By Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel (www.burghisland.com)
Hospitality businesses are beginning to welcome the spring and summer months that usually yield robust revenues, unfettered by the restrictions caused by Covid for the first time in two years. But even with the pandemic hopefully consigned to the past, much has changed in guests’ needs and expectations that hospitality businesses cannot afford to ignore…
Rise of the “bleisure” traveller
It seems that “Don’t mix business with pleasure” is an outdated mantra. At least, many consumers are now eager to mix business with leisure, according to a survey conducted by Hilton Hotels; 69% of business travellers aged 25-30 would like to extend work trips for a mini holiday. Hospitality businesses must ensure that they adapt to grant guests’ wishes.
This phenomenon of the “bleisure” traveller is not entirely new, but its growth has been accelerated by the pandemic and, in particular, the rise of flexible working. Expedia Group research revealed that 60% of trips in 2016 were extended for leisure purposes, while 89% of respondents to a 2021 SAP Concur survey expressed a desire to add a private holiday onto their next business trip.
Indeed, the pandemic has hastened a trend of people wanting to work wherever they are in the world, so hospitality businesses should ensure that they are equipped with the superfast Wi-Fi and sufficient work-friendly space to meet the expectations of today’s business-cum-leisure travellers.
Rapid, reliable connectivity is not only an essential for those travelling on business; it is increasingly an amenity on which all holidaymakers are unwilling to compromise. So hospitality businesses simply cannot afford to skimp on the technology front in the coming months and years.
Tech is particularly important for underlining a businesses’ sustainability credentials. At Burgh Island, for instance, our luxury hotel is powered by a solar array on our disused tennis court, as well as two modern, energy-efficient boilers that have been blended seamlessly with their 1920s Art Deco environs. As the race to Net Zero continues apace, technology that supports sustainability goals will be a critical selling point for businesses.
But guests should be convinced of a hotel’s tech-savviness before they even arrive. With 70% of people now researching potential holidays on their smartphone, having a website conducive to mobile browsing is no longer just a nice-to-have. Moreover, remote check-in functions can help bring hotels, and up to speed with other areas of the travel industry, and into a new future.
Sustaining the staycation boom
This new future for the UK travel industry will also include increasing appetite for flight-free holidays. Boosted by last summer’s staycation boom, domestic travel looks set for a prolonged period of growth; 78% of people expressed their intention to travel within the UK between this March and May this year, according to TripAdvisor’s Spring Travel Index, while 47% planned to spend more on holidays than they did last year. Far from being a compromise, therefore, staycations are now high-priority holidays for growing numbers of guests.
Hotels must therefore allow guests to access unforgettable experiences without leaving the UK, and even without leaving the hotel itself. At Burgh Island, for instance, sample some of Devon’s finest dining experiences in the Grand Ballroom or the Nettlefold Restaurant, but they can also enjoy artist experiences, sustainable shark-tagging trips, and Murder Mystery events worthy of Agatha Christie herself. All this has helped the hotel surpass 80% occupancy for the first half of this year.
Admittedly, the future of the UK hospitality industry will not be determined over a period of six months, and many businesses will be thankful that the final removal of restrictions now affords more certainty for long-term strategising. And with the pandemic hopefully receding in the industry’s rear-view mirror, keeping abreast of guests’ changing wants and needs will be absolutely key to remaining competitive.