How do we distinguish between a Bed and Breakfast, Guesthouse and Boutique Hotel?

Do you manage a guesthouse and are you informed of the insurance recommended for such a business? We would like to discuss the topic of guesthouse insurance in more detail – but, before we do so we would like to distinguish between the terms Bed and Breakfast, Guesthouse and Boutique Hotel.

These concepts are very similar in nature – the distinguishing features are usually around ownership, employment/ staffing, and the services provided.

We would like to refer in this discussion to some of the definitions found on Wikipedia

Bed and Breakfast

A bed and breakfast (or B&B) is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and breakfast, but usually does not offer other meals. Typically, bed and breakfasts are private homes with fewer than 10 bedrooms available for commercial use.

Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host’s kitchen.

B&Bs and guest houses may be operated either as a secondary source of income or a primary occupation. Usually the owners themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the room etc., but some bed and breakfasts hire staff for cleaning or cooking.

Although some bed and breakfast owners hire professional staff, a property which hires professional management is usually no longer considered a bed and breakfast, but enters the category of inn or hotel.


A guest house (also guesthouse) is also a kind of lodging. In some parts of the world a guest house is similar to a hostel, bed and breakfast, or inn whereas in other parts of the world (such as for example the Caribbean), guest houses are a type of inexpensive hotel-like lodging. In still others, it is a private home which has been converted for the exclusive use of guest accommodation. The owner usually lives in an entirely separate area within the property and the guest house may serve as a form of lodging business.

In some areas of the world, guest houses are the only kind of accommodation available for visitors who have no local relatives to stay with. Among the features which distinguish a guest house from a hotel, bed and breakfast, or inn is the lack of a full-time staff.

Guest houses tend to be owner-managed, due to their size, although in some countries, such as South Africa, guest houses can be very large mansions indeed. South Africa also has a specific rating system for accommodation establishments.

Bed and breakfasts are usually family-owned, with the family living on the premises. Hotels maintain a staff presence 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, whereas a guest house has a more limited staff presence. Because of limited staff presence, check in at a guest house is often by appointment.

Boutique Hotel

Boutique hotel is a term popularized in North America and the United Kingdom to describe intimate, usually luxurious or quirky hotel environments. Boutique hotels differentiate themselves from larger chain/branded hotels and motels by providing personalized accommodation and services/facilities.

Sometimes known as “design hotels” or “lifestyle hotels”, boutique hotels began appearing in the 1980s in major cities like London, New York, and San Francisco. Typically boutique hotels are furnished in a themed, stylish and/or aspirational manner. They usually are considerably smaller than mainstream hotels, often ranging from 3 to 50 guest rooms.

Boutique hotels are always individual and focused on offering their services in a comfortable, intimate, and welcoming setting, so they are therefore extremely unlikely to be found amongst the homogeneity of large chain hotel groups. Guest rooms and suites may be fitted with telephony and Wi-Fi Internet, air-conditioning, honesty bars and often cable/pay TV, but equally may have none of these, focusing on quiet and comfort rather than gadgetry.

Guest services are often attended to by 24-hour hotel staff. Many boutique hotels have on-site dining facilities and the majority offer bars and lounges that may also be open to the general public. Despite this definition, the popularity of the boutique term and concept has led to some confusion about the term. Boutique hotels have typically been unique properties operated by individuals or companies with a small collection. However, their successes have prompted multi-national hotel companies to try to establish their own brands in order to capture a market share.


There are no specified criteria to distinguish between these 3 types of lodging, but from the above, we can conclude that

  • These types of lodging are usually privately owned – with boutique hotels also company-owned.
  • B&B’s and Guesthouses usually have owners living on the same premises – either in the same building or an adjacent building.
  • B&B’S offer breakfast as the only meal – Guesthouse might well provide other meals as well.
  • B&B’s and Guesthouses are most likely to have fewer than 10 rooms whereas Boutique hotels will have any number from 3 to 50 rooms.
  • Boutique hotels are equipped with full-time staff 24-7 similar to a hotel, but on a smaller scale, whereas the B&B and Guesthouse are characterized by services to be provided by owners, family members and temporary staff rather than full-time staff.

There are specialized insurance packages for these businesses, and we would like to discuss this in further detail in a few posts on Insurance Chat. The insurance needs will be determined by the clients and services the owner caters for…and we would like to assist in the search for the correct insurance product!


2 thoughts on “How do we distinguish between a Bed and Breakfast, Guesthouse and Boutique Hotel?

  • July 1, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Good day
    We are currently in the process of acquiring a boutique hotel. Please send information concerning insurance for an establishment accommodating 10 people, with 9 staff members.
    Thanking you

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