There's nothing simple about starting a bed and breakfast. Add to that that we live off the grid, on an olive and almond farm in the middle of nowhere - and that we're managing a few other projects on the side; we must be nuts, right? We probably are.
We have learned countless things in the first 15 months at Mas del Encanto. I wrote the most important lessons down in a blog post on Simple Living in Spain, last May: "7 lessons we learned from our Farm Stay bed & breakfast". If you're thinking of opening a B&B of your own (one day), go and have a look; some we were warned about, others we learned the hard way.
We also learned that the theory can never beat real life experience. In other words, we changed lots of things as we went along. We changed bedding and decorations, the location of breakfast (it's now served upstairs), and (thanks to the relocation) breakfast itself (I'm now able to cook and bake things on the spot). We worked hard on the gardens, got some alpacas, hatched more chickens (so we really get fresh eggs every day now), and tried not to neglect the rest of the farm in the process.
We learned how seasons work in this area: as our clientele is mainly Spanish / Catalan, we learned to keep an eye on long weekends and special festivities. We learned that B&B biz goes down in May and June when everybody gets married and has parties at home - but it picks up again in summer, so we were able to top the summer with an amazing August. September was even busier - and we now learned to not plan our yearly holiday in October, as that gets in the way of business.
We're taking all this knowledge, and currently designing a new strategy for 2018. We talked about renting out the house as a whole in the summer of 2018 (like, we considered it *really* seriously), but are slowly realising now we won't be able to get everything ready in time. We are however planning to dig / build a natural swimming pool anyway - and we have 1001 other small and big projects planned for the winter.
One last thing to mention, is the use of OTA's - third party booking agents. We've been working mainly with Booking.com in the last year, and they have helped us get a steady influx of guests. However, we also notice that they are often not our ideal guests; we're not allowed to write our own text on Booking, so we often get people who complain about the distance to the village, the fact that the parking lot looks messy, the distance to wherever they actually would have preferred to stay (Alcañiz during the MotoGP, the beach, or some other village during a festival) and are clearly not very interested in what we actually do here.
We've also started renting out the Maset, the renovated stable we lived in before the house was built. We've been advertising it through AirBnB and Natuurhuisje, and have been able to host the most wonderful people this way; lovers of nature and everything simple, fellow foodies and adventurers, birding enthusiasts and bikers,... it was great, and we're very much looking forward to another season of that!
After our adventures with OTA's, we decided to focus more on other ways to book this year.
If you have found this site, we would definitely recommend booking directly through us; not only does it save us the extra cost of paying high commissions to third parties, it also makes us a lot more flexible. You can book directly by clicking here (payment with PayPal only for now, sorry about that) - or you can contact us directly (payment by PayPal or bank transfer). If there's enough demand, we can start implementing credit card payments as well; drop us a line if you'd prefer that!
Some high season weekends will be available for booking only directly (not through Booking or Airbnb); these are
- The wine festival and medieval market in Cretas, 24-25 March 2018
- Semana Santa / Easter week, 27 March to 1st April 2018
- MotoGP de Aragon, 21-23 September 2018
So don't worry if others are telling you we're closed; just book directly on our website, or contact us by e-mail or WhatsApp to reserve your spot.
We also have a listing on other websites like AirBnB, Farm Stay Planet, Natuurhuisje (Rural Hut) and de Groene Vakantiegids (GreenHoliday.info); these will hopefully make it easier for our dream guests to find us, book us, and have the great stay they're looking for here.
Oh, one last thing: at this moment, we only accept bookings for a minimum of 3 nights on week days, and 2 nights in weekends. Come spring 2018, we will probably allow bookings for shorter stays for periods that have not yet been booked. We found that people who stay more than one night actually enjoy their stay more; we're more than just a bed and a quick brekkie before they go on to other more worldly adventures, and we become a place to stay and relax. That, and we often feel ridiculous doing 3 loads of laundry every single day, just because (rather clean) people slept in that bed for just one night. There's not much eco about that!