The size of the independent hotel sector in the UK may have shrunk, but the remaining properties have rarely been stronger or more influential, according to a new report commissioned by the Independent Hotel Show.
Written by hotel consultant Melvin Gold, The UK Independent Hotel Sector Today, highlights that more than 40,000 hotel bedrooms in independent hotels have closed in a little over a decade, primarily due to a "failure to invest and innovate". This has happened at a time when guests have become more discerning and the major brands have gained a larger slice of the cake through their marketing strength and the growth of online travel agents.
However, many of the independent hotels that have survived and the new ones that have opened have led the way in innovative service and style, which is frequently copied by the big brands. "The best will provide leadership and innovation for the whole hotel sector," said Gold.
According to the report, the 38,604 independent hotels with 409,9134 rooms that were open at the end of 2015 accounted for 54.9% of the total UK service accommodation sector. Some 555 of the properties were a member of a marketing and distribution consortia such as Pride of Britain, Relais & Chateaux and Best Western.
The sector is said to be defined by five critical differentiating factors: individuality, locality, freedom, personality and innovation, and, as a result, is best placed to meet the changing and ever increasing demands of guests, who want a genuine and exceptional experience.
Justin Salisbury, the owner with his wife Charlotte of the Artist Residence, which owns and operates three hotels in London, Brighton and Penzance, explained that people want "an authentic experience and are increasingly able to identify when that is not the case."
One of the many examples of best practice and innovation that is said to emanate from independent hotels is within the UK's seaside resorts where a new breed of properties is emerging. "These can attract guests to the locality purely due to their own quality, marketing or reputation and by showing the potential have often encouraged investment by other hoteliers," said Gold. "These are not necessarily seaside hotels of the traditional genre but instead typically have a lifestyle or boutique feel, often supported by spa, leisure or food and beverage facilities that mitigate weather and seasonal dependence."
While the performance figures quoted in the report from STR are not definitive, due to the limited sample of independent hotels as opposed to the majority of chain hotels being included, the report shows that independent businesses tend to outperform branded outlets in average room rate and revenue per available room, while the groups achieve high occupancy percentages.
The Independent Hotel Show takes place on 18 and 19 October at Olympia, London. To register, visit www.independenthotelshow.co.uk