Viewpoint: Filling each unforgiving minute

18 June 2020 by
Viewpoint: Filling each unforgiving minute

Peter Hancock celebrates the unique ways in which hospitality leaders have been filling their time, coming together as an industry throughout the crisis

Hospitality bosses are used to being busy. In most cases they have no start or end to their week and would think nothing of an 18-hour working day. How weird the past couple of months must have felt, with no customers or staff to manage and, worse still, no money coming in.

The enforced break has thrown a spotlight on some of our industry's leaders in wholly unexpected ways. On LinkedIn we have seen videos of them cooking elaborate dishes or making classic cocktails in their own kitchens, all for charity. Who knew that the Royal Lancaster London's Sally Beck played the trumpet, or that Lucknam Park's Harry Murray doffed his tie when at home? The crisis has provided hours of entertainment as these habitual workaholics devoted their time to other pursuits.

Campaigning has reached a new level too. Notwithstanding the heroic work of Kate Nicholls and her team at UKHospitality, which has helped to deliver astonishing amounts of government support, figures such as Robin Hutson and Jeremy King have been seen and heard in the media like never before. It feels as though our giant, fragmented hospitality industry has at last become a ‘thing' that is worthy of news coverage, even inviting mentions from the prime minister himself.

It feels as though our giant, fragmented hospitality industry has at last become a ‘thing' that is worthy of news coverage, even inviting mentions from the prime minister himself

We know that lots of charities have suffered enormously due to their inability to stage big fundraising events, and one feels for those who depend upon them. Despite this, Hospitality Action appears to be on a roll. Its 20,000-mile Hospitality Challenge is attracting growing support. Being a less sporty type myself, I went for the more sedentary option of light-hearted chats with the Goring's David Morgan-Hewitt from our respective homes during lockdown. One of these has been augmented with canned laughter, which we both reckoned would be jolly handy in real life.

Another side effect of the emergency has been the quest for consumer confidence measurement in the form of guest surveys, which plenty of hotel businesses have followed. We conducted one at the end of May and asked Pride of Britain's devotees how soon they expected to start booking hotels again, what their new priorities would be and lots more.

A very interesting fact that emerged was how they expected the cost of a hotel stay to change. To the specific question "In view of the economic situation, coupled with the restricted numbers needed to meet government guidelines, do you expect the cost of accommodation at luxury UK hotels for the remainder of this year to go up, go down or stay the same?", only 13% said they expected prices to fall, while 43% expected them to rise (the rest expect them to stay the same). This is a clear sign that hotels should avoid the temptation to sell rooms cheaply, because people do understand the link between supply and demand.

It took about one minute to compose that question, but the answer it produced will be of value for many months to come.

Peter Hancock is chief executive at Pride of Britain hotels

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