Casa De Frances – providing GNBS-certified bed and breakfast accommodation
Casa De Frances is translated the ‘French House.’ This Bed and Breakfast (B&B) facility is located at 483 Plantation Farm, East Bank Demerara (EBD). It was officially opened in 2020 and was certified by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) this year, under the Bed and Breakfast Certification Programme. Casa De Frances takes centre stage as we observe Tourism Awareness Month under the theme “Cultural Tapestry: Investing in our people, enriching our heritage”.
The GNBS B&B Certification programme sets a new benchmark for accommodation providers looking to demonstrate conformance to standard, and it is premised on the Guyana Standard GYS 514:2022 “Requirements for bed and breakfast facilities.” The standard was developed in 2016 and amended in 2022 with inputs from various stakeholders including the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), the Tourism and Hospitality Association (THAG), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and others. The document defines B&B businesses as a facility for overnight stay, that may offer breakfast. To become certified, these facilities must meet a strict list of requirements including the provision of adequate parking and security among other amenities.
Construction of Casa De Frances commenced in 2015 after the Government of Guyana announced the first discovery of recoverable oil resources offshore. Proprietor of the establishment, Kurt French said the facility was completed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a daunting outlook, but he did not give up and eventually became the first facility to achieve certification under the B&B Certification programme.
French said he first heard of the GNBS’ programme on a local radio station and decided to check his provisions against the National Standard. “I felt like I have most of the standard (requirements) and I wanted to measure my facility against the GNBS standard, so I reached out to the GNBS. The guys came and did an inspection and when that concluded, they said to me that we’re almost there,” he recalled.
Inspired by the good news, the businessman begun implementing the recommendations which included the provision of first aid kits, smoke detectors, fire alarms, mosquito mesh, blackout curtains and other conveniences in the sixteen-room facility. He noted that while each room does not include a stove, breakfast is provided as part of the room rate and a kitchen is located on the bottom flat of the building which is open to guests. Further, a fully stocked bar outfitted with a karaoke system is also available.
“There was a lot that we had to put in place to become certification ready and I do not want to give the impression as though it was a walk in the park. It was challenging but at the end of it, it was worth the while,” the proprietor said.
The certification programme requires businesses to provide a safe parking area, a policy for payments and cancellation of reservations, bottled water for guests, a caretaker, security, a bedside lamp as well as other essential furniture. These facilities can be certified in Categories A, B or C. The rooms provided by Casa De Frances were certified in the A Category, and as part of the certification, the GNBS will routinely conduct surveillance audits to ensure requirements are maintained.
French received his certificate from the GNBS on May 30, 2023, and has since seen tremendous benefits from the programme. “The systems required by the programme did improve the service we provide and since then, we had a lot more attention than we had before the certification; there has been a lot more interest in the business and our rooms are almost always booked out,” he noted. The business has also seen an increase in reviews and enquiries on its social media pages.
The business currently employs seven staff and is looking to expand and open a new location.
French is encouraging similar establishments to get certified under the B&B Certification programme. “Before GNBS would’ve arrived at these requirements within the standard, they took into consideration the accommodation, the customer, the customer service, and other beneficiaries…so obviously the guests will benefit, and the hotel will benefit. In addition, the standard serves as a model to calibrate your facility with, so there is no disadvantage to getting certified,” he said.
As Guyana observes Tourism Awareness Month, he pointed out that the certification of more accommodations in Guyana will lead to the delivery of a better tourism experience to visitors.