Published — 21 March, 2019

View from Westminster

We have had a tumultuous few weeks in Parliament and the ‘B’ word never seems to be off people’s lips.  This week though I’ve swapped the ‘B’ word for B&Bs.

In or out of the European Union, Britain will remain one of the most visited countries in the world.  We have been at the forefront of world history for much of the last thousand years, our monarchy is known and respected the world over and we have incredible and diverse scenery.  We have internationally renowned brands – many from our area, a rich built heritage and many of the top international universities.

Great Britain is a place people want to visit for pleasure and business and, outside London, Harrogate, Knaresborough and Boroughbridge are among the top picks for domestic and international tourists.

One of the reasons for this is our second-to-none hospitality industry and this week – which is national bed & breakfast week – is a good week to celebrate these unsung heroes of our local economy.

In our area the service they provide is vital because of the sheer number of visitors and the number of beds needed.  We welcome, according to some sources, over 350,000 visitors each year.  And when we are increasingly becoming the go-to destination of the north for sporting and cultural events our B&Bs a vital play in enabling those events to come here.

Across this constituency we have over 100 B&Bs and more in the wider Harrogate district.  They are a key part of the supply of bed spaces locally.

Every week, I visit local businesses to hear about their successes and concerns.  This week, in recognition of national B&B week, I popped in to two brilliant local B&Bs – Fountains B&B on Kings Road in Harrogate and Newton House on York Place in Knaresborough.

Fountains has ten elegant rooms and is run by a mother and daughter partnership – Helga Matthews and Karen Capper.  Helga and Karen demonstrate the flexibility of B&Bs brilliantly.  They offer vegan breakfasts with gluten and dairy free options.  You don’t have to check in and check out by rigid times and they even tell people what languages they speak.  It’s a very personal and tailored service.  Karen raised a number of issues which I have already taken up with the relevant organisations.

Newton House is owned and run by Denise Carter.  Many people may be familiar with it as a winner of Channel4’s Four in Bed competition.  And it was good to see that Denise’s business is every bit as good as in the show where it received particular commendations for its spectacular breakfasts.  Having tried one I can verify that those commendations are much merited.  They also offer dog-friendly rooms and Denise herself offers to dog-sit if guests want to see the sights of Knaresborough and the surrounding area without their pets.  All this on top of a doggie welcome kit and dog cleaning facilities again demonstrate that high standard personal service B&B guests can expect.  Denise was on holiday when I visited but I was met by Tina Boden who runs a B&B caretaking business.  I’ve known Tina for a while as she is a micro-business mentor and was very active in organising Small Business Saturday in Boroughbridge.

These were two different businesses but they had much in common.  They had invested in updating their rooms and facilities to the highest standard and demonstrated a very customer-focussed approach.  Most of all, the whole atmosphere of both businesses and their teams was welcoming and friendly.

So our B&Bs, alongside our small and large hotels, are critical in helping us secure events like the Tour de France and the UCI World Road Race Cycle Championships.  They enable the Harrogate Convention Centre to bring in business tourism worth nearly £60 million.  Alongside the Convention Centre, hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs they underpin thousands of jobs in the district and they enable the tills in our trademark independent shops to keep ringing.  They are the people greeting our guests with a warm Yorkshire welcome.  In every way they are the doorway through which people step to experience all our area has to offer.

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