into the four-star bracket now, as customers are demanding a better quality service."

The people running B&Bs are also changing. Increasingly couples in their 40s and 50s leave high-powered city jobs for life in the countryside, but cannot afford to give up a regular income.

Emma Shaw, UK communications director for TripAdvisor, summed up the problem when she said: "There are some hotels that for too long have been delivering terrible customer service, in rundown and dirty establishments." In future, B&B will need to stand for brighter and better service.

Case study

David Webb, 56, Blackpool

In 2005 Mr Webb bought Langtrys, a traditional three-star B&B. Six years on and after major refurbishments, it has been given a five-star award

"We ran the business for three seasons with the house as it was when we bought it. I'd describe it as a traditional, plates-on-the-wall B&B. It was just like all the other B&Bs around here and we realised that it wouldn't work. We spent £200,000 on a makeover in 2009 and re-opened to a silver rating. Last year we were awarded gold. Now it's all clean lines, mood lighting and wooden floors.

"The refurbishment has given us a longer season. We attract business people throughout the year and people come to us for the Langtrys experience, not just to visit Blackpool."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future