I’ve Kept My 5 Star Rating Why Am I Thinking About Dumping It?

I have been sitting on this blog post for several months
unable to publish it for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s rather self-indulgent
and about my business and I prefer my posts to be about helping other business
owners. It’s also a bit rambling. The second reason is that it could be contentious
and may upset people and I’m really not in the business of treading on toes. However
events today have focussed my thinking & I’ve spoken to several other
B&B owners who are having similar thoughts. I’ve also spoken to other
B&B owners who think I’m stark raving mad.

So here we go…..

There are a few things that are likely to strike fear
into, all but the most hardened, B&B landlady’s heart ( I know there are
B&B landlords out there too but for ease of reading I shall refer to you
all as landladies and I know you all look so lovely in pink ;0)

The first is the arrival, in the inbox, of the email titled
“You have a new Tripadvisor Review” and the second is the arrival, on the
doorstep, of a single man/woman, smartly dressed carrying a suitcase and
overnight bag.

There are a lot of B&Bs out there, who take business
guests, and who greet these types of people everyday. However my market is
almost 100% couples ( married, unmarried, gay, straight – all positively
welcomed ) here on a few days away to enjoy a country break in comfy
surroundings. I just don’t get single men here on business wearing a suit and
being flexible about their dates. “Oh you’re full Tuesday, well can you do
Wednesday I can rearrange my meeting” What meeting? A KPI session with the
local bull? So I know that this man is going to be “THE HOTEL INSPECTOR”

Actually they’re called Quality Assessors these days but
calling the hotel inspectors is more fun and reminds everyone of Fawlty Towers.

So I had my inspection last night. It did become slight
Fawlty Tower-esque as he read my report out to me propped up on kitchen units
whilst I rushed around preparing a late breakfast for guests who had both
ordered poached eggs at the last minute (another B&B landlady nightmare –
poached eggs). Apart from a couple of comments such as putting brown sugar in
the rooms & offering warm milk with coffee, we have passed with flying
colours and it’s been recommended that we keep our 5 star gold rating.”Yeeha”
you say. Or maybe not?

There have been rumblings in the press & on the
internet in recent months claiming that the government are planning to withdraw
support for the UK Quality Assessment scheme as it believes customer reviews
are the way forward.

I’ve been thinking about the Quality Assessment scheme
for a few years now, and wondering how much value my own business actually gets
from it. Unfortunately I don’t know if there is a right answer, which as a
mathematician pains me greatly. I much prefer the 2+2=4 approach to life, just
don’t get me started on Schrödinger’s cat.

So here are my thoughts.

To set the scene, our own B&B has a 5 star Gold award
rating from VisitBritain. We started off with a 4 star silver and have
gradually improved & updated the B&B as the years go by.

I never aimed for this rating as a goal in itself. I just
want to give my guests the best possible B&B experience they can have. I
love food & I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world & stay
in luxury hotels. So the rating has been a bit of a by product of this.
Actually I would prefer that people didn’t choose the B&B because of our
rating and the aim of my online marketing; my tweeting, facebooking and
blogging is a bit contra that rating.

I want people coming to stay because they can relax and
indulge and have great food and a smile, not because they just want to stay at 5 star B&B.

Before I go on, I do need to say that, on my B&B
courses I always recommend potential B&Bers to join either the AA or the
VisitBritain rating system when they first start up. It gives them standards to
work towards, ensures nothing is missed and I believe that being assessed by a
professional assessor is very valuable for a young business. It also provides
potential customers with reassurance that they can expect a certain level of
quality when staying in that establishment, whilst the B&B builds up its
reputation and marketing efforts.

I also think that if you’re one of a lot of B&Bs in a
town or city, then your grading can help differentiate you and make you stand
out from the crowd.

However I’m not a young business and there are not
hundred of B&Bs locally to compete with. I’ve been immersed in running a
B&B for 7 years and have been running my B&B courses for 5 years. I’ve
met, and shared ideas with lots of other B&B owners over the years. I have
a fab website produced by the wonderful Perfect Arc and optimised beautifully (
with lots of help over the years from Helen Mitchell at Ascendancy marketing )
so I appear in the top 3 or 4 on Google for all the search terms I want to be
found with. I know it’s a great website because of the huge number of people
who have complimented me on it and said it was their reason for staying with
us.

These are the facts. In 2010:

  • 0.002 % of
    visitors to my website were referred by VisitEngland or Enjoyengland
  • 0.001% of people
    who came via Google Organic had searched for 5 star B&B or an
    equivalent keyword phrase

Don’t you just love Google Analytics?

As an established business (here’s the mathematician bit)
I work on allocating 5% of my turnover to my marketing budget. So every £1 I
spend on marketing or advertising should generate £20 in turnover. For a 3 room
B&B that charges £80 a night for single occupancy the fee for belonging to
the VB scheme is £480. So playing by my own rules that £480 should generate
£9600. I don’t believe, for my own business, that it does that. For £480 I
could buy an iPAD and generate a lot more business myself whilst watching Glee.

And, whilst I appreciated the advice of the Quality Assessor
when I first set up, it now really bugs me to have someone come and go through
a tick box exercise and tell me how to improve my business. I KNOW what I’m
good at and I KNOW what my flaws are. Actually I hadn’t considered the brown
sugar thing so that’s £480 well spent…….Grumpy old Landlady syndrome?

So, what’s stopping you leaving the scheme right now? I
hear you ask.

This is where the circular argument in my head kicks in.
In Shropshire, anyway, you can’t advertise in the tourist information centre,
belong to Shropshire Tourism, belong to local networking groups like the
Shropshire Farm Holiday Group or be eligible for any grants unless you are
assessed. You essentially become a non person in the local tourism industry.

I’ve actually already left Shropshire Tourism and the
Farm Holiday Group. The latter due to lack of time.

If you’re not assessed you can’t participate in the Enjoy
England Excellence awards. Not that I have entered since 2007. I won B&B of
the year for the West Midlands and, to be honest, didn’t get a lot of new
business as a result. I’ve had far more business from a photo & short piece
in Woman & Home.

I do wonder how many people come to my website by other
means and their decision is helped by the fact it says 5 star gold on the front
page. I think we’re getting into Schrödinger’s cat territory here. So For a bit
of fun, I’ve taken the large 5 star & gold award badges off the front page
of website to see what happens and my bookings have actually gone up. Not
everybody is comfortable booking into what they think a 5 star B&B will be.

But on the other hand the Occupancy Survey Results
clearly show that higher rated properties have higher occupancy levels.

