Hotel or B&B –– What is the difference?

I often pick up the phone to hear the voice at the other end say, “Is that Bressenden Hotel?”. Unfortunately, online booking agencies are usually quite bad at making distinctions between the various categories of tourist accommodation, and Bressenden has very little in common with a hotel. (And by the way, booking directly from this site rather than through a third-party agency will save you money!). Unlike a commercial hotel, Bressenden has no staff, concierge, restaurant, shop or bars. Check-in times are restricted and it does not offer evening meals.

Bressenden is not a guest house either, which implies a more formal type of business where most of the building is given over to accommodating paying guests. It is first and foremost a private home offering traditional-style B&B to paying guests in just two or three bedrooms. Some modern B&Bs are purpose-built and some are run by owners who live off-site. The more traditional B&Bs like Bressenden are usually private houses and the main residence of their owners. They typically offer a bed for the night with breakfast in the morning, often prepared by the owner. Nowadays B&Bs are a little more sophisticated than they once were, with most having en-suite bathrooms. Bressenden has one en-suite bathroom, but the layout of the house does not make it possible to convert the existing accommodation to provide en-suites in the other two rooms. To do this it would be necessary to sacrifice one of the bedrooms. Another solution would involve partitioning the bedrooms. This would be difficult because of the location of the windows, necessitating wasted space or the loss of windows, and the bedrooms and the bathrooms would both be small and cramped. Both of these options would devalue the property rather than enhance it. To reduce a family house of this size and scale from five bedrooms to four bedrooms would not make any sense, particularly as it would then have more bathrooms than bedrooms! And to alter the generous proportions of the bedrooms so that they are no longer in keeping with the downstairs rooms and the Arts and Crafts character of the property would be sacrilege. I’ve seen many beautiful houses in France where what were once beautifully proportioned, coved and corniced bedrooms have been ruined by insensitive conversions. In the end, these compromises detract from the overall experience. What guests generally want and respond to is a memorable experience. One guest who stayed here commented during breakfast: “I feel as though I’m in the middle of an Agatha Christie novel.” For many guests, a short trip down the passage to a spacious, solidly built and well appointed bathroom is like stepping back in time and is preferable to hitting one’s elbows on the stud walls of a cramped and flimsy shower cubicle. It makes for a more memorable experience.

So why are B&Bs so expensive when they offer so little in comparison with a hotel? The answer is here:

This represents a fairly typical weekend’s worth of laundry generated by two couples staying for two nights. The bath mats and one lot of towels were still in the washing machine when I took this photo, with its assortment of around 30 items, including sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases and protectors, table cloths, tea towels and table protectors, all of which will have to be ironed. It does not include items that need less frequent cleaning, like bedding, bed covers and mattress protectors. Each guest who stays here, even if only for one night, generates between 10 and 19 items of laundry. That’s per person, not per couple! Two couples staying for the weekend will easily fill all of my 35 metres of washing line.

What you are paying for is my time for the multitude of tasks involved in running a B&B, including the obvious ones like bed-making, room and house cleaning and food preparation. Utilities, maintenance and replacement costs are also part of the equation. I don’t factor in admin time because it’s my own choice to provide this service. In other words, it’s not just Bed and Breakfast that you’re paying for, but a whole host of hidden, invisible or unnoticed details that are essential to the smooth running of the operation but that take time to put in place and to maintain.

Bressenden does have more to offer than many B&Bs. There is ample free parking space, a sitting room for the use of guests, a fully equipped secondary kitchen that guests may use for light meals and takeaways, with a table and chairs to eat at, excellent wifi coverage, and a large garden with a terrace and private woodland to explore.