There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a profound and lasting effect. It’s impacted almost every part of our lives, from how we work and shop to how we travel and entertain ourselves.
This is naturally having a knock-on effect on the hospitality industry. Brits, who previously used to jet off abroad during the holidays to spend their hard-earned wages, are now beginning to uncover the benefits of what’s right on their doorstep. This shift in behaviour is welcome news for the hospitality sector and presents a unique opportunity for anyone considering launching their own business.
Once the government’s ‘one-way road to freedom’ was announced earlier in the year, UK travel companies cited a huge surge in enquiries from people keen to holiday on home ground this summer. Ready to make up for lost time during lockdown, bookings jumped by a staggering 300 per cent. Brits are planning to get spending too. According to research, it is estimated that we spent over £23 billion over the summer months, and the majority of this will go on either staycationing or eating and drinking out. Following what’s been a particularly challenging year, this will bring a welcome boost to hospitality operators across the UK, from hotels and B&Bs right through to local cafes, pubs, and restaurants.
It looks like this mindset to stay local won’t be a fleeting one, as changes in consumer attitudes and behaviour are expected to remain post-pandemic. Not only will we continue to shop more locally, but it’s expected that the recent staycation boom will carry on too.
The staycation boom is here to stay
While England’s ‘Freedom Day’ on 19th July marked the end of all compulsory social distancing and mask wearing, this only relates to activities within our own borders. International travel is still largely off the table for many, as a continued traffic light system brings with it potential extended quarantine periods and compulsory testing. This is one of the key drivers behind the UK’s staycation boom, and why almost three-quarters of us are planning to holiday on home soil this year.
Keen to have a more regular change of scene and with remote working no longer confining people to their desks, new staycationing trends have emerged, namely ‘flexcations’ and ‘minications’. Both bring a new type of customer to UK holiday let owners, so it pays to make sure you’re catering to their needs.
Flexcations are where people opt to mix work and play. As long as there’s a strong Wi-Fi connection, holidaymakers can get away for longer and benefit from off-season prices, without having to cut trips short to race back to the office. On the flip side, minications are where people take much more frequent, but shorter breaks around the UK. A third of Brits say this approach is more cost effective and better for their well-being.
Sustainable tourism is on the up
People aren’t just holidaying at home because it’s more convenient. Many are becoming increasingly aware of sustainability issues such as climate change and over-tourism, and this has brought about a rise in eco-tourism. COVID has brought this into an even sharper focus, as lockdown has meant greenhouse gas emissions dropped at their fastest rate in nearly a century. This is largely attributed to a reduction in transport.
With COP26 just around the corner, and thanks to growing media attention, awareness of the impact of climate change only continues to grow. This means more eco-conscious travellers will choose to holiday closer to home, presenting yet another opportunity for the British hospitality sector. For businesses keen to really benefit from this trend, it pays to look at your own sustainability credentials. According to Visit England data, 58 per cent of us want to stay in environmentally friendly accommodation. From sustainable waste prevention, switching from oil to gas, or carbon offsetting, there are many ways a business can prove its dedication to the environment.
We’re eating out more
It’s not just holidaying locally that’s on the rise. People are particularly excited to get back into eating and drinking out. In fact, more than a third of us are making up for lost time and planning to do so more frequently than before the pandemic. This is very encouraging news for restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafés alike, and will provide a much-needed boost following what’s been a particularly challenging year for most. Neighbourhood restaurants are expected to particularly thrive as people continue to work remotely and focus on using their local amenities. Special occasion fine dining is also set to make a comeback, with people eager to get out and start celebrating key occasions again after a year of home cooking and restaurant meal kits.
Other key trends for restaurant owners to make note of this year include a continued rise in veganism along with a heightened awareness of sustainability, with people looking to dine in more eco-conscious restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients.
It’s a good time financially
Despite the impact of the past year on the industry and the ongoing unstable financial and political climate, now could still be the perfect time to launch a hospitality business. In fact, some of the biggest most successful brands started up during recessions, from Airbnb through to Microsoft and Groupon.
In times of financial instability, start-ups are actually more financially resilient than other companies, and that’s because they can be more flexible. They can undercut competitors when they need to, plus they have lower overheads to worry about. During unstable economic climates, there are also excellent deals to be had. Interest rates are lower, and suppliers are willing to sell products and services at a much lower cost, so you can make important savings.
The perfect time to launch your business
Whilst the hospitality industry has admittedly been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, it appears that things are truly looking up and there are opportunities to be had. It seems the impacts of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour are truly here to stay; we’re intent on keeping things local, we’re ready to holiday and eat out again, and it’s a good time financially – all of which is very encouraging news for anyone looking to launch a hospitality business.