What about the proposal that we just rely on customer
reviews. There is one huge flaw in this suggestion and that one flaw is the
customer themselves. The quality assessor is meant to be objective, clearly
measuring your business against a common set of standards. A customer is very
rarely objective. They are measuring your business against their own
expectations. If, for example, they are used to staying in 2 star B&Bs they
may well give a 2 star B&B 5/5 on Tripadvisor. Whilst a 5 star guest may
give a 5 star B&B ( of much higher quality than the 2 star ) 3/5 because
the towels weren’t soft enough and their breakfast sausage wasn’t to their
liking.

My main problem is that I don’t really see myself as 5
star B&B landlady. I’ve been waiting for 4 years for the Hotel Inspector to
find me out. I just want people to come here and love the views and the food and the birds and the wildflower meadow and be really comfortable and have long baths and have a bit of giggle

And the answer is…………………….I really don’t
know.

What would be great is if you can comment on this blog
and share your thoughts. Whether you’re in the tourism business yourself or just
someone who goes on holiday.

Thank you for getting this far.

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64 Responses to I’ve Kept My 5 Star Rating Why Am I Thinking About Dumping It?

  1. What a refreshing blog. I would never stay in a B & B for the 5 stars. As Lake District regulars, we stay at the same B & B’s we have done for years and I have no idea how many stars they have. We found out about them by asking locals, staying and going back. You stay with people who you feel comfortable with, who are passionate about the area where they are, who love having your children even if they are trouble sometimes. I’m afraid I live too close to come and stay but if I ever move away, I know where to stay if I come back!! Thank you

  2. Karen – great article…I have been pondering the same thing. We are 4 star & have been told we can’t get higher due to not remote enough location, not stone built house etc. It costs nearly £300 a year for 1 self catering unit and we get almost no search referral from Visit Britain/England etc. However in Staffordshire & Peak District you are a non person if you don’t have the rating to join local websites. Where do we go from here eh? Another thing…my feedback/comments are always about the location, beds, cake, welcome etc & I’m not sure anyone has ever said they liked it because it was 4 star.

    • Thanks Emily
      I have heard there may be a rating scheme that is “fit for purpose” so just that you’ve done all the legal requirements etc. I guess that would keep us off the non person list. But that is on the grapevine

  3. Cabernat says:

    Hi Karen

    It’s a tricky one & no doubt about it!

    We stay in B&Bs. The first thing we do is google for them in the area we want to go. I don’t think we have ever stayed anywhere on someone’s recommendation. If we just want a few days away we also look to see if there is a pub or somewhere we can get an evening meal within walking distance.We look at the facilities offered, including parking and ensuite. We look at price. We don’t take much notice of the “customer reviews” these days as we have found that sometimes they are complete rubbish. We do take notice of Rosettes & stars, but they are not the deciding factor. Sometimes it is just a feeling, when we look, that a particular place ticks all the boxes.

    I know I have done nothing to help you make your mind up but this is what we do.

    By the way your place does tick all the boxes & although your nearest local is not within walking distance it is a taxi distance!

    Mary

    • Thank you Mary for taking the time to review and it’s great to hear what you’re looking for in a B&B. I suspect everyone is different and will decide differently. I know if we’re going to a city we’ll look at all the 4 and 5 star places. Though when we went to Oxford recently we did choose the top one on Tripadvisor. Thanks again

  4. Sue Prince says:

    Excellent clear thinking and I love the maths. Crazy for us to pay so much when it isn’t cost effective. Staffordshire are developing an affiliated scheme, I think. It will assure on cleanliness and legality. Personally, Ive never aspired to 5 star as I would rather over deliver at 4 Star, but am definitely considering leaving the scheme.

    • Sue – really interesting to hear you’re thinking of leaving the scheme. I’ve heard rumours of an affiliated scheme but not seen anything official.
      I think we need something that says – yes we run a B&B, we’re safe, we’ve done the food & fulfilled our legal obligations. Now you, as the customer, decide!

  5. Fascinating blog post. Never stayed in a b and b because of the rating but may wonder why there wasn’t one. Always read trip advisor but don’t always take notice. Must come and stay , it sounds heavenly.

    • Thanks Amanda. I must admit that we’ve been put off even 5 star places by TA. With hotels I tend to take the reviews a bit more with a pinch of salt than with B&Bs. Even the very best hotels we’ve stayed in have had poor reviews. Most of the B&Bs I know all seem to get excellent scores no matter what their perceived quality is! So subjective

      • jan says:

        Great blog,. We are thinking of leaving VB after 7 years. The last inspector raved about trip advisor but I’m not a fan. We don’t feel VB do enough for the money we pay (none of our guests have ever found us via VB). What did you decide? Jan

      • Robert says:

        I cannot understand any comment about give it up or keep it with VB!
        We gave up our stars 3 years ago and the sales have gone from strength to strength with own ideas!
        Just write self assessment on your web site etc and VB was to expensive and guest will understand.
        Finally, get rid of all commission demanding stuff like hotels .com etc, and pay Tripadviser for a worldwide service yearly. We stopped all commission outfits 3 years ago to keep all our revenue ourselves! Don’t give a penny to any outfit you deserve to keep it all……….

  6. Jane says:

    Brilliant Karen – I’m sure it sums up what we all feel. As a self catering owner (also of a 5* Gold!) I’ve contemplated leaving the scheme for a while. My analytics show pretty much the same results as yours and I too resent the appalling amount of money and lack of return. More than this though, is the lack of any sense of individuality and awareness of character shown by assessors. For example, apparently one of our antique single beds (it is a C16th cottage in a world famous location after all!) is a few cms short of the prescribed width – (the assessor came armed with a tape measure at the last inspection!) and I was told that, after 4 years of zero complaints from guests and no mentions in previous inspections, we would have to market it as a ‘child’s’ bed and therefore must say that the cottage was suitable for 5 adults only. They don’t appear to have checked up on this since but should they do so, the decision to leave will be made much simpler!

  7. Well first of all Karen, congratulations on your 5 star Gold award again – it is an achievement to maintain your rating whether you approve or not! As you know, we are also considering leaving the scheme, mainly because of the cost but also because of the poor website and very, very few bookings from Visit England. We are 4 star Gold and a lot of our customers do comment on the award but I don’t know if they necessarily choose us because of it. It is a huge expense with almost no return. Trip Advisor concerns me because someone has only got to take a personal dislike to us to give a bad report, at the same time as other guests staying exactly the same dates think we’re wonderful! However, there may be a solution. Apparently a B&B owner, I think in the south of England, has taken the local authority to court for discrimination because they were refused a place on the local website because they weren’t inspected…. they won! I don’t know the full details but will find out for you and let you know the outcome. I know this has been referred to Tim King at Shropshire Council for his comments – perhaps we could pursue it with him? By the way Geoff loves poaching eggs…. and telling the guests how many seconds to poach them and how to stand whilst stirring clockwise seven times at the same speed as the lower rotor of a leslie tone cabinet!!!!! It’s surprising how many believe him for a while! Like you, we do B&B because we want to offer our guests an enjoyable experience “ticking the boxes” from an inspector doesn’t necessarily achieve this does it? But the home made cake and a warm welcome do!

