Tell us more about your guests?
“The previous owners had 65% of their business from walking and cycling holiday companies. They offered generous discounts and mostly one-night stays. We have taken a totally different approach. Two night stays minimum, discount on stays of 3 or 4 nights. Fewer muddy boots, wet jackets and packed lunches. Greater profitability.
We have a good level of bookings for May, June and July and a modest amount in August. We are taking things gently to start with as we are not sure what the Covid regulations are going to be with regard to distancing and cleaning regimes. It’s important to us that people feel relaxed and at home with us, so we’d like their stay to feel as normal as possible. We’d rather sacrifice income so that we don’t have to schedule people coming through the front door or up and down the staircase. Our building is an 18th century listed town house so social distancing is not that straightforward indoors.”
Guest reviews are glowing and in particularly highlight you as fabulous hosts. What makes a great B&B host in your opinion?
“Well, that’s easy – just treat all your guests as if they are already your friends. Make people feel genuinely welcome by taking a genuine interest in them whilst being sensitive as to how chatty they want to be. We’re friendly and not pretentious or aloof.”
Your partnership with Earthrhize, how did that come about? Tell us more about this initiative and why it could be followed suit by other B&B owners?
“Last summer it became really apparent what impact domestic and local tourism has on our immediate environment. Discarded masks, plastic bottles, full up litter bins, lots of cars parked on verges once the beach car parks were full. It got us thinking about how we’ve behaved when we’ve been on holiday in the UK and how we have impacted the places we’ve stayed in ourselves.
It’s no-one’s fault that there is a shortage of opportunities to go on holiday abroad and days out are limited with pre-booking and limited capacity, so it’s great to see so many people enjoying our countryside. But it does come at a cost. We wanted to counterbalance the impact our business has on the environment and partnering with Earthrhize seemed like a very easy and ethical way to achieve that. Our guests’ minimum spend with us is £220 so a £2 donation for a carbon offset is a very small additional cost but can make a real difference to preventing ocean-bound plastic for example. We became aware of Earthrhize through a friend who is a founding partner of the scheme. It’s so easy to set up – we just have it as an add-on on our freetobook booking page, alongside the options to add a packed lunch or flowers and chocolates in the room. It takes two minutes to set up. We can then send the funds to Earthrhize either as a monthly subscription or as a lump sum once or twice a year.”
How do you promote your property? For your B&B website it’s clear you used a professional web designer and photographer.
“My professional background is in marketing communications, so the website is very important to me to convey the right look and feel so people know what to expect. We are members of the B&B Association which has been invaluable during the pandemic as they are a great source of information and support. We are listed on Visit Northumberland and we use Facebook and Instagram. For me, it’s important to do a few things really well rather than over stretch ourselves.”