On Monday 3rd September the Boutique Hotel News held a panel discussion to review the effect of the Olympics and the results for Independent and Boutique hotels during the period.
Held at The Hempel, the session looked at what can be learned from the London Olympics and what to expect over the next 12 months.
The panel consisted of
Gareth Banner, general manager, The Hempel
Marie Baxter, general manager, Town Hall Hotel
Chris Foy, head of 2012 games unit, Visit Britain
Ruth Mortimer, editor, Marketing Week
Moderator: Jonathan Langston, managing director, TRI Hospitality Consulting
The London Olympics 2012 is about the long game; promoting and reintroducing Britain back to the world. Building the profile of the country across the world. The panel noted that it drew the best of Britain through the media, that was replicated across the world. The mass number of volunteers demonstrated the country’s hospitality and the ability to be welcoming hosts.
Ruth Mortimer said it is hard to say yet how the legacy will be fulfilled, “however the immediate success can be seen in the interest in the Paralympics.”
For The Hempel, the hotel sold out to a single booking which helped them meet their revenue needs. While Town Hall Hotel experienced good occupancy and ADR, but “In all honesty conferencing and banqueting took a dip – we had no weddings or other entertainments because of so many events were happening with the Olympics.” However Marie noted that the hotel could continue to get success “off the back of marketers, who will bring more people into London.”
The panel noted how boutique properties are good for hospitality events with the right amount of space (40-60 rooms) that adds character and history of London through the original building structure that feels historically different.
The underlying theme though was to truly understand what the customer wants from you! With thousands of hotel room nights opening in London that have more luxury capacity and as the Olympic spotlight fades hoteliers need to begin being creative rather than taking everything for granted.
Boutique hotels will need to work hard and be very smart and creative otherwise 2013 will be a difficult year. The UK has had its fair share of international events over the past couple of yeas with few to come except the Rugby World Cup 2014.
As hotels in the UK will need to market rates inclusive of VAT, at 20%, the country may start to look expensive, especially to Europeans with the low value of the Euro.
The panel talked of the year of 2013 that has little to look forward to. More budgeting, people needing to work harder and hotels to find those hidden gems and stories. The industry will need to look closer at the potential of providing a more personalised experience.
By 2014 the country is expecting an additional 4.5milliom visitors, a commitment made by VisitBritain.
For the hotels, OTA is a very dirty word as direct sales are more profitable. However OTAs are needed in January, February and Sunday nights. The Town Hall Hotel works with the Kiwi Collection, Mr and Mrs Smith and other very specific boutique brand agencies, doing the marketing on their behalf. Marie said she works hard to qualify whom they work with and there is a growing understanding with consumers that the best rate is a direct rate with the hotel.
For working with the large OTAs like Expedia and Booking, for them it is a listing, to be on the hotel search engine, but keeping an optimum price on these channels positions them correctly in the market.
Ruth talked about how other industries have lost control over their inventory – Insurance for example. Where everything is done through price comparison websites. “People's behaviour in how they look has altered and what the hotel suffers from when people are just looking at the big number. It is totally rate driven.”
For the hoteliers in the room being a boutique hotel means they can stand above the rest because they are unique. “We have a unique quality, an independence. We shouldn't be competing on rate but marketing ourselves on distinct differences. We're not cheapest out there and this is why we are not being ashamed of it because we give out more than others.”
As for Social media, Ruth believes it is great if using it for the right reasons. Some for specials, some quick enquiries, some as communities. Such an individual aspect for each business it needs to be considered on how it works best.
There’s a lot more to come from the Olympics, if hotels, the country and everyone works hard enough to bleed as much from the international profile gained as possible.