Positive trends for UK hospitality
This week I've been judging the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence (accommodation) and noticed some positive trends:
1. Good businesses really are memorable, with stand-out appeal: independents manage to do this well, and some chains are trying to find better ways to differentiate individual properties. Some businesses have made significant investments in their properties, but it's not just about cash - creativity and guest-focus really count.
2. Since last year's judging panel, it seems that businesses are getting better at becoming more sustainable and more inclusive/accessible, with some very creative and heart-felt solutions. It would be good if more businesses understood accessibility isn't just about mobility issues.
3. Some of the best businesses have thought a lot about their added extras, whether it's more interesting and healthy breakfast choices, more activities for guests, or local collaborations. It adds to their distinctiveness and pays off with higher levels of repeat visitors.
4. Online booking options are now the norm (finally!), with more and more accommodation providers successfully building their direct bookings and moving away from OTAs.
5. Some small but mighty businesses have been brave enough to experiment with their approach and attract markets who might not normally consider a break in their area. It's so good to see individual accommodation providers change the way destinations are perceived and become destinations in themselves.
6. Many more businesses now acknowledge the power of visits to friends and relatives and the celebrations market.
7. Successful businesses have really good 'About Us' pages, with photos...
8. There are some emerging market sectors that seem set to grow: adults-only breaks, multi-generation breaks, dog-friendly (not just dog-tolerant). With all these the opposite (e.g. family-friendly, dog-free) markets will probably grow too.
9. Staffing remains an issue for many, but there's a genuine willingness to reward staff, build teams, include all staff in planning, improve retention and find new solutions.
10. Social media is an integral (not 'I suppose I should do it') part of marketing, with multi-platform, targeted, consistent and engaging activity.
11. Review responses are seen as essential: some accommodation providers really show they care with excellent, personalised responses.
You'll be find out which businesses did all this, and more, at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence on 7th June!