Last Thursday evening, we attended the regional finals for the Enjoy England Excellence Awards for 2010. We are delighted that all our hard work at The Bays and our dedication to a great guest experience has been recognised by the official tourist board for England.
At the awards evening at the National Trust’s Ickworth House, we were amongst the owners of the best bed and breakfasts and guest accommodation in the region. Whilst another establishment was chosen to go through to the national finals, we had a great evening and will be working even harder to get to the finals next year.
Anna & Jane
Not all guest houses or bed & breakfast establishments are members of a Quality Scheme and it is the owner’s personal choice.
The Bays Guest House joined the Visit Britain programme of assessment in 2006, the year that we opened. Our intention was always to become a 5 Star Gold Award establishment. Our personal belief is to be the best we can be and to offer our guests value for money, a place where they can relax, feel at home and of course to have a little luxury whilst on holiday.
Our first inspection took place after only 4 weeks of opening, wow were we petrified, however we survived and were awarded 4 stars, but in addition to that we listened to what the inspector had to say about how we could improve our service and work towards the 5 star. In the first year of trading we also listened to our guests, they were an invaluable source of information on how their stay could be made more comfortable.
The average star rating in Hunstanton is 4 stars with some guest houses holding a Silver or Gold award. However the difference between 4 and 5 star is quite significant, for example the quality and conditions of the bedrooms may read for 4 stars “Very good standard of decoration with use of high quality pictures and prints” and for 5 star “Excellent interior design, with high attention to detail and thoughtful co-ordination of patterns, colours and textures”
One of the most significant differences is “Choice”, choice of bedding, choice of menus, teas, coffees, choice of how food is cooked and how you meet the needs of different guests, for example vegetarian, vegan or gluten free.
Now after four years and having achieved the 5 stars at the end of the first year, our guests say they can’t think of anything which could improve on what we have. However we are always coming up with little things that make a difference and of course so do the inspectors, so our promise to our current and future guests is that we will not stand still and vegetate; we will maintain and improve on our services to you for as long as we are here.
What is a quality assessment?
“Quality Assessment seeks to inform consumers before they book accommodation, to recognise quality and to differentiate levels of facilities and services, which as potential guests they can expect”.
Most of the schemes recognise increasing levels of quality using 1 – 5 stars. Some schemes further recognise excellence with the use of Silver and Gold awards. “
Enjoy England, Quality in Tourism 2009
What is a 5 star award and what does it mean for our guests?
The inspections process is an annual event. An anonymous assessor books in just like anyone else and we are being assessed from the minute they make the phone call. The criteria used to assess us are based on quality, good practice and many other things. There is a minimum standard which should be met in all cases with things such as statutory obligations:
- Fire precautions
- Health & safety
- Food safety and hygiene
and then criteria such as
- Bookings and pre-arrival
- Arrival and departure
- Beds and bedding
- Furniture and furnishings
- Size of bedrooms
- Lighting and ventilation
- Fixtures and fittings
- Food and beverages
The list covers every area of the guest house.
Following the minimum standards, each area is assessed for quality and is marked against criteria levels from 1-5. For example Cleanliness could be
“All surfaces clean and free from dust”- 1 star
to “Clearly a pristine finish” – 5 stars.
Hospitality and Friendliness could be
“Limited guest contact and interaction” – 1 star
to “Excellent first and last impression” – 5 stars.
So what do the 5 stars actually mean?
The higher the rating the better the quality, it is simple as that. The assessor ransacks the room looking for dust in corners, under mattresses etc. They look at all labels on sheets, bedding and towels, they look on top of wardrobes and in the drawers. In the morning they eat breakfast, always assessing the quality of the food and service and in the evening, where applicable they assess the quality of the food and again the service, hospitality and so on.
It is, we can tell you, a very harrowing experience but also a useful one for those that want to continuously improve their services. After all, where else can you get a free consultant?
What is a Gold Award and what does it mean for our guests?
In addition to the stars there is also recognition of excellence in the way of Silver or Gold Awards. These accolades are there to inform the prospective guests the level of excellence they should expect from a guest house. Gold being the highest award so, for example, you could come across a 4 Star guest house with a Gold Award; this guest house would give you the best a 4 Star can give and of course the same for a 5 Star, it means the guest house is at the top of the standard within their rating.
We have recently achieved the above Breakfast Award; this award is new (November 2009) and has only been allocated to 7% of guest houses in the whole of the UK. This award speaks for itself and simply means that those guest houses which have achieved it will give their guests a very high standard of breakfast. Again the award will have been given because the Guest House has met the standards required; it does not mean that those who have not achieved it would not give an adequate breakfast.
All ratings and awards can be taken away at the annual assessment visit should the service slip and therefore all guest house owners should be, at a minimum, working towards maintaining the standard outlined in their award and if they wish to do so, continuously improve to a higher standard.