Occupancy rates are used throughout the bed and breakfast industry to indicate how often rooms are occupied. How occupancy is calculated is a mystery to many current and aspiring innkeepers, but it’s really very simple if you know what the rules are. The first rule is that a year always has 365 days except for certain circumstances, which I’ll explain later.
To calculate occupancy you need two essential pieces of information: (1) how many guest rooms does the bed and breakfast have, and (2) how many room nights did the inn sell? A room night is any one room occupied for one night. If a guest stays for three nights, there were three room nights sold.
The first calculation is to determine how many room nights were available in the course of a year. If a B&B has 5 rooms, it has 5 x 365 = 1,825 available room nights. Let’s say the B&B sold 976 room nights last year. To calculate the occupancy you need to know what percentage of the available nights were sold. You do that by dividing the rooms nights sold by the room nights available and multiplying by 100 (to get the percentage). 976 ÷ 1,825 = .53 x 100 = 53% occupancy. If an inn has 10 rooms, it had 3,650 available rooms nights. If they sold 1,675 rooms, they had a 46% occupancy (10 x 365 = 3,650 available rooms nights; 1,675 ÷ 3,650 = .46 x 100 = 46%).
There is a tendency to want to make occupancy look better than it is by reducing the number of available rooms nights because of vacations or being “closed.” Most of the time, these are discretionary choices made by an innkeeper, may often be in slower periods of the year, and are not governed by any rules. The problem with this is that as soon as an innkeeper does this, one has no way of knowing how to compare their occupancy to someone else’s.
There are only a couple of acceptable exceptions to the 365 day rule. One is where a property is in a seasonal location where virtually all properties close for an extended period (open season is May to October, for example). In this case, the occupancy may be calculated using the days of the season but should indicate that it is a seasonal rate. The other exception would be if a block of rooms are unusable for a period of months due to a fire or major renovation. It is not acceptable to say that because two rooms were repainted and that while they were being painted they were “not in service.” Unless an innkeeper was painting in the midst of their busiest season, it is unlikely that 100% of the rooms would have been sold anyway. The rooms still count in the “available” calculation.
If an innkeeper is putting data on an inns for sale directory, make sure your calculations are correct. And when reading statistics about an inn for sale, aspiring innkeepers should take much of what they read with a grain of salt until the method of calculating occupancy can be verified. If you have questions about this, we at The B&B Team® would be pleased to answer them for you.