By Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel (www.burghisland.com)
Hospitality is understandably inclined towards the international — as an industry, we rely on a steady stream of visiting guests to keep our doors open. Yet, when serving our guests, we must not neglect the local businesses and communities that we owe so much to.
Indeed, with almost half of UK travellers seeking experiential travel – trips where they can truly explore an area’s history, culture, and traditions – maintaining the local connection has never been so important to a hotel’s success. By forging a symbiotic relationship with local businesses and organisations, hotels can support their communities economically, socially, and environmentally – and without turning away the modern traveller.
Being part of a community
History and heritage may well be the darlings of regional tourist boards across Britain, but for hotels hoping to promote and preserve their setting, it remains vital to recognise the important part played by community initiatives in nourishing local culture. By participating in initiatives such as arts programmes or environmental campaigns, hotels can simultaneously foster good relationships with local communities while ensuring a lively destination for their guests.
With a host of resources at their disposal, hospitality businesses can play a unique part in local initiatives. Alongside providing of facilities and catering for conferences, meetings, and events, each hotel should consider its distinctive characteristics and capabilities and how these can support the community. At Burgh Island, for example, we hosted last year’s Bigbury Net Zero assembly on climate change, marrying our sizeable entertainment space with our meticulous dedication to sustainable practices.
Our local and environmental commitments stem from our desire to do right by the environment and community that makes our island such a special place to live, work and visit. However, community engagement can also serve to benefit hotels in a more commercial sense.
By extending a hand to their neighbourhood, hotels expand their reach much further than the local boundary stones through the additional marketing opportunities and brand recognition that community engagement presents. Positive community-orientated initiatives prompt for local and national news coverage, offering opportunities for promotion across a wide readership. Moreover, a place on the website of a socially- or environmentally conscious community group will raise an establishment standing among those 78% of tourists searching for eco-friendly accommodation in 2022.
Offering local businesses a helping hand
Guests don’t just want a place to sleep, eat and drink. They want to make lasting memories that they won’t find elsewhere. In fact, Booking.com predicts that over 70% of s tourists will seek to escape their comfort zone and try something new in 2023. Undoubtedly, hotels that advertise the novel experiences their neighbours provide and partner with local businesses to offer exclusive deals will attract a wide pool of guests who want to engage with the local area. At Burgh Island, for example, we have collaborated with local fishing experts to curate a range of trips, allowing guests to cast their nets into one of the industries that gave rise to Bigbury-on-Sea.
Collaboration can provide vital custom to hotels and local businesses alike. However, it can also afford a combination of social and environmental benefits. For instance, Burgh Island’s Nettlefold Restaurant sources 80% of its ingredients from local communities within a 30-mile radius. Not only does this cut the environmental cost of transporting produce onboard gas-guzzling vehicles, but we also feel smaller, local businesses are more attuned to the eco-friendly desires of our guests, and less prone to mass and, indeed, overproduction. By purchasing products from within a restricted radius, hotels can boost local business, cut their carbon footprint, and sow a reputation for eco-consciousness all at once.
Employing local, easing shortages
Cultivating lasting relations within the local community can help a hotel promote itself not just to guests, but also to potential employees. With the shadow of a staffing crisis looming over the sector, securing loyal and enthusiastic workers has become a pressing concern for UK hospitality. Indeed, as of October 2022, 158,000 industry vacancies remained unfilled according to the Office of National Statistics.
The positive reputation a hotel builds through community relations can attract staff from the neighbourhood by both showcasing the hotel to local residents and forging individual bonds between existing employees and members of the community. And with McKinsey research highlighting a lack of belonging among the top reasons employees leave a role, this pre-established connection will undoubtedly lead to long-lasting careers and a happier workplace, much to the benefit of business, staff, and guests.
With only 16 staff bedrooms currently on the island and, given its remote location where access is controlled by the tide, it’s important that staff can live nearby. House prices in South Hams have bucked current economic trends and remain expensive despite a drop in prices nationwide.
In 2022, amongst the 29 local authorities in the Southwest, South Hams recorded the highest property price rise, increasing by an average of 24.3%. Average house prices are now over £400,000 as the area becomes a popular destination for second homes and summer holidays.
We have recently invested £500,000 into transforming Korniloff care home into luxury staff accommodation with 22 high end ensuite double bedrooms. Burgh’s purchase of Korniloff is a move to shield employees from rising house prices and increasingly unaffordable rents, allowing them to focus on their roles at the hotel and progress their careers.
Through supporting local initiatives, collaborating with nearby businesses, and forging strong relationships with workers from the area, a hotel endears itself to both local community and visiting guests. It’s important that those hospitality businesses looking to serve the global market remember that, however far they spread their sights, their foundations still lie in the local community.