Portrait of Sally Shalam, Hotel Critic of The Guardian newspaperBy Sally Shalam, Hotel Critic, The Guardian

Every so often in the course of reviewing small, independent hotels and bed and breakfasts in Britain, I find I have discovered a newcomer which is a complete stunner, whose owners have ensured all the boxes are ticked. The sort of place which makes me want to punch the air with sheer delight, phone my Mum, then tell all my friends to come right away. Alas, as any experienced hotelier will tell you, fulfilling and exceeding guest expectation is only part of the path to long-lasting success.

For the would-be hotelier, and for the down-shifter dreaming about leaving the rat race, and setting up a B&B in the country, there is a lot to learn. Being a people person is, of course, essential, and possession of this quality is probably what attracts many to this industry in the first place. Hospitality, however, requires far more than that. It is an art. It is the art of dealing with whatever the day throws at you with charm and aplomb. It is about exceeding your guests’ expectations and building a fine reputation. If that were not enough, you must also understand, in a competitive world, how to price yourself right and market your business successfully to the right people, keeping up with and embracing new technology.

A mediocre outfit which has a firm grip on marketing techniques and social media is probably more likely to see a sustained healthy return than an utterly sublime hotel of which no one has ever heard. In a world where branding is crucially important, owners of small hotels, B&Bs, all manner of guest accommodation, who fail to market themselves, are leaving a lot to chance. So while you’re planning how to bring your stamp, your style, your vision into the exciting arena of the modern British hotel, this book will serve as the reality check, a handbook to guide you through the marketing maze while you’re realising your dream.

Sally Shalam writes a weekly review in Guardian Travel, specialising in small, independently owned accommodation in Britain, has her own UK page in Condé Nast Traveller and is a judge for Enjoy England’s Awards for Excellence.