If all goes to plan UK hotels should once again be able to open their doors to travellers from 17 May 2021. As with the majority of the hospitality sector, the UK hotel market has faced a difficult time over the last 12 months due to COVID restrictions. A recent report by Knight Frank found that the industry has seen investment drop by around 70% compared to 2019. 2020 was a slow year for hotel deals, with the sale of the Ritz in London accounting for £750 million of the total £1.4 billion raised through transactions in the industry. Over the past year, we have seen real estate investors move away from the hotel sector choosing to invest in other areas such as logistics which has seen profits soar following a rise in online shopping instigated by the pandemic.
With the current vaccine roll out and the government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown underway, we are beginning to plan for life post pandemic. For many of us that will start with a well-deserved summer holiday. This is excellent news for the UK hotel industry as these trips are likely to be ‘staycations’ for most this year as international travel restrictions continue to complicate booking holidays abroad. The continuation of the staycation this summer could, if predictions are correct, breathe much needed life back into the industry.
There will be challenges to overcome as the industry returns to full strength such as the implementation of enhanced cleaning regimes and possible social distancing measures to ensure guests feel safe and enjoy trips away with minimal health risks. Hotels may also struggle to find workers as many employees from the EU who previously filled unskilled positions, can no longer work in the UK under post Brexit immigration legislation. However, overcoming these challenges successfully may prove fruitful for the industry as many predict that investors will return, attracted by long-term opportunities, especially in key UK cities popular with tourists.
A post COVID world presents opportunities for the hotel industry to regenerate. As hotel guests in 2021 we have new expectations, we place greater emphasis on health, wellbeing and making the most of our leisure time. All these elements can be easily woven into our experiences as hotel guests with a little innovation from the industry. Many guests will be looking for enhanced experiences such as exciting dining options or access to impressive outdoor spaces, all things we have been missing during lockdown. All of these are opportunities for the industry to capitalise on. However, while it may be easy enough to identify key trends in consumer expectations post lockdown, what is more difficult for businesses is finding investment to make these changes. As we all keep hearing, it really is a case of adapt to survive and we look forward to seeing operators stepping up to the challenge.
Given its robust recovery from past downturns, resilience will once more become the UK hotel industry’s trademark, as it responds to changing customer demand and capitalises on a strong rebound once the virus becomes endemic.