Tips for starting a bed & breakfast
- Henk Herkink
- 12 Apr 2019
- Edited 6 Feb 2023
- 4 min
Do you have empty rooms in your home and enjoy the company of others? If so, starting a bed & breakfast (B&B) might be the right move for you. What should your first steps be? And what do you need to pay extra attention to? Read our tips about the most important steps and details when starting a B&B.
A B&B is often a side activity of an existing business, such as a farm or artist’s studio. Or it is extra income alongside regular employment. B&B’s are typically small-scale accommodations – a room to rent that is suitable for overnight stays and includes breakfast. You can establish a B&B in your house or an outbuilding. The main function of your home remains ‘residential’ but it also has a secondary function to ‘provide accommodation’. As a general rule, you must register your B&B as a business with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK. You must charge your guests VAT and tourist tax.
Can anyone start a B&B?
Before you start a B&B, contact your local municipality. They will inform you about zoning plans or other relevant local policies. But that is only part of the story. This checklist for starting a bed & breakfast explains other important details, such as fire safety, maintaining a visitor register, environmental regulations and any required permits.
Good to know: The rules for B&Bs can differ in each municipality. For example, the City of Amsterdam has specific rules that B&Bs must follow. Always check which rules and procedures apply where you live.
Running your B&B can be an enjoyable way to generate extra income. Perhaps you can do it alongside your regular job. Part-time businesses are increasingly popular in the Netherlands. If you already have a fixed income, there is less risk when you start a new business. But you will have much less free time.
Attracting guests to your new B&B
A B&B without guests is simply a home. No matter how big or small your business ambitions, marketing is an important first step. Bring your B&B to the attention of potential guests. Take time to research who your target group is. And learn how to get their attention from the moment they begin searching for accommodation. Make a strong first impression with guests by having your own website. Use social media to connect with potential guests and tell your story.
Many B&Bs choose to rent out their rooms through existing online platforms. These platforms specialise in bringing accommodations and guests together. Keep in mind that you usually pay a percentage of your rental fee to the online platform.
And remember, your guests will be your future ambassadors. When they share a positive experience on an online platform, this helps to attract new guests.
Please note: To place your B&B on an online platform, you usually need a KVK number and a VAT number. You receive these as soon as you register your business at KVK.
Cooperate and expand your network
Look for opportunities to cooperate with other organisations or businesses. For example, the local tourist office, local attractions and cultural organisations. Or try to get involved in events in the region. Building contacts with other B&Bs in the area can also help. For example, you can refer guests to each other during busy periods or organise promotional activities together.
Good to know: Stichting Bed & Breakfast Nederland is a foundation that aims to promote the quality and image of B&Bs in the Netherlands. It also has a classification system for member B&Bs.
Renting out your private accommodation
Due to the rise of major platforms such as Airbnb, renting out private accommodation has become very popular. If you want to rent out your private space through an online platform, pay close attention to the local laws and regulations. Rules and policies can vary per municipality. For example, there may be a maximum number of nights per year that you may rent out your property. Or you may not be allowed to rent out your private accommodation at all.
Renting out your private accommodation via an online platform in this way is not usually seen as conducting a business. Even so, you must still declare any income to the Dutch Tax & Customs Administration (Belastingdienst) as ‘income from other work’.
Is your B&B a business?
According to the law, if you regularly rent out accommodation to different guests at a commercial price, then it is a business. But in practice, it can be difficult to determine if you need to register a business. Check if your B&B meets the criteria to register a business.
Registering your B&B at KVK
Every entrepreneur must register with KVK. Start by filling in the registration forms and making an appointment online. At this stage, consider which legal structure is most appropriate. Many starters choose sole proprietorship as the legal structure.
You must visit a KVK office to finalise the registration. The registration has a one-time fee. When the registration is complete, KVK passes your details to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. You will receive a VAT identification number (BTW-id) and VAT number (BTW nummer) from them within 2 weeks.
From the moment you register your business, you must declare VAT to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. You do so every quarter. Income tax is filed annually. Learn more about taxes for business owners.
Tip: Set up your business administration and open a separate bank account for your business. This helps to keep your business and private affairs separate.
Things to keep in mind when starting a B&B
- Running a B&B may come at the expense of your privacy. Your guests will be sharing your personal space and you must be prepared to help them whenever required. Ideally, you should enjoy working with people.
- Good planning is essential, as your private and business life will become intertwined. Remember that you must always be available to your guests by telephone, email and social media. And you must be present in person when they arrive.
- If you also intend to offer meals or drinks on-site, as well as breakfast, then your business is not a B&B but a guesthouse or hotel. Those are hospitality businesses. This means you also need a food safety plan. Learn more about the HACCP regulations – also relevant to B&Bs.
- You are unlikely to get rich running a B&B, but you will hopefully enjoy the experience.
- To run a successful B&B, these key factors need to be right: your location, the quality of accommodation and your contact with guests.
- Guest reviews are important. Invest in high-quality bedding and sanitary facilities to improve the guest experience. Serving fresh and local produce at breakfast is also a popular way to impress.
- If you run a newsletter to stay in contact with (potential) guests, be mindful of privacy legislation, such as the GDPR.
Starting a B&B abroad
Read these 3 tips if your ambition is to set up a B&B outside of the Netherlands:
- Learn the main language of your destination country so you can communicate effectively.
- Before you start, find out which permits are required and what other details have to be arranged.
- Learn from the experience of others. Check blogs or web forums to find stories from other international B&B starters. Or watch TV programmes, such as the Dutch show ‘Ik vertrek’, to discover what problems people faced when moving abroad.