Andrew Oxley, head of AA Hotel Services talks to us about the Great British B&B and how far this sector has grown
At the AA, the month of May is all about celebrating the Great British B&B. One of my first duties in my new role as Head of AA Hotel Services was attending our annual AA Bed and Breakfast Awards. Held at the Landmark Hotel in London, the awards lunch sees some of the country’s top B&Bs recognised for their achievements. From the best Guest Accommodation for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the best Restaurant with Rooms, the most Unique B&B and of course, the AA’s Friendliest B&B we celebrate all that is so wonderful about this sector of the industry.
The Bed and Breakfast has long been a stalwart of the British hospitality industry from farmer’s wives letting out their spare rooms to travellers, to seaside landladies offering affordable holiday accommodation. Over the decades, the B&B has come a long way and has seen some major transformation. We have seen a move away from the informal spare room type B&B towards the more luxurious, boutique hotel style guest accommodation now offered by many establishments. Customer expectations have changed and, as an industry, there has been a great shift to offer exactly what guests want.
While the aspiration of many is to experience the luxury of a country house hotel stay, many feel that this type of experience is not for them, either due to budget or, often, because they can feel out of place in such an establishment. In the past finding the level of luxury of the grander hotels with the warm, homely welcome they felt comfortable with was not possible, however now, with the increase in the number of luxury B&Bs, guests can achieve the best of both worlds. In a recent AA/Populus survey we asked over 11,000 holiday makers what attracts them most to a B&B and a quarter said it was the traditional homely feeling. Our expert inspectors are seeing more and more evidence that B&B owners are realising the importance of offering the added extras that make a stay memorable.
Coming in a close second in the poll with 18%, was the Great British Breakfast cooked to order. The choice of wonderful homemade and local produce offered at breakfast by B&Bs ensure that guests expectations are not only reached but so often exceeded. Special dietary needs are catered for without issue – in fact one of our Friendliest B&B finalists specialises in catering for allergy sufferers and has Gluten Free Accreditation, a classic example of how adaptable B&Bs are in today’s market.
What luxury B&Bs offer now is the perfect marriage between the homely feel that guests are drawn to and the feeling of indulgence of the additional touches, once the reserve of 5 star hotels, now offered to guests.
The winners of the AA Bed and Breakfast Awards show the breadth of offering the B&B sector now provides. From Lakeside historic buildings and converted schools to a former prisoner of war camp and a 16th century castle, it really shows that B&B guests have a choice that years ago they would never have imagined possible. Whatever the building or the location, the over-riding theme is a friendly welcome and warm hospitality in a homely setting – which our poll shows is exactly what the British public are looking for when it comes to choosing a Bed and Breakfast for their holiday.
We are so proud to be in a position to reward and celebrate all that is great with the Great British B&B and we look forward to working with these establishments to help them grow and develop in the future.