Claire and her husband Stu run the luxurious, Visit England 5* awarded, Roxbro House B&B in the fortified town of Warkworth in Northumbria. Claire had never worked in the B&B industry before, however she had always excelled at customer service having clocked up eighteen years of cabin crew experience with two major British airlines. "The job itself required excellent customer service delivery, however being part of long-haul crew I was able to recognise the standards required in top hotels and also more importantly what was missing in some!"
What has been the biggest challenge ... and also success to date?
"I think the biggest challenge, apart from obviously initially setting up the business six years ago, is to constantly keep on top of everything, ensuring our product is the best it can be.
"So many guests now do not differentiate between a top quality B&B and a hotel so they expect exactly the same service. Whilst the service itself is not a problem, they don't seem to understand that we are not on duty 24 hours a day like hotels. Being disturbed at 11pm and being asked for more ice is still the biggest downside!"
Claire and Stu participated in the first series of Channel 4's popular programme 'Three In A Bed' (Series 1, Episode 7). In each episode three B&B proprietors review each other's properties with some very revealing results for viewers! The four-bedroomed Roxbro House won over the other two B&B owners to secure top billing in this particular episode. "I'm very proud to be a British B&B owner!" says Claire.
Would you recommend freetobook? What other OTAs do you use?
"Freetobook is an excellent booking system and I have already recommended it to lots of others.
"Our booking.com channel manager works very well and being new to the managed Expedia connection, I can already see a growth in bookings from this channel. Our rates depend upon which offers I can get out and advertised but luckily we still get at least 60% direct bookings."
Where do your visitors come from?
"Our visitors are from all over the world, but mostly from the UK. Most of guests are holidaying or visiting relatives. We do also benefit from a number of wedding guests. As we have a two-night stay policy, we only get business guests if we have the occasional one night slot to fill. Luckily we have lots of returning guests and referals."
What does the year ahead hold for you and your property?
"We have a few renovations to do and I would like to replace some carpets etc. I am always looking for little enhancements and additions, so I may implement some over the next few months.
After 14 years we have found a fantastic management relief couple who run this place like a well-oiled machine when we are away, so we intend to loosen the reins a bit and enjoy more travel and holidays!"