    • Thank you Elizabeth.
      Interesting to hear of the case of the B&B owner refused a place on the local website.
      I’ve had one “less than glowing review” on tripadvisor and it dropped me from #1 B&B in Shropshire to #10 straightwaway. And, of course, there was a story behind that.

  8. I agree with so much of the above and think there should be a frank and open debate on the subject. I too am torn between being assessed or not and have been known to vociferously defended the grading system to advocates of ungraded small B&Bs who say its too expensive to be assessed (read can’t be bothered/don’t really care about quality). I had a visit from the ‘Hotel Inspector’ this week too! I am a 4* B&B who gets rave reviews from guests but according to HI will never achieve silver or beyond as my bathrooms are not fully tiled, I have vinyl (very good quality) on the floor and the eco lighting is not bright enough. I am reaching the point where I feel it’s not worth spending £1000s to clinicalise my bathrooms for an award that many people do not recognise. Yet I also feel I give a great guest experience that isn’t reflected or acknowledged on the inspector’s tick list.
    I too can see the potential relevence of grading where there is a lot of competition where stars and awards may distinguish between neighbouring businesses, but they may not! I live in an area where there is not a great deal of serviced accommodation and feel most of my guests book to stay with me for many reasons, but not because of the number of stars!
    I have found myself secretly wishing the Government does abolish the Quality Assessment scheme so I don’t have to make a decision for myself. I enjoy the networking groups and would hate to lose that contact with similar businesses so that is the main reason I am sticking with it for the moment.

  9. A great blog post Karen, and one which gives great food for thought to anyone in the hospitality industry.

    From the point of view of a frequent traveller, I certainly feel from a personal perspective that while stars and awards do give one an idea of what to expect, they’re not the be-all and end-all. I’ve stayed at some pretty soul-less 5* places and had a whole heap of fun at some 3* places.

    I do check out “customer” reviews, but am getting more and more disillusioned with reviews that are obviously fake – both fake positives and fake negatives – and hearing about B&B owners being practically blackmailed by their customers under the threat of a negative review.

    As a travel writer, I still check out what others have to say about a place, as well as what the business has to say about itself and how it presents itself on the web before I invite the business to join us and I like to think that our readers come to us a) because we rank well! b) because we only promote the best, and c) because they trust our reviews for their honesty, accurate and descriptive writing, and the fact that we never, ever write about anywhere we haven’t actually been to ourselves.

    It’s a tough call for B&B owners, and seems like a large outlay – membership, adverts, inspections etc, for very little return. And if it’s true that the Government is no longer going to support the QA scheme, I do have to wonder what the point is for many owners to continue forking out!

  10. Sally Shalam says:

    Hello Karen,

    Thank you for airing this contentious subject with such clarity. I’m going to respond from a point of view which straddles (or sits on the fence) being a consumer and also having an understanding of the business side of modern British B&B.

    First of all, star ratings. What are they and who needs them?
    From my point of view, they are there to protect the consumer. When there are no national standards in place, the public is vulnerable to disappointment or at worst, risk.
    Many people don’t check what star rating they are booking and the system has been so complicated in the past (there is still an issue of B&Bs and guesthouses calling themselves hotels – even some ‘hotels’ on the Hotel Inspector programme are not hotels at all) that I believe the public has become disaffected with all the categories and ratings.

    However if the scheme were scrapped, there would need to be something in its place just to set a standard. Some B&Bs choose not to take part in the rating scheme, and i know from experience there is not necessarily any compromise in comfort but I wonder what would happen if there were no rating system whatever, or if everyone left the VB scheme. How soon would standards begin to drop?

    What an establishment such as yours should do once VBs standards have been reached, perfected, maintained, is another matter. The question for you and other similar businesses is, I suppose, how much do you need the local and national tourism websites and marketing, as opposed to say, an online site such as http://www.i-escape.com, http://www.holidaypad.com, or Sawday’s?

    Then there is the customer review issue. As a travel professional who thinks she knows how to read between the lines of a hotel or guest house website, I do not need to put any store in reviews on Tripadvisor. There is no proof that anyone posting a review has actually stayed where they say they have, for one thing. Crucially, too, the reviews too general to be of real help to me. Never a single specific mention of what food has been eaten or how it was sourced and cooked, no make or marque or date or period of anything, vague descriptions ( ‘lovely this’ and ‘delicious that’) and a failure to outline the important points of difference.

    However, the public are making decisions on the basis of these inexpert and unregulated views and there is no doubt that Tripadvisor is driving business to B&Bs. Customer reviews are increasingly powerful. The problem at present is that – rather as the likes of Katie Price and Kerry Katona – it’s fine courting publicity when it’s positive but when it turns sour, life isn’t such fun. Just as the quality assessors are keeping tabs on standards in accommodation, someone needs to be keeping tabs on online customer reviews and steering them into the important role they have to play in the future. At the moment the word which springs to mind is ‘random’ but I suspect that soon it will become clearer how this randomness can be harnessed.

    That is the point at which it might be better to make that leap. Just a thought.

    • Thank you Sally for taking the time to comment.
      From the comments I’m getting I’m seeing lots of different viewpoints.
      As an individual business with costs increasing I’m having to be tough about my marketing spend, but I also see the value in supporting a standards scheme for the consumer.

  11. james gray says:

    Hi Karen,

    I think you’re absolutely right to be thinking about leaving the scheme, it’s a lot of money for very little return in your case. As you say it’s about the age and location of the business. You’re old enough & uniquely located enough for it not to be a deciding factor in people’s decision making.

    For me it’s different, as you say if you’re not assessed you can’t be a member of the local tourist board. I’m lucky, Lancashire & Blackpool is (but possibly not for much longer) a great Tourist Board and as one of a very few 5 star gold award members I get heavily promoted by them. The payback I’ve had in press coverage far outweighs the annual fee.

