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Wanted: A B&B business plan

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Charlotte’s Bed & Breakfast in Delhi

Launched to tide over the accommodation shortage when the city hosted the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the bed-and-breakfast (B&B) scheme of the Delhi government has found few takers because tourists prefer guesthouses and hotels in Paharganj and Karol Bagh.

Two years on, there are allegations that people are misusing the licence for B&B accommodations to open guesthouses. Delhi government’s data reveal that 502 premises, providing 1,597 rooms (some with attached bathroom), were converted into B&B facilities by October 2010. But in April this year, the number has come down to 403.

“People still prefer low-cost hotels in Delhi. Since B&B premises are inspected once in three years (when licences are renewed), we have complaints that several owners have illegally turned them into guesthouses,” Delhi Tourism’s managing director, G G Saxena says.

Government officials said several licences in Karol Bagh and other areas have been cancelled because of this. Unlike in New Zealand, Australia and European nations, where B&B is popular among backpackers and budget tourists, the concept has failed to take off in Delhi according to tourism officials.

“The scheme didn’t get a good response during the Games. The situation did not improve much after the Games either. People prefer guesthouses in Paharganj and Karol Bagh to the B&B rooms. Not many people are now coming forward to renew the licences,” informed an official.

What B&B owners are saying
For Charlotte Chopra, running Charlotte’s Bed and Breakfast has provided a platform to meet people from across the world. She started the facility in 2007, and went from being a homemaker to an entrepreneur running a successful B&B. While the scheme might not have found success, Chopra swears by it. She says, “Our bed and breakfast has been featured in the top 10 B&B list of various websites. I opened the establishment in 2007, when this scheme had just been introduced and have received a very good response so far. We get guests from across the world and from different communities. Word-of-mouth publicity has really worked for us. Many multi-national companies make bookings with us.’’ The B&B is located in New Rajinder Nagar and Chopra charges Rs 4,000 per room in Silver Class during off-season and Rs 4,444 per room in peak season.

Madhu Taneja, a teacher by profession, started her Trendy Bed and Breakfast in Jangpura in 2009. “The servant’s quarter and garage was converted into a B&B by my son. Now, I run the establishment. It is doing very well and is a great platform to meet people from different parts of the world and interact with them. Some of my guests have become close friends and keep returning to us year after year,’’ says Taneja.

Dipmala Bindra, who runs the scheme from her house in Vasant Vihar said while the response to the scheme wasn’t good during the Commonwealth Games, her B&B did well thereafter. Taneja charges anywhere between Rs 2,800 and `4,000, depending on season.

But not everyone has been able to sustain this scheme. Arvind Nanda who opened a B&B in 2008-2009, was forced to shut it down as he found it not viable. “It wasn’t working out well. I had to keep too many things functional for too few people,’’ says Nanda.

Some others have also shut down their facility. Kavita Nagpal, who lives in GK-I discontinued with the scheme shortly after opening a B&B. “The scheme was good but I couldn’t carry on with it,’’ says Nagpal. Prabhat, manager of the B&B ‘The Heritage’, running from Safdarjung Development Area, said the reason for the poor response to the scheme was lack of proper advertising. “Hardly anyone turned up during the Commonwealth Games and, thereafter, the response to the scheme has been mixed. We have 25 – 30 per cent occupancy through the year. The problem is that the scheme was not properly advertised,’’ he claims.

“But some of them, located in South Delhi’s CR Park, GK-I and GK-II, are still doing good business. These are in well-maintained and that makes a big difference,” he adds.

Though the scheme was launched with much fanfare, there have been allegations that government agencies have not shown the kind of interest that was necessary to pull it through. “Police verifies the owners before registration and the licensing process is quite strict, but the government has no say in fixing room tariff. This is decided by the owners. There is no guideline to determine the upper limit for tariff,” the official says.

Officials of Delhi Tourism, which implements the scheme, said they were trying to revive it and update the bed-and-breakfast directory. “We will call a conference of all the owners of bed-and-breakfast facilities. We give them a basic course on how to maintain their property and deal with tourists,” Saxena says.

He adds, “The scheme will gain popularity if the facilities are located near places of tourist attraction. We plan to request owners of havelis and bungalows to operate B&B facilities on their premises.”

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