There’s no denying everyone operating in the UK hospitality industry has had a challenging couple of years.
For independent hotel and B&B owners, it has been particularly difficult. The Covid pandemic meant that most UK travel stopped entirely during 2020. With journeys over short distances banned, people stayed at home. Visitors to the UK fell too, as international travel was restricted - 2020 saw a 73% drop in inbound visitors on the previous year.
Meanwhile, business travel was also severely impacted - only 35% of UK companies continued to allow this during the pandemic. Online meetings became the norm, and Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or WebEx sessions replaced face to face get-togethers.
All of this combined means that bookings in UK hotels and B&Bs almost stopped - and furloughed employees in this sector made up a whopping 25% of the total furloughed people in the UK during Covid.
2021 saw a shift in fortune, however. As overseas travel restrictions prevented most people from venturing abroad, but more freedom was granted at home, the UK independent hotel and B&B industry benefited. ‘Staycation’ became the most searched holiday-related term on the internet as restless residents looked for a change of scenery. Consumer spending on UK hotels and B&Bs started to increase again in March 2021. While this figure is still at 70% of pre-Covid levels, it does look like UK holidays will remain popular in 2022, as hotel and campsite managers report record bookings for next year.
Small hotel and B&B owners across the UK can harness this trend for ‘staycations’. While we hope for a return of international visitors, tourists closer to home could be just what supports the hotel industry. Here are a few things for business owners to consider:
Ensure all marketing collateral is up to date – with increased online queries, your website needs to be performing efficiently to be noticed amongst your competitors. Optimise your images not to slow your site down and update your search engine optimisation to have an excellent online presence. Promote your establishment on travel sites. Ramp up your social media and consider advertising or promoting your offering in the media.
Partnerships with Local Restaurants and Travel Companies
Look at other businesses in your local area. Could you partner with them to offer deals to potential and existing holidaymakers: train and bus companies, taxi companies, local restaurants and bars? Recognise what staycationers will be coming to your area for – beaches, culture, walking? – and tap into that: promote the region as well as your establishment.
Ensure all your administration is up to date. Display your health and safety credentials, check your insurance includes the right kind of policies post-Covid, look at your booking systems and check all your alarms. Ensure your WIFI is tip top and double-check all your décor is up to standard. Check whether you need to update your guest policy in any way.
The personal touch is what helps small hotels and B&Bs stand out from their larger competitors. Use that database of customers and keep in touch with people - promote any offers, entice them to your area by letting them know about events taking place. For business customers, let them know about your parking and breakfast facilities, tell them about local restaurants they might like to try.
As restrictions on international travel get lifted, next Summer will likely see an increase in UK holidaymakers booking foreign holidays. But many of us have re-acquainted ourselves with the beauty of British breaks, and of course inbound travel to the UK is also likely to increase. By getting ready now, small hotel and B&B owners can make the most of the influx that is hopefully ahead – and a return to busier times and more profitable periods.
Quotes from well-known and specialist insurers, including: