By Simon Numphud, Managing Director of AA Media (www.ratedtrips.com)
Over the past two years, the hospitality sector has seen a significant and prolonged boom in staycations, fuelled by external pressures of the pent up demand and travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but also by positive initiatives such as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
While the restrictions around Covid have now been significantly reduced, ongoing airport disruptions, cost of living crisis, increased passport controls overseas and uncertainty around potential Covid infections mean that many Britons are still opting for holidays in the UK over far-flung destinations.
For the hospitality sector, this offers a phenomenal opportunity: not only to maintain the increased popularity of staycations during the peak summer season, but to also extend this new found interest in exploring the UK well beyond summer, and into the shoulder months.
The crucial first step to achieve this is for hospitality businesses to develop a strong narrative, a USP that goes hand in hand with the actual holiday-maker experience. Operators need to build a clear offering, incorporating the services offered through their business combined by the range of things to do locally. With the public’s renewed interest in the sights of the UK, consumers are more eager than ever to explore local areas and communities, engaging with small businesses by visiting places of interest, shopping, eating out and taking in entertainment. Ensuring that your business’ messaging ties into local places of interest will make elevate your offering and provide a narrative that is easy for potential guests to see themselves in.
The hospitality sector can also capitalise on the emerging popularity of issues around wellness, space, safety and sustainability. Whilst we are living in a post-pandemic world where restrictions are currently lifted, guests still want to be assured that proactive measures are in place which put guests and their safety first, including those who are most vulnerable. The pandemic has served as a break in regular service, which provides an opportunity to return with new ideas – revisiting sustainability and accessibility policies can ensure establishments stay aligned with the priorities of potential new customers.
In order to maximise profit, operators should focus on direct bookings, explaining the clear benefits that these have – from best price guarantee to special discounts and offers, absence of penalty or cancellation charges to the ability to speak to their team directly, as well as early check-in and extended guest use (for example of spa or dining facilities).
Examples of establishments who are already doing this successfully include the South West family-run hotel chain Brend Hotels and the luxury hotel group Exclusive Collection, who have a dedicated page on their website detailing the benefits of booking directly through them. When it comes to staycations, it is important to offer guests great experiences and opportunities to upgrade, as we have seen a greater propensity for guests to spend more as they value higher quality and their precious time away.