Running a B&B in rural Andalusia: tips from the experts

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Running a B&B in rural Andalusia: tips from the experts

Swapping long commutes and hectic work lives for rural Archidona has been life-changing, and last summer, after eight months renovating two derelict houses, Myles and David opened Almohalla 51. Along the way, they picked up some useful pointers for anyone thinking about doing the same thing:

1.Spend time in your chosen area at different times of the year before you even start looking for somewhere to buy. We had a holiday home in the village for eight years prior to buying Almohalla 51, so the seasonal weather changes weren't a surprise, but it's easy to be fooled by the summer weather.

2.Think carefully about the type of lifestyle you want before you buy a property. The type of questions we faced were: do we want to run a 20-bedroom hotel with a team of staff, or go for a smaller property we can run on our own? Do we want a remote property with lots of land, but which will mean providing meals every evening, or somewhere in town, with restaurants and bars and a community nearby?
After living 20 years in London, Myles and David open a guest house in Aldalucia, Spain
3.Research the local competition. Is there enough demand for your offering when there are 20 people doing the same in your area already? Or is your business going to appeal to a different demographic than to those already in business? Similarly, is there a reason why no one has done what you're thinking about doing before?

4.Can you speak the language? It's always a good idea to have at least a basic understanding of the local language before you make the move. It helps with integration, but is also invaluable in dealing with local authorities, etc. If you don't speak the language, it is a good idea to find someone locally who can offer translating services. Ask around the local expats, and there's usually someone who has used these services and can recommend someone to you. But unless you make the effort to speak as much as you can, you'll lose out on a whole set of experiences.

5.Get in with the local town hall. Once you've chosen where you want to run your business, it's a good idea to get in touch with the local town hall. In Spain, the local ayuntamientos have a huge amount of influence over what happens in their towns, and having them onside from the beginning will make a massive difference. They'll also be able to help by highlighting what regulations you'll need to comply with for your type of business.

6.Shop around for tradesmen. If your project means that you need to use builders or other tradesmen, make sure you meet and talk the project through with several different suppliers. It's also a good idea to chat to other people about their experiences with these suppliers. And don't just think of using expat providers - our experience of working with local Spanish contractors was first-rate, and they knew how to maintain the integrity of traditional houses and design.

7.Make sure you have a "slush fund" to tide you over while you prepare to open your business. You will have enough to concern yourself with, with licenses and builders, and any potential money worries are something you should sort well in advance. In Spain, the bureaucracy involved in opening a business can be daunting, at the very least. It is lengthy, and, while everything else might be in place, you can't guarantee a timescale for approval by the local bodies involved. Often there's also hidden costs that, however well-planned you are, may come as a surprise.

After living 20 years in London, Myles and David open a guest house in Aldalucia, Spain8.Invest big in marketing - and get it right. You need to think carefully about who your target market is, and then identify publications, websites, bloggers, and so on, who can help you communicate with that audience. Remember, if you're planning to appeal to a local audience as well as those overseas, the marketing channels they use might be very different to what you've experienced previously.

9.Enjoy yourselves! Making the move abroad for a different lifestyle involves a lot of sacrifices, be they financial or social, so remember to make the time to enjoy what your new lifestyle has to offer. It's all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of your business, and not get down to the beach as often as you should.

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