    I think the thing we should all be asking is, rather than have a raft of accommodation providers leave the scheme how do we make the scheme better value for everyone? How do we have a system that provides consumers with a basic quality expectation but doesn’t cost so much? Removing the overnight stay for serviced accommodation would be one way of making the scheme cheaper to run. No it wouldn’t provide an indiction of the service levels but it would give a tick list of what facilities a place had. For the service level & reputation don’t people use other resources like Sawdays, travel writers, Tripadvisor anyway?

    The next thing is that Enjoy England needs to improve its website if we’re going to be paying that amount it needs to back up its value with traffic. These are things we look at annually with subscriptions like Sawdays, how much money how many bookings. As money gets tighter and Government funding disappears it’s an approach we’ll have to look at with our Tourist Boards & with Enjoy England. We are the members, we help fund the scheme it’s about time we had a little chat….

    • Thanks James
      Interesting food for thought there.
      As money gets tighter – for me now the only way to make more money is to reduce costs. I’m sitting just under the VAT threshold and would have to earn considerably more to jusitfy being VAT registered and can’t do that with just 3 rooms – I think as individuals we all have to be much more careful about where money goes. However I can see your point on making the scheme better. As a small business I can’t afford to subsidise that. So how do we make it better value for money?

      • james gray says:

        Well here’s one idea, currently I pay to be assessed & that gets me listed on Enjoy England sites. I also pay a membership fee to LBTB, that gets me on the Lancashire site. I could also pay to be on the Lancaster City Council site to be listed there too. That we have so many bodies with sites promoting the same people and areas of the UK is bonkers. The Enjoy England site should be the one stop site for everywhere; those places that still have tourist boards could feed content into the site, those that don’t deserve more back up and Enjoy England should oversee their pages.

  12. Peter Cook says:

    Karen, I think for your business and where you are, you are perfectly correct.
    If you don’t get any extra business from Shropshire Tourism, and are happy not being recommended by the TICs, then give the 5 stars the elbow.
    I would not seek out a 5* B&B. I’d rather look for a place that emphasizes the lovely locally sourced breakfast, and the relaxing time I could have.

  13. Scott says:

    If I may intrude from across the Atlantic, this very interesting discussion applies in many ways to us, as well (though, as you know, we have no “official” star rating system).

    There are many online B&B directories here, and the B&B chooses what level (usually Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) to purchase, but that does not get them an inspection or rating. Thus the only reason to pay for more is the demonstrated ability of the higher listing level to produce more revenue.

    Sometimes the directory, through its own marketing of the industry, generates revenue for B&Bs that is not directly attributable to the directory (that is, Google Analytics will not be able to track visitors who didn’t come directly from that source, even if it was the marketing effort of the directory that produced the traffic). At least one directory claims that purchasing ever higher levels of membership can be estimated to produce a specific amount of increased revenue (it isn’t so, by actual trial).

    All that to say that sometimes there is additional benefit to being part of the directory (or star system, perhaps?) beyond the directly tracked bookings. That is not an argument in favor of staying with the programme, but simply to encourage consideration of indirect benefits, as well as direct.

    On an experiential note, we were advised (by UK residents) on our most recent trip to the UK, to only stay at 5 star rated B&B’s, and to then rely on TripAdvisor after considering them. If that represents a common sentiment amongst the UK traveller, it could represent a benefit.

  14. Bill Bruce says:

    Firstly, thank you for the thought provoking blog.

    Can I give my thoughts as a non-registered B&B (Boo! I hear you all shout). Yes I know I should register and get a star rating, I do actually believe in the system as customers need something to fall back on, a guide to what basic conditions they will be staying in. My problems with registering is just how accurate are the assessments?

    In my local area there are some 80 guest houses, I do believe that many of these are very nice, very clean places run by charming people. However, in 1 case last year an American lady wanted to return book with me, unfortunately I was full so recommended my nearest B&B which has 3 stars (this was during my 1st year), a month later I e-mailed the lady to see how she got on with her stay. Her tale of having 1 towel in her bathroom which was badly stained and dirty carpets was surely not 3 star!
    Other B&B’s nearby have 4 stars but are shocked when I tell them I greet guests with tea + cake, and I know there rooms are smaller than mine. So you are probably asking why don’t I try for 4 star or more. 1, I am gradually upgrading and don’t think I have the wow factor just yet. 2, does the criterior include warmth of welcome, time spent advising of local attractions etc?

    I only have 3 rooms and have a very small budget for advertising and I’m not sure many people go on the visit britain / visit england sites now as many younger people don’t know they exist.

    I guess I’m not making a real point here exept that I agree that the customer needs a guide but it needs to be a bit fresher with a much better website. I’m surprised Google have jumped into the ring as they search the world for most of us.

    Congratulations on keeping your award Karen, I probably wouldn’t ditch it just yet though, wait to see who / what takes over.

    Bill x

  15. Suzanne says:

    We live in Hong Kong and recently spent two weeks in England, travelling from Kettering to Cornwall to Norfolk (and a few points in between!). I stayed in b&bs for the first time in my life and totally loved the experience. Not having had any experience with b&bs before, we found the places we stayed at via straightforward Google searches using the words “Padstow/Tintagel/Lands End b&bs” or “North Norfolk b&bs” etc.

    Whatever the results threw up, we made our choice in the end based on the b&b’s website — a simple scan of the description and, most importantly, the photos provided. If a website looked clean, professional and modern, our expectation was that the b&b would live up to that, too. We dismissed a fair few b&bs simply because their websites were clunky, looked amateurish and were hard to navigate.

    I also referred to guidebooks such as Time Out’s Devon & Cornwall, and DK Eyewitness Travel’s Top 10 Cornwall, which offered a few recommendations for places to stay — the first b&b we ended up at by sheer chance (we were referred to it when the first place we went to turned out to be full) was highly recommended by both titles!

    As for the usefulness of the star ratings — for us, they provided some form of assurance (“if they have four stars then theoretically we won’t catch nits off the pillowcases”) but they did not determine our final choice, it was the websites which did that.

  16. Sally Shalam says:

    Morning Karen,

    I’m following this debate with great enjoyment. Forgot to say congrats on retaining yr stars, so saying it now.

    Had another thought overnight.

    It is never a deciding factor for me whether a B&B belongs to either the VB or AA schemes, because those who consciously stay out of them often do so because the schemes/asssessors don’t understand what they are doing. For example, I know a perfectly sublime B&B on Dartmoor which is very contemporary in design and therefore has no wardrobes as such in the rooms, or tea and coffee things. The hanging space is part of the room design and there is a very neat snack station at the bottom of the stairs. This would affect their rating so they stay out of the scheme but the level of comfort and service and facility is excellent.

