What is the difference between a B&B, guest house and hotel?

What is the difference between a B&B, guest house and hotel?

One of the biggest questions those in the accommodation hospitality industry ask is how to differentiate between a B&B, guest house and hotel. David Weston, chairman of the B&B Association, explains the differences.

We have always been called the B&B Association – even though many of our members say they run guest houses or hotels. There is no legal dividing line between the three, and no generally accepted rule either.

VisitEngland calls both B&Bs and guest houses 'guest accommodation', and AA Hospitality have decided that an establishment with 'hotel' in its name should be treated as a hotel. So, to say the least, the distinction between these terms is a grey area.

Star rating schemes

There is, however, a sharp distinction in the star rating schemes between 'guest accommodation' and 'hotel', with star ratings for each being decided on very different criteria. Don't expect a 4-star B&B to have the same facilities as a 4-star hotel. It was possibly clearer when the former used to be awarded diamonds, and the latter stars.

The Hotel Proprietors' Act

The Hotel Proprietors' Act 1956 defines a hotel as 'an establishment held out by the proprietor as offering food, drink and, if so required, sleeping accommodation, without special contract, to any traveller presenting himself who appears able and willing to pay a reasonable sum for the services and facilities provided and who is in a fit state to be received'. There is no reference to the number of bedrooms.

The size of the establishment

As a broad rule of thumb, though, B&Bs tend to be smaller – most being under 10 rooms or so, and guest houses larger (often roughly 10-25 rooms). None of those dividing lines are exact though – and you will find 15-room B&Bs and eight-room guest houses (and indeed 'hotels').

How any individual establishment is named is in most cases historic, rather than the result of a measured decision.

Boutique establishments

Meanwhile, the term 'Boutique Hotel' or 'Boutique B&B' is relatively new and has no official definition. It is used by owners who want to emphasise that their property is stylish and high quality, even if small. It tends to indicate design-led establishments, but it is a highly subjective judgement.

What makes B&Bs special?

The common factor for B&Bs – and what defines our membership - is that they are owner-managed, and not part of a chain. That means that they can offer the sort of individual welcome and service, local knowledge and home-cooked breakfast that bigger, purely commercial businesses can't replicate.

Consumers love these added extras, with millions of guests rating B&Bs higher for guest satisfaction than hotels. Data from TripAdvisor announced at the B&B Association's B&B Summit in London revealed: in 2017, the average TripAdvisor review rating on UK B&Bs was 4.45 (89%) compared to 4.05 (81%) on UK hotels. So the guest satisfaction rating for the smaller establishments was 10% higher than that for the large ones. As Schumacher said, 'Small is Beautiful'.

David Weston, Chairman of the award-winning Bed & Breakfast Association, has over 30 years' experience in travel and tourism, is a Fellow of the Tourism Society (FTS), sits on the Government's Tourism Industry Council and is the co-author of the book 'How to Start and Run a B&B'.

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Added: 8 Aug 2018