By Helen Paterson
THE introduction of grading for bed-and-breakfasts and guest houses has brought about huge changes in the industry, according to a founding member of the Inverness and District Bed and Breakfast Association.
As proprietors prepare for another summer season, the association, which has just celebrated its 21st anniversary, has launched a new website to promote its 25 members.
Margaret Hutcheson said the start of classification and grading, which was brought in by the national tourist authority, was one of the main changes seen by the association over its history.
“It has lifted us all to raise our game,” said Mrs Hutcheson, co-owner of Daviot Lodge. “We are absolutely passionate about what we do and want to deliver a really good experience for the visitor.”
Association chairman Ritchie Paxton, who owns the Westbourne Guest House in Huntly Street, is also keen to dispel the traditional image of a bed in a basic room.
“The culture of bed-and-breakfasts has changed,” he said. “In a hotel, you are just a room number.” He added that it was very much a high-quality, personal experience.
Only accredited bed-and-breakfast establishments can join the association, which means they must have AA or VisitScotland star grading. They pay £100 a year and the association meets once a month, outwith peak season (April to October), at the Thistle Inn, Celt Street. It organises regular speakers on a range of topics.
“We basically network with each other,” Mr Paxton said, explaining that if his bed-and-breakfast is full he can contact someone else in the association to see if they have space.
Being part of an association also allows members to share concerns, help each other and keep up to date on developments in the industry.
“We look after our members,” Mr Paxton continued. “If you have a problem or need something done, or cannot find a plumber quickly, we can help each other. If I don’t know, I’ll know someone who will.”
Mr Paxton said the strength of the euro against the pound would hopefully encourage more people to holiday at home again this year. “I would say things look positive for the summer but we won’t really know until it gets here,” he added.
Mrs Hutcheson explained that travel problems caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud had affected bookings.
She added: “Bookings seem to come in later every year, but come the summer it gets busy. At the moment people are very careful about spending their money.”