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2017: A look at the year ahead

Our Experience. Your Success.©

With the New Year well underway, Nicholas Northam, Managing Director for the UK at Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts, takes a look at what the year ahead could have in store for the hotel industry.

We find ourselves starting 2017 in an unprecedented position.

The last twelve months have been truly extraordinary, presenting numerous twists and turns for our industry - not least the Brexit decision in June and the outcome of the US election in November.

The world we live in looks very different compared to how it did just a year ago, and as an industry we have to adapt to the changes. We must face the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities that present themselves to us.

For Interstate, 2016 saw us grow our UK portfolio considerably. We signed an additional 16 new hotels and in December we opened four in less than a week, taking our current operational portfolio to 64.

This growth reaffirms our strong position as the leading, dedicated third-party hotel management company in the country, with more hotel openings Planned for 2017, as well as a strong pipeline of properties waiting in the wings,

However, the reason we’re growing is largely down to the tailored, high quality services we provide to our valued owner clients and, as such, we recognise the vital importance of not resting on our laurels. The hotel industry is ever-changing and, against the backdrop of these turbulent political and economic times we are living in, it’s crucial we keep innovating and evolving.

Embracing change

Firstly, we must look towards and embrace the notion of sharing and socialising. We’re seeing owners and brands designing the public areas of hotels to accommodate the variety of guest’s needs which allows customers to meet, work or relax in the same area creating a real sense of community.

The increasing use of mobile technology within the industry will only aid this process. From discovery to check-in to ordering room service, we are already in the world where a guests’ smart phone holds everything from their booking to check-in, their room key, controls for the air conditioning and television through to check-out and making their next booking. All along this customer journey, guests are sharing their experiences with their peers, becoming an even more important influencer for future business.

With innovative thinking and targeted resources, we could see some really exciting developments emerge in our industry that could change the hotel experience for guests, forever.

Of course, this evolution of the hotel experience requires a shift in the way front line staff operate and interact with guests. Employees will need to be much more flexible and reactive to a broad range of guests’ needs, as people increasingly expect services on-demand to fit in with their busy lifestyles, and hotels must consider this when training their teams.

Entrepreneurial focus

However, surrounding all this is the simple question of where 2017’s guests will come from and how hotels can attract them.

Will the unease in Europe drive more inbound tourism to the UK? I expect so, especially if the pound’s value continues to fluctuate. The EU Referendum drove uncertainty but there are clear signs that the business community is coming to terms with the new reality and the fall of the pound has made the UK a more attractive tourist destination.

It’s a trend we’re already seeing, with reports of an increased number of ‘staycations’ taking place within the leisure markets, as well as corporate events being moved from major European cities to UK locations due to safety concerns.

For our industry, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

Increased inbound tourism and more staycations holds the promise of more business, after all. But to win it - amid more competition than ever and in today’s somewhat turbulent economy - hotel owners and their teams will need to become more entrepreneurial in their approach.

As an industry we must think creatively and not be afraid to change. We must listen to the wants and needs of the communities within which we work and utilise the tools and technologies available to us, to maximise success and help the UK’s hospitality sector to flourish in 2017.