Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel, shares some examples of how hotels can build a brand image as the industry begins to recover.
It’s no secret that, since lockdown restrictions eased, UK hospitality has experienced a summer boom with recovery especially strong amongst rural and coastal locations. Burgh Island Hotel is just one example of establishments that have benefitted from almost 100 per cent occupancy throughout the summer, projected to continue into 2022. However, city-centre locations have struggled more acutely.
In fact, across the UK as a whole, hotel occupancy still remains 35 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels. So, for hotels looking to build back from the pandemic and secure their future, getting their brand right is crucial.
With international travel restrictions easing and, in turn, creating a more saturated UK market, delivering a standout brand has arguably never been more important. Indeed, with 71 per cent of consumers across the economy preferring organisations and brands that align with their values, being able to reach and resonate with your audience across all platforms is vital.
Key to success in this regard will be developing a brand story which keeps guests’ needs firmly in focus, and, similarly, using the human side of a hotel business to appeal directly to prospective employees. However, whether large or small, urban or rural, chain or boutique – converting interest to bookings requires a clear understanding of target audience and a brand image that aligns with their desires, priorities and values.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that audiences can’t shift or evolve over time. For instance, in the wake of the pandemic, city centre hotels often reliant on international business travel could consider new creative executions placing greater emphasis on leisure or family audiences. Indeed, the “Let’s Do London” campaign is a great example of what this might look like in practice.
Building the right brand image
Ultimately, while visual appeal is important, brand image is not just about aesthetics. It is also about the stories and values that resonate with your target audience.
Sustainability, for instance, is increasingly important. Even prior to the pandemic, 87 per cent of people planning to travel said they wanted to do so sustainably, while two thirds of consumers now expect to see ethically sourced food and drink practices in place at hospitality venues. Further, almost a quarter (23 per cent) of guests were willing to pay extra for a reduced carbon footprint, according to research completed last year.
But beyond just marketing campaigns, it is crucial to put these commitments into practice. For example, at Burgh Island, our head chef has recently started making our own marmalade onsite. In turn, we have also been able to produce fresh orange juice as a by-product – minimising food and packaging waste in the process.
Telling the human story behind the hotel is also incredibly important, with social media a good example of how this can work in practice. On Instagram, for instance, people-focused content typically performs best, with photos featuring faces attracting up to 40 per cent more interactions than those without.
So, while the fixtures and fittings of a luxury hotel may be enticing, it is important to also emphasise the human stories at the heart of every hospitality business – from anecdotes of guests experiences to profiles of your team.
In commercial terms, not only is this important to attracting guests, it can also play an often-overlooked role in recruitment. And with vacancies now at their highest rate since records began, the value of such an approach cannot be understated.
Staff, like guests, want to spend time somewhere that is visually impressive, well-managed and enticing. But they also need to know about the support and opportunities available. Providing robust CPD schemes and training alongside initiatives like mental health first aid all demonstrate a clear commitment to staff development and wellbeing. This can be at the heart of a powerful brand story that, in equal measure, sends a fundamental message to guests about your integrity as an employer.
As the hospitality sector continues to build on its reopening, having a compelling sense of hotel brand, both for guests and prospective employees, has perhaps never been more important. Regardless of the methods of communication – whether social media, marketing collaterals, website listings or owned channels – now is the time to put your brand front and centre.