UK consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their hotel tastes, preferring independents to branded chains, according to report from Mintel.
The research firm's Hotels - UK survey of 1,000 British adults found that 39% of leisure and business consumers "prefer the individuality of independent hotels". Only 24% of respondents said they opted for "well-known hotel chains" because they "can rely on them and know what to expect".
Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain, a consortium of independent hotels, welcomed the findings. "I agree that the British consumer, being discerning and well-informed, does prefer the independent hotel," he said. "Our members are doing good business and most of their customers are British."
But InterContinental Hotels Group disagreed with the view that consumers were rebelling against hotel chains.
A spokesman said that its loyalty scheme had 28 million members while its Holiday Inn brands in the UK were outperforming the sector. "These loyalty] figures suggest people are choosing to stay at branded hotels," he said.
The Mintel report said that branded chains are the fastest-growing sector in the hotels market, despite the consumer desire for independents. It labelled the trend "unfortunate", given consumers had already rebelled against chain concepts in pubs and restaurants.
But the report said that the UK's top 15 brands still accounted for only 1,700 of the 47,000 hotels in the UK, showing that the "independent owner is alive and well".
Mintel concluded that the UK hotel market was failing to satisfy the demand for unique experiences and individual preferences. It pointed to a lack of brands clearly targeting, for instance, stag and hen parties, extended families, health and technology-conscious young business travellers, older single travellers or lone women.
By Angela Frewin