By Anj Germain, brand director at Inntelligence (www.inn-telligence.com)
Homegrown hospitality experienced a boom this summer, with holidaymakers unable or otherwise dissuaded from venturing abroad. However, with international travel restrictions beginning to ease, sustaining momentum in a more competitive market will be a critical challenge for UK hoteliers as we head towards the new year and beyond.
Looking ahead to winter, there are several steps homebased hoteliers can take to sharpen their competitive edge as competition climbs towards pre-pandemic levels. City-centre destinations cannot afford to take their popularity for granted and should look to see what they can learn from hotels which thrive in more remote locations. In addition, dealing with the lingering effects of the pandemic will be crucial, as will solving the vexed question of how to address the sector’s staffing issues.
CITY VS COASTAL
Hotels in rural and coastal destinations have experienced strong recovery since the reopening of hospitality. So, with occupancy levels across the UK as a whole remaining 35% down on pre-pandemic levels, city-centre operators may wish to consider what they can learn from their remotely located counterparts.
Covid-19 has eaten away at many tourists’ appetite for breaks in bustling cities, while the world of work is becoming ever more enveloped in the digital sphere. As a result, urban hoteliers may first look to see how they might bolster their brand story to retain both business- and leisure-oriented guests.
Remote hotels can provide particularly instructive examples, bound as they are to their quiet environs where shouting about their brand is all the more difficult. But Burgh Island Hotel, for instance, has overcome the challenges of being physically isolated from the mainland at high tide by leveraging this seclusion as a unique selling point. City hotels too should reflect on what makes them different, and turn it to their advantage.
SAFETY AS THE NEW LUXURY
Easing restrictions on travel and social distancing should not mask the fact that the average guest has irreversibly raised their expectations and anxieties around safety, health, and hygiene. According to The New York Times, in fact, the most important word in hospitality right not “relaxing”, not “luxurious”, but “clean”.
And yes, it should absolutely go without saying that operators maintain high standards of cleanliness on their premises, but the sea change caused by Covid-19 is that the traditional types of cleanliness will no longer assuage guests anxieties. So, not only should surfaces be diligently disinfected and sanitiser stations regularly refilled, these measures should also be well signposted to guests throughout their stay to show them that “clean” (in the sense of Covid-safety) really is the name of the game.
Job vacancies in the hospitality sector have now reached two times the national average, according to recent ONS data. If you haven’t been holidaying under a rock recently, you may have noticed that the industry is facing serious issues with the recruitment and retention of staff – so what to do about it?
First, it is time to think about what recruits really want. And given that the young people fill most frontline hospitality roles, it matters hugely that 75% of millennials and Gen Z prefer sustainable businesses – either as consumers or as workers. Showcasing the sustainability credentials of a hotel will therefore be a real boon for its resourcing team.
Moreover, employees of all ages should have their wellbeing supported, particularly with one in five hospitality workers suffering from severe work-related mental health issues even before the pandemic. From mental health “first aid” training to onsite counselling services, putting effective support systems in place will be vital for attracting workers.
WINTER IS COMING
It will be by no means easy to sustain the success of a summer in which hospitality bounced from more than a year of being effectively comatose, but there are ways for hoteliers to ensure that they are as well equipped as possible for the challenges ahead. Learning from across the industry, satisfying guests’ concerns around Covid, and taking a people-centric approach to staffing will all be invaluable as hotels try to put the worst of the crisi behind them.