Emerging from the Pandemic- “Now is the Time for Optimism”

By Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel (www.burghisland.com)

From lockdowns to restrictions, furlough schemes and cancellations, 2021 was certainly one of the most challenging years the hospitality industry has ever faced. However, as the UK is set to be one of the first countries to emerge from the pandemic, now is a time for optimism in the hospitality industry.

2022 is going to be an exciting year, and in order to make the most of this, businesses must prioritise their staff and provide unique and memorable experiences for their guests.

ADDRESSING THE HOGO HEAD-ON

In December of last year, a new phenomenon hit the headlines, known as the hassle of going out, or “HOGO”.The festive period saw a rise in booking cancellations by almost 20% and one restaurant chain reported over 1,000 no-shows across its 12 restaurants, causing a loss of £30,000.

Many believed this was caused by apathy towards getting ready and going out, deeming it to be “too much hassle” after adopting a slower pace of life since the pandemic.

To ease people into the new year,“daycations” could be the way forward, encouraging people to use local hotel facilities just for the day, without the daunting prospect of undertaking an ambitious getaway.

It seems that HOGO might be subsiding as confidence in vaccinations grows and COVID restriction in England are eased. This month, hopeful holiday-seekers queued for over 24 hours in Dorset, some even camping out (overnight) in the freezing cold to book a coastal beach hut for the summer. For me, this symbolises the travel optimism that we must embrace in 2022!

SUSTAINING THE MOMENTUM OF “STAYCATIONS”

The hopeful and optimistic signs that the UK is leading the way out of the pandemic, with the vaccination programme contributing to an 80% drop in COVID-19 related hospitalisations, has led to a boom in domestic holidays.

As the rest of the world grapples with vaccinations and the prevalence of omicron, 2022 shows strong signs of being another year of “staycations”. At Burgh Island, we are already more than 80% booked up for the first half of this financial year.

To make the most of this, hotels need to offer more than just a place to sleep. Over 65% of travellers say they want to return from a trip having experienced something novel. One spokesman from TripAdvisor reported that 75% of travellers said that it’s important to them to “see new places” when planning their holiday.

Offering guests exciting and unique experiences is a sure way to catch their attention in 2022. From opportunities to learn about the local culture and cuisines, to guided tours and novel activities, in order to stand out as a “staycation” destination, businesses must consider how to deliver than unforgettable experience.

For example, at the Burgh Island Hotel, we offer Murder Mystery Weekends, immersive artistic workshops with our own Island Artist, fishing trips, live music and so much more. Guests leave with life-long memories and a breadth of new experiences.

CREATE A SENSE OF ESCAPISM

Although I am optimistic about the future of the UK’s hospitality industry, we cannot place COVID behind us just yet.

However, what the industry can do is create a sense of escapism, allowing guests to leave their worries behind (even if it is just for a weekend).

At Burgh Island, our strategy is to transport guests into a different era entirely. Noted as one of the foremost places to see and experience Art Deco in Europe, guests get a full 1920s experience through the Palm Court, cubism-inspired décor and Hollywood glamour that adorns our iconic hotel.

INVEST IN YOUR PEOPLE

The most important aspect of any organisation is the people behind it. I cannot stress enough how essential it is to value, invest and appreciate your staff.

A recent study by Revolent Group reported that 33% of employees expect to leave their current job within the next year, with 28% citing work-life balance as the reason. In order to avoid the grasp of the “Great Resignation”, hospitality businesses need to dedicate time and resources to their staff’s development and wellbeing.

Ensuring hospitality workers see their job as a valued and respected career path is an important step in raising the esteem of the sector in general. Prioritising succession planning and CPD opportunities for employees is one way to do this.

Investing in staff’s development to ensure they are up to date with the key trends in the industry is vital.With sustainable travel becoming more and more mainstream, staff at Burgh Island are trained in energy awareness. Reports suggest that 82% of people now say sustainability is more important to them than before the pandemic. Businesses need be aware of what is going on in the sector at large.

Despite the omicron variant becoming the latest setback in a string of unfortunate events, there is certainly a strong cause for optimism looking forwards. As HOGO begins to dissipate, hoteliers must gain momentum by providing an opportunity for unique escapism that guests cannot not find anywhere else.