In the middle of winter, there is definitely something evocative about the charmed surrender of sinking deep into a plush king-size bed between crisp chic Florence Broadhurst sheets under a soft, enveloping eiderdown with a gently crackling open fire playing in the background. Especially after an indulgent submerge in a playful, bubbly spa bath following a day’s sightseeing or a host of business meetings…
Sounds like a fantasy accommodation? Not so.
Bed and breakfasts, or nowadays more fashionably (but less alluringly) labelled hosted accommodation, provide benefits far beyond those of a five-star branded resort for those that appreciate individuality, more intimate service and indulgent comfort often coupled with rustic charm, unexpected histories and quaint architecture from a bygone era.
And it often comes at a tariff far less than just a room at a top chain hotel.
The range of B&Bs is vast.
Sharing a private home as part of ‘the family’ is a most rewarding experience. Inglebrae in Bundaberg is such an establishment along the more traditional concepts of a B&B. A c1910 Queenslander transformed into a cosy three-bedroom retreat with a communal breakfast, port before bed, antique furniture, manicured gardens and gracious hosts.
The Noorla Heritage Resort at Ingham encapsulates extravagant Italian architecture with a Ceylonese tea plantation manor heritage. At The Mudbrick Manor in nearby Cardwell one can enjoy the antique four-poster in the manor itself or select one of four individual adobe suites. Das Helweg Haus at Glen Aplin on the Granite Belt has a grand German flavour mixed with fresh home-grown produce.
There are extreme eco-retreats set in rainforests such as The Sanctuary at Mission Beach’s Bingil Bay or Pethers Rainforest Retreat on Mt Tamborine and the ultra-environmentally friendly Hidden Valley Cabins at Paluma on the Great Dividing Range about 1½ hours from Townsville.
Then there are the magnificent historic, pioneer Queenslanders with their extensive balconies and verandahs, exotic wildlife-prone gardens and stories to tell like the ghost of Woodlands of Marburg on the Scenic Rim. Or the 1846 Taabinga Homestead at Kingaroy or Woodleigh Homestead, one of the many B&Bs on Mt Tamborine.
From a restored sandstone monastery such as the glorious 120-year old Abbey of the Roses in Warwick to the inner-city Brisbane mansions like Number 12, Aynsley or Cream Gables, B&Bs offer a unique assortment of lodgings with an accent on indulgent comfort, superbly individualised service without the bells and whistles of big-brand five stars and affording excellent value for money.
While B&Bs can take guests away from the stresses of daily life, many do provide the ‘necessities’ of the modern-day man such as free wi-fi, iPods with a library of music, TVs with all the program trimmings and minibars (usually with a few gratis nibbles and bubbly).
So, as many look towards a sea or treechange later in life, what makes a great B&B operator?
First, one is unlikely to make heaps of money by managing a B&B, rather more like a comfortable return with plenty of fringe benefits. Any return on investment is likely to be when the business is sold.
But B&B prices reflect this and initial outlay can be as low as $350K, though there are a quite a few that will cost $1 million plus. For example, One Thornbury in Brisbane’s Spring Hill is currently on the market for $395K while The Angkasa at Coolum Beach is listed at $2.5 million.
Queensland’s B&B and Farmstay Committee chairwoman Sue Panuccio, who has run Mt Cotton Guest House with her partner Trevor Penson for 11 years, said B&B owners must like meeting people and be comfortable with guests staying in their home.
“Running a B&B is a lifestyle choice,” Panuccio stresses. “B&Bs should be a place where people can meet a real Australian person who cooks pretty well, is helpful and friendly, and where guests feel they’re not just a number.”
Liz Pryor heads Hosted Accommodation Australia, the peak industry organisation for the B&B, farmstay, guesthouse and self-catering accommodation industry, maintains more and more young people, including internationals, were keen to own a B&B.
“It can be a daunting idea at first,” she said. “But if you’re the right sort of person and have considered the type of business you want to run and how it will fit into your life, B&Bs offer a good supplementary income.”
“Above all, remember that B&Bs should offer a ‘real’ experience for guests, with plenty of interaction between the guests and the host.”
Potential B&Bers must be prepared to be a jack of all trades especially in the housekeeping area as this is where they stand head and shoulders above any five-star hotel with small but highly-appreciated niceties like real, fresh flowers in the room, top-of-the-range amenities and bed-time chockies and port. Breakfasts are the star attraction with most focusing on fresh localised, in-season flavours delivered with a personal flair.
Above all, operators must be totally committed to flexible, personalised, generous hospitality – graciously given at all times for any reason.
Marketing a B&B can be far easier than for larger accommodation businesses as they usually have unrivalled locations, unique character structures and that idiosyncratic human connection offering incredibly flexible, personalised service plus a locally-fresh breakfast orgy experience far beyond anything a branded five star can offer.
And the results of the social media review sites confirm the present B&B popularity. Booking.com, which has looked over the 110 million reviews posted on the site during 2016, finds B&Bs have consistently impressed visitors.
Of the 12 properties around Australia that received a perfect 10 score, not one is a traditional hotel. Seven are B&Bs, two are holiday homes, and the remaining three are an apartment, a guesthouse and a homestay.
Booking.com says the results come as no surprise given recent research found 70 percent of holiday-makers say they have the best time when they can make themselves at home, and 59 percent saying they like to feel a personal connection with their host or accommodation staff.
Baudins of Busselton, run by husband-and-wife team Linda and Greg Leuzzi on the southwestern tip of Western Australia, has been rated by travellers as the best place to stay in Australia, according to hotel search website Trivago.
There are only four rooms, all modern and fully equipped. Linda and Greg also live on the premises and cook their guests a full and hearty meal each morning.
It’s thoughtful touches like this that may help explain the humble B&B’s incredible appeal, Linda explains. “One really good formula we have is the communal breakfast: I can be quite the conversationalist and I’ll get people talking, and sometimes we’ll have people all over the world eating together — sometimes four continents on one table.”
B&Bs have a niche following among the travelling public and one only has to look at the impressive number of these businesses to realise how successful they are.
Ownership, once the preserve of retirement couples supplementing their incomes by sharing their homes, now features a new, younger set that embrace a wonderful lifestyle with a healthy return in a growing and most appealing accommodation sector.