Trailblazer webinar review: City vs country

UK: The fourth webinar in the Boutique Hotel News Trailblazer series discusses the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the city, which has experienced a partial decline, versus the countryside, which has seen more business.

The discussion was led by BHN editor Eloise Hanson in support of the Urban Living Festival and Urban Living Lite series.

Joining Hanson in the discussion are:

  • Christoph Hoffmann, CEO and partner, 25hours Hotel Company
  • Danny Pecorelli, managing director, Exclusive Collection

Hanson introduced the webinar by highlighting the ways both investors and customers have been shifting their focus to countryside investment.

Pecorelli introduced himself afterwards highlighting the ways that his portfolio of rural hotels have been able to adapt. He noted that his businesses took cues from the sports world in order to capture a higher percentage of the high-end meetings niche

Speaking for the urban market, Hoffmann noted that his company struggled with the high number of leased properties early on, but was able to negotiate an arrangement with landlords to help reduce the burden. Beyond that, he has been looking to future projects in order to continue to invigorate his business.

Hanson then handed the reins over, allowing the two to interview each other. Pecorelli began asking how 25 Hours was able to drive bookings. After couching that many of his own businesses are in areas that rely less on business travel, Hoffmann noted that he focused on adapting his products to the market and emphasising local travel.

With a mostly rural portfolio, Pecorelli said that he also emphasised the locality of his various arrangements. In particular, he focused on nearby audiences, advertising against city centre hotels and pushing the amount of space his hotels had.

Hoffmann then asked how Pecorelli was able to use the local area’s amenities, such as artists, shops and attractions, to help brand his properties. Pecorelli noted that there were multiple ways to encourage the local community to participate, from membership schemes at hotel spas, to using local produce and goods, to certain charitable giving schemes that emphasised the area.

Hoffmann reiterated the value of “cocooning in local experiences,” with many hotels serving as community centres for many local areas. He added that hotels need experiential spaces in order to fulfil that role, saying that hotels which serve just as sleeping spaces will struggle.

As the number of people travelling out of necessity decreases, Pecorelli reiterated the value of hotels that feel safe as business travel returns. He then asked how 25 Hours’ corporate partner, Accor, was able to support their multi-national business.

After praising the ease of their partnership, Hoffmann said that Accor was able to help his company broaden its scope, as well as helping connect the brand with its global network. He also noted that the partnership allowed him to connect with other major lifestyle brands to continue the project of creating a modern hospitality business.

Hanson then jumped back in, asking both of them how they’ve been able to keep their staff optimistic and motivated. Pecorelli emphasised the work of digital tools, which linked employees directly to management allowing them to communicate openly and effectively. He also said that openness and honesty was the best way to work and that it helps employees feel more secure.

Hoffman agreed with the importance of communication and transparency, noting that he organised multiple instances to speak with senior staff. He noted, however, that pushing a mindset of optimism about the future can help re-instil confidence in guests, and help make employees feel more confident.

Hanson then asked whether or not alternative accommodations could serve as major competitors.

As his company offers both a short-term experience and one focused on experiences within the property itself, Hoffmann believes that he wasn’t directly competing with companies like Airbnb. Pecorelli responded that he is similarly unconcerned about his business sector, but is closely eyeing the new business models that many of these industries are working in.

Responding to a question about trends, Pecorelli noted that local travel will continue to drive the industry and that the pandemic may negatively impact the way people think of the OTA markets. Hoffmann noted that sustainability may be one of the important trends to follow and that hotels will continue to focus on individuality.

In conclusion, Hanson asked the two for some inspiration. Hoffmann said that optimism is key, and to stay on board to create a more interesting hospitality world. Pecorelli concluded, saying only “adapt, adapt, adapt.”

A full recording of the webinar can be found here.

The next webinar will focus on the current state and future of boutique hotel financing and investment.  

The guests will be:

  • Vedrana B. Riley, founder and CEO, Ciel Capital
  • Patrick Brennan, CEO, Fair Value Capital
  • Doug Hercher, principal and managing director, RobertDouglas
  • Dan Williams, head of hotel and real estate finance, Clydesdale Bank
  • Tim Alpe, chief operating officer, Ovolo Group

To register, click here.

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