Of all the ridiculous things that Liz Truss did in her 44 days in charge, the “Mini-Budget” delivered by Kwasi Kwarteng was for us accommodation providers the most damaging by far. The market reaction, the Bank of England remedy in raising interest rates coupled with the ongoing high energy prices and already stupendous inflation levels sucked any remaining confidence from our future guests.
We normally get about 10 new bookings a week and we are 90% full all year round. Since the mini-budget shambles we are down to about 2 bookings a week, and the start of 2023 and indeed quite a bit of December (including Christmas in one of our 3 retreats) has far too many empty periods.
We can’t blame the population for “minding their pennies” – we are doing exactly the same as a family. So what can we do to ride out this cost of living crisis and slowdown in business?
As live on-site owners we have a few advantages over remote owners; Bethnal&Bec is also our only employment – with this in mind, a few months ago we made the decision to increase the amount of turnovers we personally do from 50% to 100% and gave notice to our cleaning company – to be fair they were going to be booted out anyway, but that’s a story for another column. We also opened up to 1 night stays midweek, instead of a minimum of 2 nights. Many of our customers cannot get away for 2 nights, normally due to childcare restrictions as we are adult only, or due to the shift nature of their employment; so 1 night stays are very popular, and as we are just next door, it’s a couple of hours of extra cleaning for a £200 nightly fee that we would not have got otherwise.
These two things of reducing our cleaning bill to zero, and opening up for one nighters will make a 5 figure difference to our bottom line. Interestingly we also did a snap 7 day only massive discount of 25%. We really do not like discounting, but these are exceptional times and we know our customers are also suffering so we were honest in our communication about this discount; highlighting the economy and our recent lack of bookings and the perils of being a small business at this time; we asked our social media following and own email database to share the offer far and wide to help us out, and they responded. In just 7 days we received 70 bookings; some people booked on the Tuesday for a Thursday stay; some were people who stayed with us 5 years ago, and have wanted to come back for aeons; but needed the cheaper price to justify it; others were repeat guests adding a spur of the moment 6th stay this year to the 5 they have already had 🙂
As well as the much needed ££, seeing all these bookings come in, even at a hefty discount was good for our morale and motivation in these dark, wet winter days. But it’s not all good news, as soon as we closed the discount offer, we are back to 2 bookings a week and fretting about next year…but those 70 bookings and saving a fortune doing all our own cleaning/turnovers will see us through for now.