Well… are you sitting comfortably? Then, I’ll begin. It’s not all on a whim… (come on, you know me; very little whimsical, about my ideas…! #marketer)
Since 2010, when the hotel closed, a number of changes have taken place in consumer requirements, consumer behaviour and in planning and building regulations – all of which of present a tremendous opportunity.
The rise of the boutique hotel
Building regulations have become more demanding and complex, as accessibility laws have tightened and materials and techniques have improved; which many larger hotels have found impossible to adhere to, for financial reasons.
Any accommodation offering more than 10 rooms must have a percentage of accessible rooms and a lift to enable access to all areas, which is a costly exercise – and for some hotels, depending on their situation, may not be plausible. This has resulted a rise in ‘boutique’ style hotels, which gets around some of the accessibility challenges – and offers guests a more personal and/or luxurious experience on a smaller scale than traditional hotels. It’s basically a more manageable business model.
The appeal of a more personal hotel stay has increased over the last 10 years, as consumers have embraced the concept, even to the point that Hilton, Marriott and other mass market hotel chains have launched ‘boutique’ divisions offering a more personal, and ‘luxury’ experience.
The desire to stay in a more tailored environment has also been driven by consumer buying behavior within our own homes. Home makers aspiring to the ‘hotel’ effect at home look to companies such as The White Company, Feather & Black, Secret Linen – even Farrow & Ball leading the way in delivering opulent muted colours for the home – which have all enabled us to attain a sense of luxury in soft furnishings, furniture and home decor. So, why would you stay somewhere less comfortable than your own home, when on holiday?! (Camping aside… as that’s a whole other discussion!)
This trend towards a higher end stay has been fired up by AirBnB, as people have become increasingly competitive with their accommodation offering, aiming to align it with a hotel experience – encouraged by AirBnB incentives.
Here, I need to mention the ‘c’ word… Covid.
The travel sector has suffered tremendously in the last couple of years and is likely to continue facing challenges, as consumers find their own, individual normality for living with Covid-19 – away from the misleading and mis-guided direction of some governments.
As a result, high volume, max capacity hotels are Iikely to become decreasingly desirable as holiday destinations. People will seek the reassurance of a safe, contained environment within which to holiday, with a restricted number of other people. The appeal of the 100+ cover breakfast room, I predict, will diminish…
This more contained holidaying dovetails with the rise in group holidays being booked, and the increase in demand for ‘party-houses’ and exclusive hotel ‘takeovers’. Increasingly extended family groups are holidaying together as well as multi-families, which – apart from extreme organizing skills – requires flexible accommodation.
Here’s the plan
We believe a boutique hotel which can also tick the ‘luxury party-house’ box is a good way of hedging our bets for holidays of the future…
All our business planning for the properties we’ve seen over the years has shown that 10 is the magic number. 10 lodges, rooms, units, yurts(!) bring in a comfortable level of revenue for sustainable business growth. So, we will be reducing the current count of 13 bedrooms to just eight or nine larger suites (remodeling to be defined) plus the two bungalows on the land will be remodeled into lodges offering additional suites.
In answer to the question that is undoubtedly in your mind: no, we will not be opening a restaurant. Why?
- Coals to Newcastle springs to mind… What on earth can we teach the Italians about food? And why would we want to? The number of excellent Italian restaurants in this area alone is extraordinary and we would have to be very special and exceptional to compete.
- The British restaurant scene is impressive and has made enormous advances over the last 25-30 years but, honestly, Italians are not adventurous so anything slightly apart from the norm or traditional fare is a risk. And I say, again, What on earth can we teach the Italians about food?
- The last restaurant up the mountain failed and it served Italians what they like…
- The only safe food to offer would be pizza… the massive wood-fired pizza oven in the kitchen would enable this, but the season would be just 6-months long, for those who escape the heat in the valley during the summer months. If it’s part of a revenue mix it could work but it would not be our core offering.
There will be a dining room for guests who opt to eat whilst staying with us but it won’t operate as a commercial outlet. I am pondering a supper club, however…