The leisure principle - BDRC Hotels Insight Forum 2013

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Hosted by BDRC's Matt Costin, the event focused on the leisure hotel guest, their habits and what to expect from them in the future. Costin kicked off by telling attendees that "disruptive technology is now a near permanent feature of the landscape," before handing over to his colleague Cris Tarrant for a session called State of the Nation

Tarrant revealed that in 2013 the number of UK leisure room nights reached the same level as business travel for the first time since 2005. Stressing the size of the potential leisure market he said that there are just 650,000 frequent business travellers in the UK, but 46 per cent of UK adults spent leisure nights last year in the UK or abroad, adding that Generation X dominates business travel (47% of nights booked), while baby boomers still dominate leisure travel (46 %).

The affordable luxury concept is an increasingly important element of leisure travel, revealed Tarrant - with what he described as the "you deserve it" trigger and a shift away from the value proposition evident.

Tarrant also emphasised the enormous potential of the Chinese market, in the light of announced changes to the visa rules for Chinese entry to the UK. China became the No.1 tourist source market worldwide in 2012, edging out the US and Germany, while Chinese travellers spent $102 billion in 2012, up 37 per cent on the previous year.

The Chinese are are increasingly likely to be independent travellers, rather than in a group, and 19 per cent of Chinese travellers say they would like to come to the UK (ranking the country equal 9th globally). They are very influenced by what they read in Chinese travel magazines so these are a good source of leads. Tarrant also pointed out that 300 million Chinese are being taught English at school, and that the opportunity to speak the language gives the UK a bog potential boost.

Tarrant concluded by saying that the general outlook for the hotel industry is the most positive it has been for five years or more.

David Bailey of CBRE Hotels then revealed that leisure demand in the provinces is growing faster than business demand, and predicted increasing pressure on the mid-market segment, with new entrants such as Premier Inn's Hub moving in to that space.

Petra Clayton of Custard Communications told attendees that getting people to talk about your brand is the most important element of a marketing campaign, thereby creating brand advocacy

She revealed that 90 per cent of media interactions are screen-based, and the average person in the UK spends 4.4 hours of leisure time in front of a screen every day.

A presentation by James Bland and James Harrison of BDRC on mobile booking showed that leisure use of mobiles for hotel research and booking has doubled in three years, and that the UK ( with 69% of people having a mobile phone) lags behind China (95%) in mobile use. Mobile use transcends age in China.

The two James' also revealed BDRC's mobile booking project, in which they tried to book rooms for the same day at 34 different hotel brands' websites, with interesting results. Most brands tested had higher rates on their own sites than on - surely an own-goal and a gift to the OTAs, while the booking could not even be completed on several mobile sites.

A live focus group followed, moderated by BDRC's Tim Sander who put the questions to a panel of active leisure hotel guests. The group said they generally interact with hotels via Facebook, TripAdvisor and especially Twitter; and will only engage with hotel brands after a good experience at a property.

One said he had no trust in TripAdvisor, feeling that half the reviews are fake, while all felt more positive about using Paypal for mobile bookings - saying it was less fiddly and more trustworthy than entering credit card details on a mobile. 

The final session was a panel session about routes to market, moderated by Stuart Harrison of The Profitable Hotel Company.

Brian Reeves of GOPPAR digital said there was an overall distinct lack of strategy across the hotel sector when it comes to marketing. He predicted a proliferation of travel metasites in the future and revealed that is the largest global spender on Google, regardless of sector, and has been for several years.

Specialist marketer Pamela Carvell stressed the importance for independent hotels to engage with and become a part of their local community.

David Clarke of Bespoke Hotels concluded by reminding attendees : "TripAdvisor is not the enemy - they know that they exist because we exist. We need to work with them."



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