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Why hoteliers can’t afford to ignore the conscious traveller - Dart PR
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Talking wellness tourism at Independent Hotel Show

Why hoteliers can’t afford to ignore the conscious traveller

The eighth Independent Hotel Show took place at London Olympia from 15-16 October, described as ‘the most comprehensive business event for the luxury, boutique and independent hotel sector’.  

From eminent journalists to distinguished hoteliers, the two-day show brought together notable names and plenty of big ideas across two stages. With the theme for this year’s show being ‘the Conscious Bedroom’, travellers’ attitudes to sustainability took top billing.

Here are four essential takeaways:

The Conscious Bedroom Report – how to capitalise on the thoughtful guest

In the latest of the Independent Hotel Show’s annual trend reports, thousands of regular hotel guests were surveyed on their attitudes to environmental matters.

According to the report, 76% of holidaymakers feel that hotels could do more to be greener and 72% of guests hope a hotel can provide local produce.

Delving further into the report…

  • 14% of those surveyed said they were more aware of their environmental impact when away from home
  • A simple carafe and glasses were cited as the most popular way to serve complimentary water in guests’ rooms, replacing plastic
  • 73% of respondents answered ‘no’ when questioned on whether they think a hotel appears budget if it uses large, refillable bottles for in-room toiletries
  • Not surprisingly, the luxury sector seems to be leading the way when it comes to sustainable travel. It can often require a large investment to make a hotel ‘green’ and take three to four years for any return on this.

The panel of experts discussing the results at the show included Olivia Richli, General Manager of Heckfield Place; Sue Williams, General Manager of Whatley Manor; and Xenia zu Hohenlohe, Managing Partner of Considerate Group.

Whatley Manor sustainable award

Although making a hotel more environmentally friendly is “simply good housekeeping much of the time,” Xenia zu Hohenlohe said, citing water saving and reduced food waste as prime examples.  Sue Williams agreed. “There are hundreds of things hotels can do that require zero investment,” she said.

According to Olivia Richli, Heckfield Place is attracting a much younger audience due to its sustainability policy.

Building successful partnerships – how to accelerate brand growth through clever collaborations

Founder of Artist Residence, Justin Salisbury and General Manager from Ham Yard Hotel, Laura Sharpe were amongst the panel sharing strategies for finding best fit partners for worthwhile collaborations.

Clever partnerships with other like-minded businesses can provide lucrative new revenue streams. But there can be pitfalls to avoid and it’s essential that both partners are on the same page from the outset.

For Justin, working with local artists has been key in helping the brand stand out. At Ham Yard, a pop-up warming winter rooftop gin bar with Sipsmith proved a sell-out success. A series of bespoke barrel partnerships has provided ideal inspiration for cocktails for hotel guests too.

The panel were in agreement that a key component for success for independent hoteliers is to utilise the chosen partner’s resources to maximise exposure. Such as a bigger creative team or email database.

The Wellness Traveller – how catering for the well-being of guests can lead to a healthier bottom line

Chaired by leading hotel and wellness journalist, Susan D’Arcy, the panel included David Connell, General Manager of South Lodge; Harry Cragoe, owner of The Gallivant; and Rohaise Rose-Bristow, Director of The Torridon. The discussion surrounded how guest well-being and customer engagement are intrinsically linked, and a hotel’s wellness proposition needn’t rely on having to open a spa.

“Wellness is about indulgence,” said David Connell. “Whether that’s through food, exercise or simply chilling out.”

“It can be natural, organic and what you have around you,” added Roaise Rose-Bristow. “It’s down to the hotelier to open guests up to their surroundings and encourage natural well-being. Simply walking for 90 minutes can have an incredibly positive impact on mental health. Equally sitting by the fire with a cup of tea is also a form of wellness.”

“Businesses need to focus on consciously giving guests experiential-led stays,” said Harry Cragoe. “People are looking for places to reconnect with themselves and revitalise.”

At The Gallivant this manifests itself in mindful walks on the beach, wild swimming, yoga classes and talks on topics such as conscious sleeping. The hotel even has a Guest Happiness Manager.

Winning on the web – how to drive direct bookings

For this session, top tips from the panel focused on how independent hotels and guest houses can differentiate themselves from Online Travel Agents (OTAs) such as Booking.com.

With big marketing and ad budgets, the chances are, sites such as Booking.com will be one of the primary channels for driving visitors to a hotel’s own website.

“People want to feel confident when they come to your website from an OTA,” said Gerry Wilton from the Chocolate Hotel. He encouraged hotels to tell their story through images as much as possible, and to make sure room photos on the OTA site are consistent with a hotel’s own website, as well as being tagged with room names and number so that people can see what type they’re booking.  He attributes a significant percentage of revenue to the bespoke experiences he offers customers choosing to book direct, from chocolate hampers to chocolate tasting.

“Increasingly people are looking for places that have their own individuality,” said Liam Walsh, owner of the Bridge B&B and Station B&B in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Self-styled B&B Doctor and owner of Turks Hall B&B in Bruton, Somerset, Caroline Nolder, attributed an increase in direct bookings to getting active on social media. Along with installing a 360 VR walk-around feature to her website, so that potential guests can see if her B&B is suited to them before booking.  

And the surprise reveal? (Good) bathroom images are massive booking converters.

Get in touch if you’re an independent hotelier and would like to talk about setting up successful brand partnerships and sharing your stories via PR.