    Anyway, so my thought this morning is this. The scheme might not yield – in your location – a good return. However, if you opt out of it, you will also lose that objective ‘once over’ from a professional party. I agree with much of what James Gray at The Ashton has written above, but I believe that an overnight stay is crucial to making a sound assessment. How else will you know if you can hear other guests bonking, or the neighbours rowing in bed? What the mattresses are really like, the water pressure when everyone is having a shower, or whether the heating goes off at 9pm to save money? Of course I know that you aim to tick all the boxes all the time – but even the owners of The Goring road test their rooms on a regular basis. Ditch the scheme by all means, but I wonder if I am being old fashioned by thinking there is value in a professional road-test once a year? How much will you have to pay another professional to drive to an out-of-the-way location and spend a night, make an assessment and deliver it? I could set up a business doing just that tomorrow and I don’t think I could charge less than £500. How much is 24 hours’ consultancy these days? Actually …. there’s a thought….

    • Thanks Sally for your comment.
      I can see the value in an independent assessor checking your business. As someone who is very proud of my business, we try and stay in the rooms several times a year and are continually looking to update and improve. But I recognise that I’m not objective. I also recognise that some B&B owners can get complacent after running their B&B for years so fail to keep on top of things.
      I’m probably not alone in realising the hotel inspector is coming and making extra sure that everything is perfect. Pulling up that thistle that has been there in the path a bit longer than it should have been or hanging out the hanging baskets earlier than they may otherwise have appeared ( and praying for no frost that night )
      However, with Tripadvisor I think the annual “Hotel Inspector Tidy Up” has turned into more of a continuous thing. Whilst people criticise Tripadvisor & some say they take it with a pinch of salt etc, a bad review can do damage to a business, and it’s constantly in the back ( or front ) of the mind of many of the B&B owners I talk to.
      Several people have said to me that it’s taken some of the fun out of it because you find yourself considering the TA review in everything you do. Especially when there are difficulties / problems. To quote James Of the Ashton in one of his wonderful tweets the other day “Most days are a delight but some night’s you’re surfing a killer tripadvsior wave on a charm offensive surfboard, just hope I can stay on!”
      Karen

    • james gray says:

      Sorry I wasn’t very clear with my suggestion about ditching the overnight stay. I would say on the first inspection the overnight stay is essential. But if somewhere proves to have invested the money into boilers, soundproofing, quality fixtures & fittings then they shouldn’t need an overnight stay every year. The area manager of the QiT scheme could review a property online using TA if they were getting amazing reviews then a daytime visit would be sufficient to check cleanliness, upkeep etc. Those who were specifically looking to up their rating could request an overnight stay. Those who the inspector felt were patchy on their last visit would be automatically put down for an overnight stay the next year. On the point of overnight stays I think we would all say that it is a nonsense that the inspector pays for their room. Make the fee lower and they don’t pay on check out.

  17. patrick says:

    I have visited over 300 hotels and b&b’s in 28 countries on 4 continents in the last 8 years. Unfortunately when I stayed at your lovely home I ate something in a local pub that left me with my face down the loo for two days, so Iwasn’t able to take pix and write about you.

    I know that the gov is thinking about backing off from QA, driven as much, I suspect, but its inconsistent and patchy implementation as anything else. I know at the hotel chain end the accountant driven approach that dictates poor room sizes and the lack of luxury (which can often be found in B&B’s) means they would be happy to see it go. However at a time when there is a move within Europe to arrive at a unified system across the Continent it seems a retrograde step.

    You may find it expensive and unprofitable to be in such a system, but it you are coming from abroad then it, and the much maligned Tripadvisor, can be a useful indicator of quality. However it will never overcome location and a good website with lovely images, such as yours, and good marketing through blogs and twitter. It is just another indicator, and maybe for a smaller establishment an expensive one.

    I will follow your experiment with interest.

  18. We are a 3 star Guest House in Scotland. On Visit Scotland’s last assessment they said that one of our en-suite bathrooms was outdated as it was pink and we should replace it. We carried out a survey following the feedback and asked folk ranging from hairy bikers to touring Americans what they thought, the most common answer was ‘I haven’t noticed what colour it is’. We are considering stopping the advertising with VS but maybe keeping up with the star rating system. But will they rate us without the advertising? When we look at our web stats VS doesn’t even appear.

    We are lucky in that we have a local marketing association, which has been going for 27 years and was the first of it’s kind in Scotland. We have a limited budget, have a great network of members who work hard and a fabulous B2B system whereby if we get email enquiries we can’t take then, with the enquirers permission, we can forward the email around the rest of the members and hopefully keep the enquirer in the area. Some of the associations members aren’t with VS and they don’t seem to be suffering for it.

    I think I may add a question to my response email asking if the star rating was one of the reasons they contacted us.

    Don’t know what the answer is and it will probably differ from business to business depending on who your usual cliental are.

  19. The Government is currently proposing to end the rating system in favour of “review sites”. Many problems are associated with these e.g. with some you can not guarantee a reviewer has actually stayed.

    The star rating system is far from perfect too, as for example, it does not cope with small independent hotels like myself.

    So I fully understand your predicament, however would not presume to offer advice as the pros and cons are so individual to each and every establishment.

    Specific to B&B’s however, I am a firm believer in the rating system and use it to draw up a short list of places in the area I am wishing to stay. The review sites then become tier two in narrowing down the short list further. Finally, I will telephone the short list and will book with whoever comes over as the warmest and most helpful.

  20. Thanks for posting such a thoughtful and well researched post on this subject. As newcomers to the business 18 months ago we were told we’d be mad not to be in the scheme. As we’ve progressed, we now see that we bring more to the scheme in our area than it gives us in return. We are Margate’s only 5 * graded Guest Accommodation. But because we decided we couldn’t afford our local tourist board’s marketing package that didn’t give us a single booking in our first 12 months, we’re not promoted locally. We have then found the same as you Karen in our stats from Visit England etc. We have more traffic to our website from a local vintage shop than from any of these official tourism sites combined.

    The QT scheme was useful when we first started, but in essence it was all info that we could have received from a quality tourism association comprised of likeminded businesses nationally. I know I often call the bat phone to some of you when I’ve come up with an emergency situation of what to do with such and such guest! Thank you!

    The QA that we have had really struggled with our renovation – “When are you finishing the decorating?” and also with one of our unique selling points: room service breakfast. Apparantly not as good as a dining room.

    So having decided to step out of local advertising that brought us nothing, I’d rather the town spend tourism budgets on ensuring the town is clean. This is what matters to my guests. As for Quality in Tourism… I don’t think I can carry on supporting a marketing business that doesn’t perform.

