The thirty days of June brought us the EU referendum result. We had a large group of people from Germany visiting us for a week or so who were very concerned with exactly how we were planning to vote in the referendum. We told them that we were definitely voting to remain in the EU as we thought the majority of the UK would do also. They were comforted until we actual got the result. It is intriguing just how other EU countries are worried about us leaving. It will undoubtedly have an effect on our business as we receive numerous visitors from the other parts of Europe who are able to travel here unrestricted. The results of the EU referendum have been a complete bombshell. As mentioned we often have numerous guests from the EU in our Bed & Breakfast as they have unrestricted movement in Europe, including the UK. The future might now be quite changed as visitors from the EU may need permission or even a visa to get into the UK. It is really such a pity however freedom to choose is what democracy is all about and we will need to deal with the effects on our business.
Our vacation this January will be in Europe and America. We often reward ourselves with boat trips at the beginning of the year as it is the quietest month for the guest house and a great justification to continue stuffing ourselves with food and drink right after Christmas. This January we are planning to take the Britannia from Southampton to the south of France and then Spain, and after that when we get back to Southampton, we are planning to leap over to the Harmony of the Seas which will take us to Boston then Florida. In Florida, we are planning to stay for 8 days in Fort Lauderdale appreciating some winter sunlight before its time to come back home. This year, we’ve reserved a ‘Prince Andrew Suite’ on Britannia and also blended in a raft of extras. We’ve been practicing our good manners recently in anticipation of all the swank people in the Prince and Princess suites aboard the Britannia. When we leave the Britannia for the Harmony of the Seas we will be back to our standard quarters so I don’t know how that’s going to feel!
As 2015 comes to an end we always make the effort to evaluate how well the year has proceeded. This year we have removed our guest house from the main reservation brokers and proceeded to go it alone for the very first time. Pretty scary at first, but it has actually worked out splendidly for our business and we now know that we are able to survive solely on first-hand reservations made through the telephone as well as though our own web site. Unsurprisingly, on going through the web we discovered that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had actually embarked on a detailed examination of the two main hotel reservation brokers, Booking.com and Expedia. Their investigation focused on potential price fixing by them. Essentially, these reservation brokers were potentially fixing the room rate by contractually insisting that no other web-based travel representative offer them at a lower price. Fortunately, it looks like it has already resulted in improvement within the industry as we are now able to provide less costly bedrooms than are advertised on Booking.com and Expedia. Even so, things are still not completely fair as small hotels and guest houses are still prohibited from providing their rooms at a lower price on their own web site. But at least the CMA is still looking into this and has recently requested information from our sector, so hope remains eternal.
For the very first time ever since opening the place, we had a day in August where we overslept! We awoke at 9am in sheer panic before sprinting down to the breakfast area hoping that none of our guests had arrived for their morning meal yet. No such luck! There was at least one couple that was actively looking for us!! We apologised profusely, and thankfully, the husband and wife were a lovely couple, saying that they would have done the same if they had known. We’ve had some extra delightful guests stay with us this month – of particular note were 2 siblings with their husbands. Both couples were originally from Cookham but now live elsewhere – one sister in Germany while the other in Switzerland. They were utterly charming and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to them on a daily basis throughout their stay. Mornings this month have been extremely busy for the most part. I have been getting out of bed and rushing through the morning routine so that all guests have been tendered to. The routine involves: chopping the butter into sections, pouring the milk into the right containers for serving, making the fresh juices before arranging them with everything else on the dining tables, checking the fruit bowl contains exquisite specimens, inspecting the yoghurts as well as the Actimel, and the list goes on….
The end of August means the end to the summer season and the end of an experiment that we have been running by only taking direct bookings for our guest rooms (shutting out the reservation agents). And it has been an absolutely terrific return, so much so that I doubt we will ever be using booking agents again. It’s good to know that even with all of today’s tech-everything, that we can still fill our guest rooms with the good ‘old-fashioned’ methods of bookings by phone, stroll-ins and from our internet site!
Just came back from our Moroccan holiday of hell and its straight into Easter. Easter is the start of a busy period at Riverbank House which is always fun. Such a shame then that I am feeling a little ‘under-the-weather’ from catching a cold during my ‘vacation’. Our own private bedroom in the hotel is like a store room – all the bits and bobs from hotel activities somehow winds up in there: Christmas decors, fold-up beds for guests of guests, guest bedroom quilt covers, king-size down comforters – you name it, we end up with it in our bedroom – if people did not know we ran a hotel, they would think that we were extreme hoarders with a particular proclivity for bed linen! Easter in Cookham is a terrific weekend break for anyone, and this easter is no different with some lovely family as well as some lovely couples coming to visit us. In addition, it looks to be a sunny one in Cookham over the next couple of weeks when the town itself will becoming quite active.
Some of our regular vistors may have noticed that we’re taking out some time to renovate part of the Riverbank Hotel. Since we are a small ‘mom and pop’ operation (well at heart anyway!), we are doing most of the work ourselves and only calling in the professionals when absolutely necessary. Currently we are replacing the ceiling in one of the guest dining rooms and we have hired a panel-lifting winch (ours is raucous red!) to help us with the plasterboard placement as you can see from the pictures.
These days with all the professional DIY equipment available, you really don’t need the… well, the professionals… if you have the time to spare to do it yourself. We have become quite professional ourselves now and have amassed quite a collection of equipment, at great expense, I might add! My husband loves his power tools (which guy doesn’t I suppose) and I swear whenever I turn my back you find him drilling something with his ‘Makita’ – as he calls it – that’s his favorite, that and the air compressor that he purchased recently which he keeps finding new uses for.