Attendees at HOSPACE 2014 were optimistic of a brighter future for hotels over the coming year, says HOSPA chief executive Carl Weldon
HOSPACE 2014 confirmed that daylight is finally emerging after years of recession as the UK hotel industry at last has a positive story to tell. Some 80% of delegates polled at the conference, held at the end of last year, believed that the UK hotel market was now out of recession, and 88% said they planned to invest in hospitality technology this year.
The conference heard that, despite recent concerns about some economies in the Eurozone, the sector was heading upwards into 2015. Liz Hall, head of hospitality and leisure research at PwC, said: "The global recovery now appears less robust than it did earlier in the year but far from uniformly
There were, however, some notes of caution, with challenges expected by the likes of Airbnb and some fears that the increased supply of hotels waiting to come online was a sleeping giant about to awake, but the message overall was a positive one.
In terms of the big brands, it was widely recognised that technology is now a greater consideration than ever, with most offering perks such as free Wi-Fi to attract loyalty from consumers as well as owners.
Interestingly enough though, 72% of HOSPACE delegates polled believed that hotels and restaurants need not be part of a big brand to be successful, with technology increasingly levelling the playing field.
Another technologically-driven development, the rise of big data, was addressed by a panel of experts, who advised operators to start small but be prepared to scale-up fast and really focus on the information that affected them most.
They said it can be a bewildering process and advised being certain of which questions needed answering before starting to collect large volumes of data.
The data insights revolution is an area where online travel agents, airlines and supermarkets have traditionally led the way in customer relationship management and loyalty schemes, so it perhaps came as no surprise that 74% of the audience believed that the hospitality industry was not good at
obtaining insights from its own information.
There is clearly still much to learn. And with a changing landscape, hoteliers must change their approach as we enter what is hoped will be a period of sustained growth. While trading looks to be recovering to 2007 peaks, which should mean more money in the coffers, the question now is where to invest it to best attract, maintain and retain the customer.