  21. Thank you all for commenting on the blog post. There are some great comments on there and some points that I hadn’t considered as well, which was the whole point of posting it in the first place.
    Sorry for not continuing to reply individually to each comment but I’m a bit short on time – small matter of a B&B to run as well.
    Many Thanks and keep them coming whatever your viewpoint.

  22. Jo Lawrence says:

    Hi Karen

    Hot off the press!!
    Quality Inspection in Cornwall just been approved by Visit Britain!

    I started my B&B at Trussel Barn 5 years ago. I joined a local group called SECTA (South East Cornwall Tourism Assoc) to see how others felt about Visit Britain and the star rating system. Discontent rumbled through the ranks for all the reasons discussed on this blog. I didn’t join!

    This pro-active group worked hard with Cornwall Tourism and joy, oh joy, have recently obtained approval from Visit Britain to provide their own Quality In Cornwall (QIC) inspection. It will not be star-rated, the cost is £50 ( for a 3 bed property) pa, you are able to be advertised in local Tourist Information Centres, as well as having a place on the Visit Cornwall website. Warning: the website is in it’s infancy! : http://www.qualityincornwall.com/public/

    I hope this may be of interest and I will keep you posted.
    Best wishes, Jo Lawrence
    Trussel Barn B & B

  23. Mike Brogden says:

    Karen’s interesting musings about whether or not to stay in the quality assessment scheme probably reflect the stage she has reached with a very successful business and a lot of returning customers. In my case, with self-catering accommodation that has been open for just a year, most of my visitors come via the Shropshire Tourism website and brochure. Shropshire Tourism’s assessor is very professional and makes helpful suggestions. I think it’s money well spent and the 4* grading is not only very satisfying for me but it does have the potential to give some reassurance to guests that the place is going to be comfortable. I don’t know whether the star rating influences people’s decision to stay so perhaps I should ask the question. I also don’t know if I would think differently if I had joined Visit England.

  24. Hi Karen,

    You have articulated what everyone is thinking and no one is quite sure how to resolve. The Scots have committed to improve quality and sustainability despite having to accept non-graded product onto their website under the state aid rules. The Tourism Minister waded into the debate through ill prepared thoughts about tripadvisor without understanding you can have a 5 star experience in a limited facility (let’s call it 2 star) property. Being 2 star doesn’t mean you can’t have a terrific welcome, great food, a good matress, cleanliness and lots of hot water!

    However I also think those of you who are 5 star / good 4 star are ruthlessly scrutinised whereby those offering mediocrity are the ones who need a kick up the proverbial by the grading teams. As always, it is not the “good ones” that are the problem and even reading this blog and twitter, I recognise many of the names and properties as leaders and inovators in your field; you know who you are and you deserve the praise you recieve.

    My concern is those who would drop grading as an opportunity to abandon any remaining standards that they are obliged to uphold and “ruin” the reputation of the rural / farm market that offers, what you have already alluded to, a fantastic experience and truly incredible value for money.

  25. I wonder if the answer is, like the Cornish scheme described by Jo of Trussel Barn, is to have a basic national scheme that ALL B&Bs have to register for that shows you’ve reached the minimum legal, food safety requirements etc. But no stars, then people can opt into the more vigorous rating system if they feel they need for marketing purposes.
    Make it self assessment, to keep costs down, but have a website that you upload access statement, fire risk assessment, liability insurance number, date of food training etc. to.
    Karen

  26. I’ve been considering this and the responses, and have spoken to various people, and I’m so glad I didn’t jump in with an immediate response though I felt passionate enough to do so.
    My first point is that, as with anything I read from Karen, it is beautifully written with sensitivity and humour, and I think she has voiced the murmurings of many.
    Like Karen I have been running a B&B now for 7 years, and the first thing I did was apply for a Visit Britain rating, and was proud to advertise it – 4 star initially.
    In terms of business for the money spent, well I can’t recall a single booking through the website, though I have received bookings from TIC’s which I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not been rated. I’ll let Karen do the maths on ratio of business to spend!
    In the 7 years since our start up, changes in technology have been huge, and that clearly now reflects in how we choose to advertise, receive bookings and keeping the website up to date is a necessary expense.
    Trip Advisor has really accelerated over the last 2 to 3 years and certainly very much keeps us on our toes, I also appreciate that it can be misused, though when speaking to guests they do apply a balance to everything they read.
    Which brings me to my point – eventually! I do feel there should be a balance between a formal review, and a customer led one.
    As with Karen I wholeheartedly support the initial one or even 2 very detailed visits with an overnight stay upon start-up, they are very useful. I do however personally now believe that once established maybe the checks should be less intensive & therefore cheaper, unless you wish to change your rating. After 7 years living and breathing and improving our B&B I do consider myself no longer an apprentice!
    In summary there are 2 issues here – one being that in this part of the country we are not getting customer traffic from Visit Britain, and two, that an experienced B&B should not be receiving the same intensive and therefore costly review.
    The times they are a changing and we do need to re-assess the viability of the current system. I hope I’ve not bored anyone – just had to say my piece!

  27. Cara says:

    As a guest, I’ve stayed in some truly awful B&B’s as a result of going via the grading scheme. Nowadays I much prefera personal recommendation – be that from a website (like Sawdays), via social media (twitter) or from someone who has already been. I want to stay somewhere where I will be welcomed, the surroundings comfortable, with a decent breakfast and where the business supports fellow local businesses where possible. I believe you can tell a lot about a business from their website, from the words and images used and the feeling it conveys.

    In a nutshell I’d far rather see a photo of the room, the view I can expect, the foods I might eat and the setting than see a rating that ultimately has to be paid for and is essentially an indicator of the room facilities.

  28. Jane Colston says:

    To Cara, thank you – that sums it up exactly!

  29. Chef Forfeng says:

    As a guest and as well as someone that works with a lot of B&Bs, I have mixed feelings about the grading system. As Scott mentioned here in the states we don’t have a similar system, although there are some organizations and some state and regional B&B associations (not directories) that require certain standards. But from a guests view point I don’t think it has much impact on whether guests book a certain B&B over another. I find most people base where they stay on what they can find online, the B&B website and reviews, here in the states the majority of the people still seem to think that Tripadvisor is God’s gift to travelers (don’t get me started on that one). As a traveler myself I look at the photos, amenities and prices not whether they are Mobile or AAA rated. I’m more like to look at Frommers then take without a large dose of salt the reviews on TA or Yelp for that matter.

