April 3 1996 The Times reports:

Tourist boards are forcing a much-loved institution down unwelcome path, says consumer guide

All mod cons and trouser presses 'ruining B&Bs'


TOURIST board inspectors are in danger of destroying the traditional British bed and breakfast by insisting that they have telephones, television and trouser presses before being granted an officially approved crown rating, the Consumers' Association says today.

Owners of some of the best B&Bs too often have to install inappropriate fittings. "What concerns us is the pressure that the boards have in recent years placed on small guesthouses continually to 'upgrade' themselves as far as facilities are concerned ­ pressure which in our opinion has started to have an impact on the very nature of the B&B as a much-loved and valued institution," the Which Good Bed and Breakfast Guide reports.

"Do guests really want a telephone or trouser press in their rooms in, say, a farmhouse deep in the countryside, or to be offered dinner in a city centre B&B with dozens of restaurants and pubs within walking distance? Do they really care whether walls are covered with paint or wallpaper, providing of course that the establishment is clean and well decorated? We think not."

The tourist boards are now re-examining the crown grading scheme to see whether any of the criteria used could be dropped and whether there can be closer co-operation with other grading schemes such as those run by the AA and the RAC.

Britain has about 11,400 privately owned properties offering bed-and-breakfast accommodation at prices well below those charged by hotels. Although prices in some areas, such as Bath, Edinburgh or Rye, are now rising, some bargains at £12 a night per person can still be found in coastal resorts or isolated areas.

The tourist boards have awarded one, two or three crowns to 3,433 B&Bs and only disseminate their details if they have achieved minimum standards. From this week properties in the crown scheme must pass inspections for quality and facilities. That, it is hoped, will iron out the many anomalies created by the twin-track system.

The Which guide says: "It has been quite possible, for example, to find a three-crown guesthouse which in terms of quality is just adequate to fair sitting right next door to a superb B&B which, because it has fewer facilities, rates just one crown."

The 1,100 B&Bs listed in the guide are inspected independently and must charge less than £30 a person per night, the same limit as was imposed in 1992. "Our criteria for selecting a B&B for the guide include a warm welcome, cleanliness, a friendly atmosphere and wherever possible a particularly attractive location or in some cases a building that is itself of some historical or architectural interest," it says.

But the British Tourist Authority insists that its scheme is best. "There has to be some way of reflecting whether the accommodation is of a good standard. That is why we include details such as the availability of a full-length mirror, whether it is possible to get out of bed on both sides, the availability of a kettle or ironing board and the standard and quality of furnishing. Now a group from all the national boards is trying to develop a new set of criteria."

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