RUNNING A GITE BUSINESS IN BRITTANY FRANCE
Having moved lock stock and barrel to Brittany with my wife, daughter and mother in law in December 2000. We took over an existing Gite business, with 6 Gites, a main house, a barn and a swimming pool.
We had about £5000 of bookings for the following holiday season and were optimistic for a bright and sunny future in our own little corner of France.
So it was on the 21th of December 2000 we awoke in our new home, which was full to bursting point with the contents of two houses crammed into one. The cellar was full of my mother in laws furniture, the lounge was packed floor to ceiling with cardboard boxes.
We didn't have enough firewood to see us into the new year and all the sources of firewood were going to be closed until the 2nd of January. So I located my chainsaw and set about pruning some trees in our orchard. Not seasoned but beggars can't be choosers.
The previous owners had relied primarily on advertising in a magazine for gite holidays called Chez Nous. We being seasoned website designers set about setting up a website to generate enquires and answer any questions prospective visitors may have. As is normal with a new website, it took some time to get going with the search engines, so after our first Gite season we paid what felt like a king ransom for another years advertising with chez nous. In fact we needn’t have bothered because our Gite website was soon ranking number 1 on Google.
Our Gite complex with us living on site, gave us the opportunity to get to know our guests. Which served in many ways; you meet some varied and interesting people, make some very good friends and help people to get the most out of their holidays, which often lead to them coming back year after year. One very nice family who kept coming back had previously as a rule never visited the same place twice. In fact one of the hazards of running a Gite complex in France is the never ending offers of beer and wine from your guests. A good practical reason for being on site is to ensure the guests are respecting your property and are not causing damage etc.
How long is the Gite Season in Brittany?
Generally the main holiday season for Gites in Brittany is July & August. We never had any trouble filling July and August. In fact by the end of our second season, due to the repeat clients and the success of www.gites-brittany.com we were already full for the following July & August season. June, July and September can provide a useful income stream, but remember the rates will be less. So not only will it be harder to fill a Gite Complex in Brittany to capacity you’ll be doing the same work but for less money. Believe me by the end of September you’ll be longing to get the place back to yourselves so that you can enjoy it and have a rest!
What are the main attractions for Gite Holiday Makers?
It goes without saying that natural attractions like, coastal locations, rivers, lakes etc. are all very attractive for most potential Gite Guests. The single most influential factor most people have when booking a Gite holiday in France is if the Gites have a swimming pool. The swimming pool is not only an added attraction it means you rental rates will be significantly higher too. But this doesn’t always hold true. For instance parents of young families maybe very reluctant to visit a location with deep or running water on site, for obvious reasons.
We found that by catering for families with younger children we managed to fill our Gites in Brittany very easily. This involved setting up a substantial play room, covered table tennis area, fenced in play area with swings & slides etc. I enjoyed spending many an hour pushing my daughter on the swings, this invariably leads to pushing other young children on the swings at the same time, but that’s half of the fun.
Would I recommend it?
If you’re a fairly sociable couple/person then yes you can get a lot out of running Gites. At least one of you must have good interpersonal skills and be adept at dealing with the general public. Even if they appear to be being unreasonable sometimes. We had very few awkward guests in out Brittany Gites, but there were one or two. I know of several couples/families that stayed with us and then made the same decision and are now running Gites in Brittany and further a field as well. Another skill that is almost prerequisite is to be fairly practical and able to cope some or many DIY jobs. If someone breaks a toilet on a Sunday you can’t afford to wait for a plumber to come out, you must be able to get it working again very quickly to keep your clients happy – not to mention the cost of artisans.
I loved having our Gites in Brittany but found that the work levels on the Internet meant that we could choose between doing Gites or the Internet, that and my wife at the time didn’t seem to particularly like having people sharing our property – so be warned – she’s now an ex-wife. I’m still in Brittany France and have no plans of living anywhere else in the world for the moment. As my girlfriend currently lives on the other side of France, if I decide to have some more Gites in Brittany again it will be a small scale operation - to keep it manageable.
Now I provide advertising space on my Gite websites for Gite owners. For Gites in Brittany specifically www.gites-brittany.com and for Gites in France all regions: www.holiday-gites.com and from time to time I update my Blog about Living in France.