  30. Well done Karen for airing this subject, I have been following the discussion with interest, and agree with most of the points already covered. As someone who has stayed in numerous B&Bs over the years and more recently working with B&Bs through http://www.GetBacktoMe.co.uk there are a couple of observations that have not yet been mentioned here.
    1. While Google Analytics may show a very low number of click-throughs from Visit England etc, this does not take into account guests who may have used those sites initially to browse, and make a short list, but not clicked through to you. Later they may have gone straight to your website.
    2. We have to question who actually takes the time to write a entry on Trip Advisor, as Karen mentions, it’s often those with issues. I’m sure it’s not the day in day out guest who have a lovely stay, and go happily on their way.

    Over the past 10 years the B&B industry has changed beyond all recognition. For both users and providers it is for the better, there are so many fantastic places to stay, yet ‘The Hotel Inspector’ will always be purely objective in his view. The guest, however will be looking for a subjective opinion, so there will always be a mismatch.

    Without doubt for B&B providers the trump card is their website. It is their shop window to the world, and within 7 seconds a potential guest will have made a decision as to whether the B&B matches their expectations. It’s all too easy to click away from a site and not return.
    If I see an out of date website, I assume the decor and cuisine will match, if I can’t see the contact details immediately, I don’t waste time looking.
    These are just observations and do nothing to solve the issue at the heart of your article, Karen, but I do hope the powers that be at Visit Britain have the chance to read the views expressed here and work with the B&Bs for everyone’s benefit.

    • Vicky says:

      I found this blog as I recently had a wonderful time in Llandudno and wondered how difficult it would be to set a small business like a guest house or a coffee-and-cakery up – one of those pipe-dream type things.

      I am one of those people who has worked in various incarnations of the customer service industry for many years, form PR to call centre, and in all that time I have lived by the same principle: I do not give bad customer service, so I do not expect it.

      I stayed recently at a very quaint, very antiquated old fashioned B&B in Llandudno called The Ambassador, after getting a half price Groupon voucher. It wasn’t the Ritz, and by no means as modern or luxurious as Karen’s fab offering. It was a 3* – but it was functional, clean, the staff were a delight and the breakfast was lovely.

      Upon check out, I had to wait half an hour for a crotchetty woman who thought it was her place to be able to tear strips off the delightful assistant manager, who, when she was finished, looked like she was going to cry. This woman complained about everything, from the fact that the hotel wasn’t modernised to the levels she would expect (they had a ye olde two-person tallboy type lift that was a bit ricketty but I thought added to the charm of the place, and she was humungous and couldn’t fit in it), to the fact that there was scaffold on the front whilst paintworks were going on (make up your mind, do you want them to do it up, or not?)

      We had had, by all accounts, very similar experiences in the hotel, but as we thought the hotel was great by virtue of it’s lovely staff and the fact that we’re not pretentious a$$holes, they thought the hotel was shabby and not good enough for them, despite the assistant manager giving them free parking and knocking off money for their stay and meals. I think this added fuel to the fire as each time the poor girl knocked money off for something, the woman found something else that she wasn’t prepared to pay for… in the end I think she was just over egging it to get a free stay.

      In this case, I took to TripAdvisor and vociferously aired my views on the hotel, mentioning the lovely staff by name and stating that no, the hotel isn’t the all singing all dancing crystal chandelier type of hotel, but if you want that you’re going to have to pay for it. Frankly, I have stayed in posher places, but not enjoyed my stay as much because of awful staff, who are snooty, dismissive and just can’t be bothered now that you’ve paid. I stayed in one particular 5* boutique hotel after I got a deal, was put in a room where the curtain rail was broken and falling off and it was a double when my friend and I had requested a twin. When I called the reception after we’d checked in to complain I was told “Well, we have customers waiting to check in here so you will just have to wait…” then when I tried to further complain later, told “Well, you got the room really cheaply anyway on an internet deal…” And for me, the customer service is what it’s all about. I will complain if i’ve had bad service, but if I’ve had a problem which has been sorted, I count that as good service, and I will always, ALWAYS comment on it. It’s a pity that people can’t appreciate the effort that some places go to. I’d go back to that shabby little 3* and pay full price for their 5* service, but never to that 5* with their 1* service. Perhaps something gfor the quality assessors to think about!

  31. Howdy from the southwest US! I’ve lurked here before but never posted. I have a b&b in ABQ, NM. Here goes…

    “But on the other hand the Occupancy Survey Results clearly show that higher rated properties have higher occupancy levels.”

    This really caught my eye, and the conspiracy theorist in me wants to say…sez who? I am suspicious of entities that use this kind of lingo. From the analytic you shared it is obvious that people are coming to your inn for how lovely it is, who you are and what you offer, not the stars. Frankly, I avoid the 5 star places because in my mind that means too much “death by doily” and I’m wondering what kind of guest I would have to be to come up to these high standards. No joke…I mean it.

    I used to be #1 on TA for our city, for three years, and when I got bumped down I felt the stress go too. I would cringe when a guest said, “So you’re number one on Trip Advisor.” I was waiting to the proverbial s__t to hit the fan. And it did. I would rather thrill the guests with less expectations than to not come up to the expectations of someone who was too demanding for me to meet their needs. I applaud your desire to drop the stars and encourage you to go for it.

    Incidently – my family is from the W. Midlands, and many still live there!

  32. This is a cracking, well written Blog. I’m new to the business of B&B but have run my own businesses for… blimey, nearly 30 years. We find it easy and we think it shows in our relaxed style. We joined the AA and was awarded 4* Highly Commended within our first month. After noticing I had 3 web referrals from them in the first 6 months I started asking questions about the extremely poor lead generation. I received nothing until ‘the inspector’ turned up 1 year later. I sent her away with a ‘flea in her ear’ and a comment to remind her bosses who the customer is.

    The same day i was told they gave priority to members subscribing to Eviivo, Obviously for an affiliate ‘kick back’… I kicked them into touch.

    Some months later I joined Visit England Scheme and was awarded 4* Silver (Apparently 3 of my 4 rooms are a tad too small… which is fair but I never wanted 5 star).

    They had a similar deal with Laterooms. I have told them I will not be renewing.

    These so called Associations really are a waste of your money even if you only base your opinion purely in revenue return from your advertising budget. Karen’s figures are spot on btw.

    My advice is use them in the begining. Some customers need a guide mark but when you are confident you know the standards expected and you have over 85% positive reviews, cut them loose. They are an antiquated association stuck in a bygone era. Try using clever wording on your site saying ‘Awarded 4 Stars by the AA’ after all if you have been, this statement is true.

