Are Bed & Breakfasts on the Brink?
For those who want to make bed and breakfast their bread and butter, what’s the future for these short-term accommodation rentals?
Queensland’s bed and breakfasts are the unsung heroes of our State’s tourism. They’re deeply entrenched in our history and provide a much more rustic and home-grown feeling than modern hotels and Airbnb rooms. However, recently they’ve had to compete with drought, devastating bushfires and a pandemic that shut down all travel and tourism. How are these mum-and-dad hosted getaways faring in the wake of all this adversity?
The sad truth is, bed and breakfasts have struggled. When restrictions prevented both domestic and international travel, and a slew of events were struck from the calendar, Queensland’s century-old bed and breakfasts played host to empty beds and unmade breakfasts. Ann Stewart-Moore, who runs a B&B in the Darling Downs, says they were only able to stay afloat because of the agricultural side of their business. “We can survive, but it’s not been easy,” she says. “We’re lucky because we own our premise, lots of hosts who are renting are not as lucky.” Despite Queensland’s roadmap to restrictions easing now in Stage 3, popular agricultural and regional events won’t be back until 2021. That means the drive to travel will need to come from those looking to get away after weeks of working from home, or those wishing to support regional Queenslanders once more.
For Sonia Hunt, who’s spent a decade turning a magnificent abbey in Warwick into one of the most breathtaking bed and breakfasts in the State, the pandemic was doubly disastrous. Not only was the sandstone giant sitting empty, it had also been on the market for sale for over two years. Josh Thomas, the appointed sales agent, is hoping a post-pandemic travel boom will be enough to entice potential buyers. “There’s going to be a massive pent up demand, particularly with the international travel so restricted that places like this will stand out in a way they probably haven’t before,” he said. “That pent up demand is a great opportunity for some home-cooked accommodation.”
After what feels like years of bad news for our regional cosy-accommodation hosts, pent up demand is hopefully an understatement. Ann Stewart-Moore says there was a brief reprieve between the bushfires and the pandemic. There was rain, a drive to support small regional business and a new-found appreciation for Queensland community. Stewart-Moore, Hunt and the rest of the bed and breakfast community will be hoping for a similar outcry of support coming from Queenslanders over the next six months, as our borders remain closed to New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.
With domestic travel likely to boom over the next 6-12 months as international travel remains a light at the end of a very long tunnel, it begs the question: is now the perfect time to buy a small accommodation destination? Running a bed and breakfast works similarly to any self-employment venture, wherein your financial success is in your own hands – barring extreme economic conditions and natural phenomena. Sonia Hunt’s advice for anyone looking to host a B&B is to learn and embrace the lifestyle. “These places are members of the community, and it’s important that you grasp the heritage whilst also moving it towards the future,” she said.