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Bed and breakfasts in Languedoc Roussillon

Here's what you need to know...

 

You are not alone

A quick internet search for "Bed and breakfasts in the south of France" gave me 1,090,000 results. And many of these were portal sites or official organizations listing hundreds of bed and breakfast options in Languedoc-Roussillon. There’s a lot of competition out there, and that’s just in one of France’s 22 regions.

 

Two types of customer

The bed and breakfasts market in the south of France can be divided into two categories. Firstly, there are those who book their accommodation up front, be it for a night or two en-route to somewhere else, or for a whole week’s holiday. Secondly, there are others who are just passing through, referred by locals or the tourist board, who usually stay for just a night, although they might opt to linger longer. Figuring out how to satisfy both types of customer is the key to maximizing your potential earnings.

 

Qualifications

The good news is that you don’t need any formal qualifications to run bed and breakfasts in the south of France. However, there are two prerequisites for success in this field: one is being able to get on with people (including people you don’t like), the other is being able to speak French well. Handling the paperwork and dealing with the authorities will be difficult unless you can parler français.

 

Starting from scratch

If you’re buying a home to run as a bed and breakfast in the south of France, allow plenty of room for your own accommodation, plus five guest rooms (this is the normal maximum number, though it can vary in different parts of France). Ensure there is enough parking space. Choose the property carefully: what is its Unique Selling Point? Why would anyone book your bed and breakfast rather than another?

 

Buying a going concern 

Taking over from someone else's bed and breakfast in the south of France has pros and cons. You’ll be paying for the goodwill, so it’s be more expensive, but hopefully there’ll be a steady business already up and running, and all you’ll have to do is keep things going. Calculating the value of a business is a tricky thing: do get a professional valuation (ask a local French property agent), and check the value yourself (visit www.cession-commerce.fr and click on calculez la valeur de votre commerce).

 

Legalise it

French legislation is a law unto itself (ho ho). You’ll find that different bodies will give contradictory answers to the same question, which makes life fun. Regulations are often formulated at departmental rather than national level. The most relevant regulations for bed and breakfast accommodation are those of Gîtes de France, a national organization with independently-run departmental offices whose rules can vary. So check out the legal lie of the land in your commune before you plough ahead: start with the mairie. If the money you make from your bed and breakfast in the south of France will be your sole (or main) income, you’ll need to register with the Registre des Commerces et des Sociétés (RCS), which you do at the Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE), which is part of the Chambre de Commerce et Industrie (CCI, or Chamber of Commerce).

 

The five room rule

Five is the normal maximum number of rooms you can offer to paying guests in your bed and breakfast in the south of France under the chambres d’hôtes agreement (although in some departments it can be six). If you offer more than this you can’t be officially defined as a French B&B, and you’ll have to comply with very strict fire and safety regulations in line with those for hotels (never mind all the laundry you’ll have to do). Best stick to five rooms, I reckon.

 

Invoices

This is important. You have to give an invoice to each client on demand, or if the total amount billed is more than €15.23 (and don’t ask me how they arrived at this figure, I can’t begin to guess). Invoices have to be in duplicate, one copy for you (keep it for a year), one for the customer, with the date, client’s name, name and address of the person paying (if different), date and place of payment, an itemized list of charges, and the grand total. And if you don’t follow this to the letter, you can be fined €1,500. Ouch!

 

Help and advice

Find the offices of your Comité Départemental du Tourisme (CDT – the departmental tourist office) and go along to make friends. They can provide you with a wealth of information and advice about running a bed and breakfast in the south of France, including tourist data, regulations and requirements, grading systems and standards, applying for grants to help your business, and a whole lot more. Find the address of your CDT office by doing a Google search: type in CDT and the name of your département, e.g. Aude.

 

Recommended reading

All the above points came from Earning Money From Your French Home (Jo Taylor, Survival Books, £11.95). This book is packed with vital info and tips on running French property-related businesses, including bed and breakfasts in the south of France, gîtes, long-term letting, and running a business from home. I heartily recommend it if you're thinking of running a bed and breakfast in Languedoc, south France. You can order it at www.survivalbooks.net.

 

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