Blackpool was built on the humble bed and breakfast but the march of budget hotel chains has created tough competition for what was once the mainstay of any family holiday.
However now owners of small guesthouses are fighting back, and Saturday sees the launch of the first National B&B Day to celebrate Britain’s small independent holiday accommodation sector.
Hoteliers group StayBlackpool is one of the leading supporters of the campaign which it is hoped will continue to gather momentum.
Since Blackpool’s heyday, many of its b&bs have closed, some to make way for redevelopment, such as for 400 homes at Foxhall Village where guesthouses on Tyldesley Road and Blundell Street have been demolished.
Nevertheless it is estimated more than 1,000 remain which are still the backbone of the industry.
Claire Smith, president of StayBlackpool and joint proprietor of two b&bs in the town including a five star establishment, says it’s only right to put the spotlight on these hardworking operators.
She said: “Blackpool is one of the UK’s top destinations and we have very many wonderful b&bs, guesthouses and small independent hotels.
“National B&B Day is a fabulous opportunity to showcase the good, quality, hardworking accommodation providers that are the backbone of our tourism sector locally and who add something a little bit extra to ensure our visitors go home having experienced the best Blackpool has to offer.”
But there’s no doubt competition is fiercer than ever these days to pull the customers in as small businesses go head to head with the likes of Travelodge and Premier Inn.
Today’s b&bs are a far cry from the original boarding houses which locked guests out during the day and served plain meals at rigidly set times.
How times have changed - forget about cold showers, these days people staying at one of Claire’s properties can expect a TV in the bathroom.
The Arthington, on St Chad’s Road, South Shore, run by Stephen and Elaine Fazakerley, has recently been named the best b&b in the UK by travel website Trivago for the second year running.
Stephen said: “People’s expectations have changed. They don’t just want a room and a fry-up in the morning.
“They want their home comforts and a choice at breakfast and all for an affordable price.
“When you run a b&b you want people to come back so you offer the personal touch such as a tea and coffee on arrival, and we do get lots of repeat business.
“We can mark the time of year when the same people will come back, and if they don’t come back you wonder if they are ok.
“The saying ‘arrive as a guest, leave as a friend’ might be old hat but it is what we try to achieve.
“It’s not a job, it’s a way of life and we enjoy it and having people here. We don’t like it when it’s quiet.”
Stephen, who has run the Arthington for 12 years with Elaine, said investment was key.
He added: “We have no trouble filling two nights at the weekend, and people are now booking for longer - maybe three or four days.
“I think everyone is seeing that. But you have to keep on investing in your property to succeed, and it is hard work.”
It is hoped to get as many people as possible staying in b&bs this weekend, attracted by offers such as a free bottle of Prosecco for guests at Number One St Luke’s in Blackpool.
Big industry names such as Booking.com and TripAdvisor as well as VisitBritain are also supporting the initiative.
To find out more go to the website https://bandbday.com/