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The holiday sector joys and challenges

The holiday sector: joys and challenges

An owner at the luxury end, a motel owner and a boutique holiday accommodation proffer their views

Guest houses are highly popular lifestyle businesses.

If you love meeting people - even the awkward ones - and relish the prospect of making someone's holiday or business trip restful and enjoyable, then you tick two of the most important boxes to thrive in this sector. interviewed a number of B&B, motel and holiday accommodation owners about why they entered the sector, what they enjoy about the role and what to look out for when appraising a guest house for sale.

Daniel Cote owns the Inn Victoria, which offers a three-course gourmet breakfast and operates at the luxury end of the sector. A frequent B&B user himself, he was clear from the outset about his priorities.

"One thing that really helped us early on is when we came into this business we knew what we wanted for bedding," he says. We've stayed in so many bed and breakfasts around the world and we realised that our bedding had to be better than everyone else's, because when a person comes to a bed and breakfast they want the perfect bed!"

Danielle Schaumberg, 44, is selling Tree Houses of Montville, which provides fairly boutique holiday accommodation. Set amid the treetops in the spectacular surroundings of Kondalilla Falls National Park are 24 luxury cabins kitted out with kitchen facilities and spectacular views.

Look at the numbers first rather then falling in love with a physical piece of property, because the property itself means nothing if the numbers don't work
- Daniel Cote, Inn Victoria owner

Speaking about the demands of managing a 20-acre site, she says: "With a resort of our size there always has to be someone in the office answering the phones, emailing and updating Facebook and things like that.

"Then you have people on the ground doing the maintenance, mowing and fixing things in cabins and making the resort generally look pretty. Then we have housekeeping staff who clean the cabins."

Long hours

Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin are 69 and 60 respectively, but they're more than happy to put in the long hours required to manage their motel.

"We work very long days, often from daybreak to sunset - and sometimes longer! Our hours haven't calmed down at all. As the business has grown so has the demand on our time.

"We don't have any employees; Dennis and I do everything, from maintenance and marketing to all the other day-to-day operations."

The couple apparently have no misgivings about the demands on their time. "The greatest reward is meeting the people that find their way to us. We really enjoy the social aspect of being innkeepers and have become good friends with many of our guests.

"Since there is no separation between our business and personal lives it is very rewarding to have total control in shaping the directions we pursue."

A motel in the shape of a dog, the Dog Bark Inn represented an idiosyncratic way to diversify their art business. "That's how it started, but now the motel side of the business predominates, although the motel also includes an artists' studio for our carving work," says Frances.

Asked if there are any downsides, they insist there are "no frustrations", although "we do get tired sometimes. However, we manage to find renewed energy for every visitor.

"I suppose we could hire assistance, but we'd rather be tired sometimes than relinquish the responsibilities to others as we enjoy every aspect of our work."

For anyone considering buying a B&B, Frances advises: "We strongly recommend visiting as many lodging properties before you make the leap. Talk to owners and managers. I believe it is very important to study the business before you set up or buy your own motel."

Cote broadly echoes these sentiments. "I would go to as many bed and breakfasts as you possibly can before you buy one and learn about the finances first. Find a partner that can help identify businesses that are already succeeding financially."

Don't let architectural merit cloud your judgement, he advises. If demand just isn't there for another B&B in the area, it doesn't matter how ideal a property is for the purpose of providing accommodation.

"Look at the numbers first rather then falling in love with a physical piece of property," he says, "because the property itself means nothing if the numbers don't work."

Try to secure the help of the previous owner for a period post-sale, if possible, suggests Schaumberg. "We had a three-week handover from the previous owner. I can't put my hand on my heart and say that it was absolutely helpful."

But don't stop there, she continues - seek expert advice wherever you can find it. "I formed alliances with other local accommodation businesses and I was like a sponge trying to pick up lessons from them. Some of it has been trial and error, but most of the time we've got it right.

"You have to set up a network, especially when you get into a business where you don't have that past experience. Be a sponge and absorb as much information as you can about the area you're in."

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David Pottingham

About the author

David is a guest author for and


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