    As for an alternative, well… watch out for a Cutting Edge program on Channel 4 soon for my views on Trip Advisor

  33. B & B Exmoor says:

    I for one despise TA and its nitpicking ways. Word of mouth is always a better bet that those so called grading systems and so on.
    And nice write up Karen, makes for very interesting read especially for someone like me who has opted out of the scheme.

  34. Mike & Janice says:

    Enjoyed your blog very much. I have a real problem with this rating in that it doesn’t seem to take into account location. For instance we have a three bedroomed penthouse apartment virtually on the beach with uninterrupted views of the sea in a relatively new development. We decided to join the rental pool. And because of the rating system in place they are insisting on televisions in bedrooms and a wii device to name just two. Our place is immacutely, expensively and tastefully decorated and furnished but it seems this and an incredible breathtaking view isn’t enough. I’m all ratings that ensure quality but to demand that their guidelines are adhered to no matter what seems crazy. The fight goes on.

  35. Susan says:

    Karen thank you so much for writing this in the first place, I have read with interest all the comments and basicly I am also a four star silver with VB and find now that they have removed all our imfortation and listing off the VB web site and set up a new one for Quality in Tourism totaly unacceptable. I have had one referrel from the VB web site in 5 years. I get most of my business from Trip Advisor and my own website which when you google B & B in my area I am no. 1. I am thinking of now using VB anymore because of the changes how does weveryone else feel about this. also been speaking to other B & B owners in my area and they have all just paid their years subscriptions and now been taken off the VB web site they are so angry. What are the alternatives.

    I think sometimes we are just scared we are going to lose out. Fear not a B & B in my area came of VB four years ago and nothing changes, no decrease in business.

    I really think it is time for a shake up. any suggestions.

    Sue

  36. anthony says:

    Fascinating blog. Thank you! We own the only 4* gold B+B in our area (Broadway, Cotswolds). Although we have always been no.1 on Tripadvisor since the day we moved in, keeping this up is often like treading on egg shells. I’m not over keen on VB and have only ever had one stay as a result of being a member, and sadly see its days very much numbered. We have always turned down the idea of being 5 star as we want to exceed expectations and avoid the pathetic scenes as seen on programmes such as “3 in a bed”.

  37. Pat says:

    Hi I have just found your blog having googled is it worth grading b & b. I have run my establishment for 16 years and graded 4 star since 2000. My dilemma is that I am 69 this year and looking to sell my house, in the mean time the inspector is trying to book in to assess me. Because I am winding down I have only taken 3K this year. The cost of grading is forever going up and I don’t remember ever having a referral from the. Should I be brave and go it alone, will it make any difference.

    • Hi Pat
      Thanks for your comment. Since writing this blog I’ve dropped my rating and, for me, it hasn’t made much of a difference. But I think it very much depends on where your B&B is, how you market it & how important it is for you to generate a certain amount of income etc. Whilst they may not send referrals I wonder how many people look at your website and are reassured by the 4 star silver?
      Karen

      • Mike Brogden says:

        Dear Karen
        It’s not, in my view, a matter of whether or not lots of stars attract visitors. I think we should be promoting the notion that accommodation enterprises should be graded by tourism bodies as, in the absence of other controls, this does ensure that guests stay in safe places. Without a grading, anything goes – but do most guests know this? I suspect that few b&b or s/c websites describe what their grading actually means, beyond being rightly very proud of all their stars. Perhaps we should make more of our responsibilities to our customers by encouraging tourism gradings? I’m pleased that the Shropshire Gold Farm & Country Holiday Group insists on a grading as a condition of membership.

  38. Robert says:

    Hi
    We are a former 4 star B&B with ten bedrooms. We gave up stars 3 years ago and our sales doubled by spending the money on worthwhile marketing……………need I say more?
    Simply ditch the associations and start selling & marketing your ideas to get bums in beds!!
    Also never spend money on commission based sites so that you can actually speak to potential guests to know who is staying in your place. A phone conversation soon gets rid of the weird one’s you dont like the sound of. Last minute whatever sites just take your profit and drive prices down in the industry ……………………Good luck & make the move now!!

  39. Amanda Allen says:

    We are about to embark on our career as b & b hosts, as soon as the builders have finished and found your blog really interesting. We know we want a really high standard for our rooms and food our location is already excellent but the marketing aspect is so confusing! Do we go for star ratings and register with every site available or just go with local advertising? Your comment re star rating have made me even more unsure which way to market our new business when we are ready to open. Your place looks fantastic by the way,

  40. Heather Barr says:

    Dear Karen
    For a fee of £50.00 Northern Ireland Tourist Board carry out a Statutory Review which guarantees minimum standards for the customer. You get a certificate and if your premises do not meet this standard it is illegal to continue trading. We have also a grading scheme which is voluntary of course & I was thrilled to achieve 4 star. Personally Trip Advisor works for me ….. So far!
    Heather

    • Sue Ashton says:

      Visit England, is taking money off us under false pretences. They do not advertise as they use too. The web site it awful, some people get to advertise on it, If you are with booking.com and any of those other companies you get a mention on it. I did not get a visit for 4 years complained and they sent me a regional manger who was fantastic. But I think too little too late. Their are few of us in our village who are looking at not renewing ours next year. I always ask my guests where they found us and all say our web site or Trip advisor. I know some people have a problem with Trip advisor but I don’t and I have nothing but good things from them. We are now looking at doing what Ireland does and trying to roll that out in our area. In the early stages at the moment, but think it is well worth while trying. On another note a friend of mine had run her B & B for 30 years and finally dropped out of Visit Britain and just put 4 star on her sign because that is what she was when she left VB and it did not affect her business at all.

    • Robert Dee says:

      Hello
      We have a hotel & B&B which were both 4 star with silver awards for many years. We got fed up with inspectors coming round making stupid comments such the chair in room one is past its sell by date, although it was new!
      The following year the same inspector said what a lovely new and comfortable chair in room one. It was the same chair she condemned the year before!
      WE got rid of all stars some 2 years ago and our sales have doubled in that time by spending our money with internet marketing ideas. My thoughts, just get rid of them all and your sales may just get better by better marketing and self assessment!!! Robert East Dorset area

  41. carolbandb says:

    Hi Karen,
    fantastic blog, likewise Im FIVE STAR GOLD with Visit Britain and AA, its very expensive to advertise now.. I would be scared not to advertise with them incase bookings dropped. Most of my bookings come from google now which is brillant. Tripadvisor I think is imperative. lots of our guests check us out on his site first… Good job# tripadvisor

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