I thought you might appreciate some light distraction from agonising over what the Chancellor’s spending review may or may not hold, what form and duration the, hopeful UK wide, “Christmas truce” may take or, for those in England, from fretting about what various revised tiers actual mean for the survival prospects of various business types, the likely tier your area will be placed in from 3 December and, critically, the process and timelines for moving up or more especially down the scale thereafter. With luck some or all of this should be a lot clearer by the end of the week. Meanwhile let’s talk UK hotel standards:
Which? recently released their annual report on hotel chains. It an easy read and if nothing else provides some excellent tables that show, the current holdings of each different brand, the average price points and their perceived standing within the Which? customer survey. There is nothing particularly startling in it. Essential there has been some minor jostling for this year’s top places and, at the other end of the scale, for a remarkable 8th year in a row, one well-known brand picking up the accolade of the worst hotel group in the Which? consumer survey. The high-level background information the report provides might prove particularly useful going forward into a period of speculative investment interest, closures, acquisitions and rebranding which is almost certain to follow close in the wake of covid-19 or even pre-empt its eventual conclusion in the coming month and years. If hotels do start change hands or brands locally the Which? report provides a useful single, starting source of who’s who, how big, price points and what consumers actually think.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, given the subdued demand for serviced leisure and business accommodation, this year’s Which? hotels report didn’t pick up the usual levels of popular media interest when it released a couple of weeks ago. What coverage there was thin on the ground and, or has since, been lost without online trace or is obscured behind subscription barriers. The Times chose to roll the major chain hotel report in with one on an undercover investigation of covid-19 secure cleaning arrangements in UK hotels. Although, based on a relatively small sample, there were a few examples of apparently very poor cleaning standards reported. The overall Times report was not simply critical of the individual hotel standards but also about what it perceives to be a largely, or in some cases exclusively, a self-assessment, based approach to most of the UK’s schemes. Sadly, the national, “We’re good to go campaign” was included in their negative commentary. Again, unusually, few other papers have yet picked up on the theme but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can safely ignore it.
It is worrying that perceived failings among a small number of businesses, apparently across the board, may already or could still serve to damage public confidence, in the accommodation sector in particular, and/or indirectly act to discredit some or all of the increasing number of individual hotel group based or national schemes. Ensuring these schemes and, in particular the various national schemes remain credible is to my mind a critical task in recovery planning in both the domestic and international markets and one that needs careful thought and management at all levels. This is something that really needs to be addressed soon and certainly by no later than the end of March 2021 when with luck and good management we may see the first signs of the start of a sustained tourism recovery. Engendering public confidence was thought to be key to reopening last July. Unfortunately, the accommodation sector, in common with others, has since experienced a series of setbacks. I see absolutely no reason why engendering and maintaining public confidence shouldn’t be as critical when we eventually start the recovery proper, hopefully beginning in late spring 2021.
You can access the Which? report at: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/uk-hotel-chains/article/best-and-worst-uk-hotel-chains-aaVVF4u1jZpe
And on the subject of group-based schemes Booking.com has announced changes to their star system for sharing accommodation sector businesses first introduced in 2019. They are now adding a minimum cleanliness score commitment which, in theory at least, gives teeth to their user review based system, in that they are committing to remove (after due warning and failure to improve) those properties that don’t routinely achieve a 6 out of 10 or higher cleanliness rating. It may go some way to address a potential problem area that the consumer can clearly see for themselves, but it doesn’t necessarily address less obvious issues like gas, electrical, CO and fire safety, insurance, legal and other problem areas associated with the home share market. The detail of the announcement can be seen at: Booking.com Affirms Commitment to Quality with Minimum Cleanliness Score Requirement – VRM Intel