The tourism and hospitality sectors were the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. For most of 2020, the entire industry was shut down, costing the economy approximately £57.2bn in domestic tourism and £24.7 bn in inbound visitor spend (Visit Britain).
When lockdown restrictions were eased back in June 2020, there was an immediate rush of bookers looking for last minute accommodation. Holiday parks and accommodation providers located close to the coast and countryside benefited the most, while hotels situated in the cities struggled to recover lost revenue.
Summer 2020 experienced an abnormally high demand in self-catering accommodation and caravanning and camping holidays. This was because self-contained units such as caravans, and self-catering accommodation provides safe, isolated spaces without person-to-person interaction typically found at B&Bs and Hotels.
So, what does this mean for hotel refurbishments?
While the pandemic poses a serious threat, consumer confidence and travel behaviour will be deeply impacted even after infection rates drop. According to VisitBritain, concerns about catching COVID-19 was one of top 5 reasons visitors were not confident about travelling in Spring.
If hotels are to recover from the pandemic, they will need to rebuild consumer confidence by demonstrating their accommodation is COVID-safe. Accreditations, such as Quality in Tourism ‘Safe, Clean and Legal’, go a long way in demonstrating that a provider meets the cleaning standards and safety measures outlined by Government.
To achieve a COVID-safe hotel or B&B, operators will need to adapt their buildings to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This may include reconfiguring communal spaces to increase social distancing, installing appropriate signage and retrofitting rooms to make them easier to clean. Operators also need to introduce additional cleaning protocols and hand sanitation points.
Implementing these measures is particularly challenging for B&B’s and Hotels, given most are high-density accommodation. In most cases, providers will need to consider operating at a restricted capacity to provide the necessary social distance between guests or extend opening hours to accommodate dinners.
The combined cost of lost revenue from reduced bed space and additional cleaning measures, can make the decision to reopen a difficult one; especially considering COVID-19 cleaning protocols alone can cost a 250-bed hotel on average £50,000 a year according to Travel Weekly.
Our team look at four hotel refurbishment strategies and how these can support businesses get back on their feet.
Strategy 1 – Upgrading to attract exclusive letting
Some hotels and B&B are pivoting towards exclusive use only, offering private rental of the property and its grounds for large groups (i.e for weddings and special events). Exclusive use can be very lucrative for hoteliers particularly those with high-end luxury accommodation.
Upgrading your accommodation to provide something that is high-end and unique can set you apart from your competitors. You do not need to spend a lot of money on improvements to dramatically change the look and feel of your property.
Strategy 2 – Are Aparthotels the answer?
Serviced apartments and aparthotels were already fast-growing segments of the accommodation market before the COVID-19 pandemic. Aparthotels are expected to be a hot commodity in 2021 as hoteliers work to compete with services such as AirBnB and accommodate social distancing requirements.
If you were already moving towards converting your hotel into an aparthotel, now is the time to do it. Self-contained units are predicted to remain in popular demand in 2021 and this growing trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Self-catering providers particularly benefited from last year’s rush of booker, especially those that offered ‘self-contained’ units. Separate dining facilities and amenities offers an increased level of safety for visitors, which for vulnerable guests, can be a key selling point.
Strategy 3 – Get clever with the space you have!
Reconfiguring communal areas to provide more space does not necessarily have to result in reduced capacity. This is particularly relevant when reassessing your dining areas.
If you have the space available, consider extending outdoors to provide more seating. Even with limited indoor space, it is possible to increase capacity by making slight adjustments to a room layout.
Strategy 4 – Make your building easier to keep clean
Small improvements can go a long way to restoring consumer confidence. Replacing tiling with wall boarding, such as those provided by Bush Board, replacing shower curtains with glass doors and upgrading your ventilation system can make a big difference to maintaining a COVID-safe building. In addition to undertaking these upgrades, get your accommodation accredited by Quality in Tourism as ‘safe, clean and legal’.
Travel restrictions and containment measures are likely to be in place for longer and they are anticipated to be lifted only gradually. As the industry starts to reopen again, new health protocols will likely result in businesses operating at a limited capacity.
Whilst it will take some time for the tourism and hospitality industry to recover fully, Visit Britain forecasts a positive outlook for 2021. Domestic tourism spend is predicted to increase by 79% compared to last year and even the number of inbound visitors is expected to rise.
The pandemic has encouraged a lot of businesses in the leisure sector to up their game and some have even started hotel refurbishment projects and continued developments despite being closed.