Promotion Through Tourist Boards and Associations
It is a very brave B&B owner who does not register and get involved with the various tourist boards and associations. As well as being a vital market for on-spec bookings, particularly the very local tourist boards, they are a source of support, marketing advice, information and other resources that can help you understand how the region you're operating in is marketed.
Tourist Boards Have Advertising PowerThere are now five umbrella tourist boards in the United Kingdom: VisitBritain, VisitWales, VisitScotland and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. From these the local or regional tourist boards are devolved, all promoting tourism in their areas.
If you aren’t in with the tourist boards (and in some places membership is compulsory) then you will miss out on the destination-based marketing that the boards can afford to do, with national and international advertising promoting tourism in your specific area. There may also be other associations that are relevant either to the area or the niche that you are occupying who will undertake advertising and promotion to generate tourism on a scale that would be very difficult for you to do on your own.
Local tourist associations generally give back to you in the proportion that you give to all the other members so it's worth going to meetings to network and find out who can help you out and vice versa. Often B&B's who are full will recommend other B&B's in the area rather than lose a tourist completely and if you've made yourself known and have helped others out then you're more likely to benefit from this kind of mutual cooperation.
Classification Systems Promote StandardsGoing into the tourist board world generally means entering the sometimes contradictory world of classification systems. There used to be lots of different systems in the UK but the coming together of all the tourist boards has helped harmonise generally under the star system. From January 2006 B&B's will have to have en suite bathrooms throughout to be able to claim that they are a 5-star establishment in their advertising. The star system helps the tourism industry as a whole to raise their standards.
Tourism AssociationsThere are a number of B&B associations around the United Kingdom too. These differ from the tourist boards in that they are commercially run organisations (but usually not-for-profit bodies), not run by the government. Whether or not you join one or more of these associations depends on what you think you can get out of it in return for your membership fees.
Many associations have used the collective buying power of their members to arrange discounts on essential products like insurance, domestic linen and all sorts of other tourism-based products and services for their members. They will also help with making new regulations understandable with newsletters and guides.
Behind the scenes these associations also use their collective power to lobby against legislation and regulations that would damage the ability of B&B's and other tourism-based businesses to operate effectively and economically, such as draconian fire regulations that are really aimed at hotels. So it might be worth joining up to add your voice to all the others.