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A Bed and Breakfast in Bulgaria

Are you thinking of a bed and breakfast or small hotel in Bulgaria? Perhaps owning a beautiful spacious property, the low cost of living in Bulgaria and the thought of offering the very best to your guests who leave their stay with you as friends, is appealing. At the same time having the added advantage of working for yourself and not having to answer to anyone else. Whilst living your life in wonderful surroundings is the icing on the cake.

If having a bed and breakfast or small hotel in Bulgaria is your dream, you need to do the figures and take the "lifestyle test" to work out whether it is going to be the thing for you or living hell.

Running a bed and breakfast is a romantic notion conjuring up days of welcoming guests and running your own business from home. You don't need any particular qualifications and those with an outgoing personality and love of people are potentially well suited to such a project. This may be totally right, however, many buy a B & B business, or buy a Bulgarian property to establish their own, without having any idea whether they have all the information they need to be successful.

Taking on such a project is not for the faint-hearted and before launching into the business there are some important things to consider:

Buying a bed and breakfast, or setting one up, is a big commitment, usually much bigger than buying your home. It's not something that should be taken lightly, and it would be difficult to over-prepare for this purchase. Among the many things you need to consider, these may be the five most important.

Money - compared with buying a home, you'll need a larger deposit if buying an existing business. It is likely that your monthly payments could be higher than those on a normal family home.

Is it for you - guests may arrive any time day or night, some are delightful, others rude; you'll have to be able to deal with all sorts, can you?

Family - running a b and b or small hotel intrudes into every aspect of your family life as guests will be around all the time. It can be particularly difficult if you have young children. Before starting the business it is a good idea to discuss with the family whether they are willing to give up some of their space for guests. A good way to find out what each family member thinks of this is to get everyone to put it on paper. List each area and room of your home, then get each member of the family to note how they feel about sharing that space with guests, say, from 1 being 'never' to 5 being 'any time'. From here, you can all talk about the results, see how much agreement there is and what compromises can be reached.

It is difficult to strike the balance between family and work when it is in your own home. Careful consideration needs to be given as to how the two things will operate together.

Home based - A successful bed and breakfast has to work around the guests, you and your family's lives will have to manage around this. Whilst you may be able to be somewhat flexible with your hours such as set times for serving breakfast, if you want the business to succeed, then you'll have to be open and be there for your guests. Then there is the question of family holidays - can you organise time off? Most families running bed and breakfast would like their holidays at a time when children are in school holidays but of course this is the time when you are most likely to be busy. Closing down for a couple of weeks may damage the business.

Hours - even if you can afford some help, do not underestimate how much hard work and long hours running a bed and breakfast is. You'll have to be up before guests and go to bed after the last one retires to their room. You may have to do all the cleaning, meals and manage the books yourself. The standard of cleanliness and food hygiene are of paramount importance. You'll need to familiarise yourself with hygiene regulations.

Location - research is the key to finding or establishing a bed and breakfast in the right place. Check out visitors to the area and also how many other bed and breakfasts are there already. Assess the competition and work out what will make your establishment different from the others.

Money - you'll need to decide if this is to be your sole source of income or if you have other outside sources. If this is going to be your living, then you will need a minimum of eight rooms. Nine rooms is quite a critical number, if you have more than this, then you'll definitely need help with cleaning and cooking - you can manage nine rooms on your own. From the number of rooms you can forecast your income but you should still make sure you have some money in reserve to get you through at least a year for any unexpected things which might arise.

Occupancy is the key to your financial forecast. Most bed and breakfasts or small hotels operate on 30% occupancy.

If you have, say, eight rooms and charge 30 euros per night per room, then you can turn over a maximum of 8 x 30 x 365 which makes a total gross revenue of 87,600 euros. This, of course, is based on every room being filled every night of the whole year. However, on 30% occupancy, then this is reduced to 26,280 euros gross revenue - and don't forget to deduct costs from this to get the net income. Operating a bed and breakfast is not a way to get rich quick! Only you can decide if the number of rooms you have, the room rate you charge and the occupancy you can achieve will provide enough money for you.

It may be when you have done your forecast that you need to consider other ways to generate more income from the bed and breakfast. Perhaps obtaining an alcohol licence, offering lunch and dinner, etc.

Determing the room rate is quite difficult. There are no set rules to this. Don't feel that you have to compete with the local hotels and charge less just because you are a small bed and breakfast. Many guests are looking for something different and special with a bed and breakfast and will pay for this. Also, if your room rate is perceived by guests to be too cheap, they may think it's because your place isn't any good. One way to look at room rates is to work out your costs and then add an amount for your profit. The more your bed and breakfast offers to guests (en suite bathrooms, size of room..) the more you can charge.

Do be careful not to charge too much. It is tempting to think that ten bookings at 50 euros gets you more than 20 bookings at 20 euros and it is less work too - but if 50 euros is too high a room rate for what you are providing and the area where you are, you may not get any bookings at all.

Another consideration is how long your guests will stay with you. Generally those staying in bed and breakfasts only stay a short time. If you base your business in an area with numerous tourist attractions you can encourage longer stays. Longer stays are better for your business as there are less associated costs for you, changing bedlinen, towels and so on.

Marketing - so many people set up a business and then think all the hard work is done, sit back and wait for the customers. Nobody will know about your bed and breakfast without you marketing and advertising it. Research advertising possibilities. Naturally the internet is an obvious choice as hardly anybody goes on holiday without looking at the web first. Get your own web site and get it as high in the search engines as you can. List yourselves with other large portals. Have brochures and business cards printed. Put leaflets out. There are numerous ways to market your bed and breakfast but you need to have put aside a budget to do so before you open your business.

There is increasing tourism in Bulgaria, particularly those holidaying outside of the mass market, with individual tourism on the rise. Bed and breakfast and small hotels in Bulgaria are a great way to have your own business and, although hard work, can be a very rewarding lifestyle choice if you follow our tips and guidelines.