Tagged: #ruraltourism #broadband #mobile
December 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm #537December 7, 2013 at 9:13 pm #591
I think one of the areas which is developing fastest – and one which domestic tourism must strive to keep up with – is in the accommodation sector. This has evolved and changes so much in the last 20-30 years. Now, private facilities are seen as essential in almost all types of accommodation for example – we often forget that this was relatively exclusive in the 80s. As consumers’ horizons and experiences have widened markedly over the years, so our accommodation sector has had to respond. Hotels in England are now just as likely to be judged against hotels in Tokyo or Barcelona.
So where will things go in the next 10 years? Technologically, there are many challenges ahead. Consumers are becoming more and more used to technology making everyday life simpler and more accessible – and the accommodation world is being impacted too. Online check-in should become more standard (it has been for several years in the airline industry after all) – though how can this be achieved whilst retaining the customer service standards and human interface of check-in. But surely we can make check-in and check-out simpler – hotels have our details pre-arrival, so why do we have to complete registraion forms when we arrive? And why queue to check-out? Couldn’t we use our mobile phones?
We have undertaken several research studies where consumers say time and time again that they are looking for a ‘home away from home’ – personalisation to our needs when we are returning guests, the opportunity to view our own Sky television planner on the hotel TV etc etc. And there are few excuses anymore to charge extra for WIFI connectivity – one of the biggest bugbears in all of the accommodation research we ever undertake.
These challenges, and many more, are with us now and others will soon emerge – and it is vital that the English accommodation sector not only ‘keeps up’ with its competitors but perhaps leads the way in developing these hotels, guesthouses and self-catering units of the future.December 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm #600
I agree that it is in the accommodation sector that we are seeing the greatest changes. For example, here in Liverpool we have seen huge growth in the serviced apartment sector and this is not just about long stay. This is because serviced apartments can offer a bespoke product perfectly tailored to the group in question. They tend to be run by younger people who really get what their customers are looking for in terms of the overall visitor experience, anticipation of the visit, use of social media, spending time with friends and family etc. One such group is Signature Living http://www.signatureliving.co.uk/. They have added to their portfolio virtually every year since they opened in 2008 and will have 1000 beds before long. 65% of their bookings start from Twitter or Facebook and 85% come on recommendation from a previous customer. With an average party booking value of £2,000 they can afford to create a really memorable experience for their group in themed suites which their mostly female customers promote on social media before they even arrive and throughout their stay. They research the needs of their group and give them the perfect solution. Free wi-fi, PS2s are of course standard. So in weekend mode these are party places with their own front door and communal lounge suitable for chilling out. Mid week, the same rooms are transformed into a standard hotel room configuration. How flexible is that! We can learn a lot from practioners such as Signature (and there are many others) on how to create memorable, personalised experiences for our visitors. Granted it is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is appealing to younger and mixed aged groups and if offers great value for money.December 9, 2013 at 4:57 pm #605
Flexibility is key – I recently came across a self-cook b&b where the owner has converted their old guest lounge into a kitchen / diner and the fridge is stocked and the guest dives in. Not only self-cooked breakfast – but great for late night post pub bacon sani’s as well!
More to the point – it frees up the owner and doesn’t tie them to the whim of the guest, which in a small operation is both a cost saving and a time saving.December 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm #620
I agree with identifying accommodation as an area for focus.
In rural areas sufficient provision of quality accommodation can be a challenge. Tastes and expectations do change of course over time.
I think it is important to remember different sectors will have different needs. one size does not fit all.
However I agree provision of wifi and broadband are essential for 2014 and beyond. Many consider it the fifth utility along with water, electricity etc. Lack of broadband remains a challenge for some rural areas and this will curtain growth in rural tourism. ie use of cloud based systems or development of new servicesDecember 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm #626
Thanks for your comments so far.
Countryman – can you share the name of the B&B you mention? It would be great to have some examples of ‘best practice’ such as this to take away from this forum.
Does anyone else agree with Alison that rural tourism will rural tourism will struggle in the future? Are there different challenges for other types of destinations?
Tom (moderator)December 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm #630
One of the things that surprised me most from the engagement with tourism experts on this project was their enthusiasm for a new, 21st century, incarnation of the timeshare. Do you see this fitting in to the future of the accommodation sector that you describe?
Paul from TrajectoryDecember 12, 2013 at 2:56 pm #633
Acommodation providers have to up standards and customer service. No one whats to stay somewhere worse than their home. We are not just providing accommodation but are part of their visit experience to the area-got to be aware of and linked into events/attractions and advice. Staff need training and standards have to be high and constantly improving. At the same time value is vital so it is the balance between price and offer-however people will pay for quality and attentionDecember 15, 2013 at 11:53 pm #637
Customer Service is the No 1 issue.
In 2010, 6 out of the top 10 worst Hotels in the world were in the UK, according to Trip Advisor.
Love it or hate it (and if you hate it, you’re like King Canute trying to stop the tide coming in), people will decide what to do by Trip Advisor (and similar). I have NEVER had bad service is Switzerland: I often get bad service in the UK. We REALLY need to up our game in order to remain a world class destination.December 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm #657
I also agree with Alison’s comments that rural tourism has challenges ahead, lack of mobile signal and broadband being notable by their absence. While we can take steps to offer wi-fi to visitors (as we have done in one of our visitor centres), if your broadband provision is really really poor, as it is in many rural areas even with superfast broadband rollout, it means visitors can get just as frustrated by a slow connection. On the mobile phone front, we are hopefully benefiting from the government’s investment in new mobile phone masts for not-spot areas (up to 15 could be sited in our area), but I understand that these will only be 2G (or maybe 3G if there is enough surplus equipment around) so the rural areas still feel like the poor relatives when it comes to technology and providing visitors with the experiences they will increasingly expect as the norm.
The other challenge is really getting to grips with how we can get the messages across to younger people “with less knowledge or experiences of rural areas” that the countryside is an exciting place. No where in England is that remote. It remains a challenge to convince anyone that we’re only a couple of hours from London by train and being in the east (albeit north of Watford Gap), it really doesn’t rain that much here!
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