There's much more to the mid-market than the vague way in which it is described, says Best Western chief executive Richard Lewis
It seems to me that everyone, from customer to hotelier to market analyst seems confused about the mid-market segment of the hotel industry.
There are those who think that this part of the industry is one of little prospective growth; that the mid-market boasts little in the way of innovation and that quality can be inconsistent across its spectrum.
I believe that the mid-market sector is the single part of the hospitality industry with the most potential for development. The market segment that could really change the perception of those looking for quality, innovation and value for money. All qualities that the customer, leisure or business, hold up as key drivers for choice.
So given my belief, why is there a vagueness about what mid-market is?
Most consumers have a good idea of what five stars is. Most people are very clear about the Four Seasons, Hyatt or Orient Express brands and their offerings.
Likewise, we all know what to expect from a bed and breakfast establishment or a Premier Inn or Travelodge.
But when it comes to the mid-market there is vagueness in nearly everyone's mind. What level of quality should be expected by the customer? What features and benefits should the guest feel entitled to? How innovative should this part of the market be?
To help define the sector, perhaps the first thing we should do is lose the term mid-market. Somehow it implies that those involved are uninspiring. After all, the words Innovation, quality and outstanding personal service are not synonymous with the phrase "mid-market".
Best Western hotels in the UK are independent; we don't own or manage any. That means there is uniqueness amongst the collection. From the people to the buildings, from the amenities to the stories about the properties - there is a distinct identity to each.
We need to take the lead in defining the segment; establishing the benchmarks and standards and ultimately driving it forward to help it achieve its tremendous growth potential.
And, given this new age of austerity and value for money, coupled with the increasingly high expectations and taxing demands from consumers and the question has to be asked: is this not the age of the mid-market hotel?
As an industry we need to properly define mid-market, establishing standards so that guests know what to expect. The future of this area of the UK hospitality market is brighter than it has ever been, its potential is huge and it could be the growth area of the industry going forward.
But we need to redefine the sector. Give it leadership, give it definition and make it recognisable for the great things it offers.