Town and Country Homes has issued a call for compulsory licensing of all B&Bs and for the introduction of a quality grading scheme, such as exists for hotels and self-catering accommodation in Ireland.  The call was made in Dublin today, at the launch of a report on quality and standards in the B&B sector at the Guinness Storehouse.

TCH chairperson Ms Kate Burns said the report reveals that compulsory licensing would increase consumer confidence, reward effort and eliminate sub-standard operators.  “Up to 5,000 unapproved B&Bs are currently allowed to operate without any health and safety standards, undermining over 2,600 registered B&Bs who pay to be inspected.”

TCH say the B&B sector is worth over €300 million to the Irish economy annually, but unless quality is managed and regulated, its future is under serious threat.  In all other sectors of accommodation in Ireland you must register and be graded for quality and standards – so why not in B&B?”   Also speaking at the launch event, travel presenter Kathryn Thomas said “tourism is so important to Ireland – now more than ever – and any initiative that improves the quality of our céad míle fáilte is to be welcomed”.

The TCH report involved consultation with the industry, trade, and marketing organisations which showed over 74% support for mandatory licensing and registration.  The findings indicated that the B&B industry itself views the situation where unregistered B&Bs are allowed to operate without any health and safety standards as “unacceptable”.  Those consulted felt that compulsory licensing may force B&B’s which are below standard out of business, and could encourage unapproved operators to register.  

The report also showed that tour operators are particularly interested in grading so they can have confidence in the standards and quality of service they offer to tourists.  The findings concurred with the 2005 Fáilte Ireland-funded research (BDO Simpson Xavier Amárach) which suggested the future of the industry cannot be guaranteed unless management of standards is progressed.

Ms Burns said that TCH, which represents almost 60% of all registered B&B’s in Ireland,  has worked hard to revolutionise the sector in recent years investing over €730,000 in strategic research, marketing, development and IT, and helping B&B owners become more competitive and professional in the way they run their businesses.  

“This has often meant that our members are doing better than other B&Bs but nonetheless the sector is facing a number of serious challenges.  An explosion of low cost hotel accommodation, changing visitor trends which favour short, urban breaks and the continued presence of unapproved, unregulated establishments have all contributed to declining numbers of approved homes and decreasing occupancy and popularity.”  

“We can continue to improve our competitiveness through, for example,  joint marketing and the development of specialist B&B breaks but we must have a regulated grading and licensing system to create long-term consumer confidence in this sector.  We believe that a pilot voluntary grading scheme could pave the way for compulsory licensing and that this could begin as early as next year.”

“We call on Fáilte Ireland to address the issues by determining an appropriate model to deliver on the recommendations of this research and their own report of 2005.”   
For details contact:   Trish Hegarty, Inis Communications on 086 1740057