Consumers are driving change in UK hotel sector

Date posted 28th February 2014, by Mike Fitch

'UK hotels are thriving due to strong leisure businesses'

That’s the conclusion of a new study called ‘A New Breed of Traveller’ just published by HVS London, which has looked into the changing nature of hotel guests.

It seems that many hotels have barely changed over the past few decades and therefore are not providing for the modern hotel guest who values experiences and a sense of ‘being connected’ over traditional hotel features.

According to HVS research, when the current generation of travellers enters a hotel, they want to feel completely at home, and to be in a setting where they can be part of an experience. There is also a clear indication that guests are prepared to mix work and play.

The good news is that some hotels, especially those with a leisure offering, are adapting to this modern breed of traveller.

The provision of leisure facilities within a hotel setting, have in the past been seen as an attempt to provide guests with a benefit over and above the generic hotel experience. Unfortunately, those facilities have not always been well-managed or perceived as a profit centre in their own right.

According to Liz Holmes, Spa Director of 5-star resort Rockliffe Hall,“The hotel spa is going through a period of transformation. What used to be seen as another department created to drive hotel room rates is now being taken more seriously as a business in its own right and, more importantly, as a way to engage on a deeper level with hotel guests.

At Rockliffe Hall, 80% of hotel guests now use the extensive spa facilities accounting for 40% of treatment revenue and with membership options available, it creates a longer lasting relationship and delivers an increasing annual revenue per guest.

The move to a more sophisticated spa offering can be seen in many other existing and new build hotels. According to hotel specialist Bridget Baker,  it is no secret that many hotels in the UK provinces have been struggling with the downturn in corporate travel and residential conference business.  Some hotels however, have been thriving, often due to the strong leisure business that they are able to attract.

Much has been written on the ‘staycation’ effect and there is no doubt that the popularity of short breaks has become an increasingly important sector for many hotels. For many leisure guests the spa is the key deciding factor in selecting a leisure break destination indeed, it is often the reason for the stay.

Some hoteliers have been quick to latch on to this trend and the relatively recent openings in the upscale country house sector, such as Lime Wood and Coworth Park have all included impressive spas.

London, too, is also recognising the importance of spas. Five star hotel giants like the Langham in Regent Street has now completed its second major spa refurbishment in 10 years, The 5-star Corinthia in London, which opened in 2011 has won many awards for its 3,300 sq. m spa. Despite the Capital being one of the most successful hotel markets in the world, it was considered essential to provide an extensive spa to compete in the London hotel market and meet the requirements of the discerning travellers using these luxury hotels.

There is no doubt that there is a momentum favouring more progressive spa development in the UK hotel sector. More 3 to 5 star hoteliers are prepared to invest in spa and wellness facilities than in the past and recognise the importance of providing a product which is fit for purpose and a profit centre rather than just an added service to increase REVPAR.

There is one caveat to this increased interest in spa development and that is that not all spas are as commercially successful as they should be. The key is to get them right at the concept stage with a detailed brief. There is a very clear relationship between the design, customer journey, product mix and management of a spa which influences success and profitability.

 

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