BDRC Reports on Year of Change for the British Hotel Industry.By Matt Costin
Demand for hotel rooms in Britain from British travellers increased by 2% year-on-year, to an estimated 108 million adult room nights, split almost 50:50 between business and leisure stays. These were just some of the results that specialist hotel research consultancy BDRC’s 2014 Global Hotel Guest Survey programme discovered as it gathered information from across the UK. The survey demonstrated that the business market was boosted by a strong recovery in the residential conference market, to levels not seen since the beginning of the recession.
The survey warned that growing networking and lodging service Airbnb posed a disruptive and potentially serious threat. Although awareness of the online lodging marketplace remained limited (comparable with new-to-market hotel brands such as Hotel Indigo or Ibis Styles), engagement and interest among frequent travellers and Generation Y hotel guests was high enough for it to be considered a threat.
The bar had been raised for guest experience with the majority of brands registering stronger Net Promoter Scores. A loosening of purse-strings for product enhancements, brands rationalising their estates and responding to consumer priorities such as free Wi-Fi, combined to have the desired effect of reducing the number of brand detractors, in turn leading to more brands entering the consideration set. Getting through to consumers now adept at screening out unwanted advertisements was proving a challenge for the industry, with awareness of hotel advertising flat to dipping despite heavy investment from several hotel brand owners in marketing communications.
In the annual brand performance awards, Ibis Budget, in its third year of tracking, was named the BDRC Most Improved Brand for 2014, recording significant improvements in brand recognition across business and leisure segments. Other emerging brands to make significant year-on-year progress included two from the Hilton stable: Doubletree and Hampton Inn / Hampton by Hilton. It was also a good year for IHG, with both Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express reaping the dividend of a recent brand refresh and product enhancement initiatives, with strong recoveries in the brand rankings. At the top of the brand rankings on a composite measure of brand performance for the first time, Premier Inn emerged as the No.1 Brand in the leisure market, but Hilton clung on to its lead in the business market as well as overall. Despite Premier Inn becoming the most widely used hotel brand for business, Hilton consolidated its lead over its economy tier rival among higher frequency segments.
Despite the warnings to brands of new services such as Airbnb, the Global Hotel Guest Survey has demonstrated that demand for hotel rooms continues to grow steadily and those brands which can refresh their images and services can expect to continue to develop brand recognition across the different hotel markets.