Voices of Hospitality

Voices of Hospitality

Voices of Hospitality

Simon Williams is a Commercial Director at Bridge Leisure, with over 30 years of experience working in the caravan and holiday park industry with corporate and private park owners as well as lenders and private equity houses.

HGEM reached out to Simon to gain his perspective on the unique opportunities and challenges that 2021 brings to the hospitality industry.

What do you think 2021 is going to be like for hospitality? What are the opportunities?

2021 is shaping up to be a boom year for domestic tourism providers, which should in turn, filter through to the majority of hospitality businesses once they are permitted to re-open. Added to this will be those trips to visit family and friends that we have all had to put on hold for a year or more. The opportunities for a lot of hospitality businesses are linked to visitors/customers that will be experiencing the UK as their main holiday destination for the first time, making sure they have a great experience and wish to return is the opportunity.

What kind of foundation can companies start laying now, ready for when the country starts opening up again, to maximise the opportunities?

Preparation is key, the government guidelines have been communicated for the majority of businesses so be aware of the requirements for your business, then tell your customers all about what you are doing to keep them safe. Importantly, make it easy for your customers to find that information and interact with your business, whether that is via social media or an app for your business. If you have not yet considered an app for your business then now is a good time to do so, with the improved offerings from online app building solutions such as appinstitute and appypie (many others available) then it need not cost thousands. A simple app can cost just a few hundred pounds to set up.

What are the key innovations you see happening this year?

I see the main thrust of innovation being around the premiumisation of products and services within the industry, anything that gives perceived added value will be defining between different offerings. Customers will be wanting to “treat” themselves after so long of not being able to. This provides businesses with a great opportunity to upsell or improve booking conversion rates for example without excessive increased costs. If you would like to know what customers would value most then conduct a survey of your current or previous customers, they will often point you in the right direction.

How important do you think digital transformation is for hospitality and what have you implemented or are planning to implement in the near future?

During the last year people have become much more comfortable interacting with businesses online. When did you last review your online presence? Again this doesn’t have to cost a lot, but some time spent researching how your business currently presents itself online to potential customers and improving it can pay great dividend.

When the first lockdown was introduced we spent the time updating and improving the way we operated. The apps we were already using were updated and evolved allowing us to quickly introduce online ordering systems for our takeaway venues, table ordering for use in our venues, bookable swimming, activity and entertainment sessions, contactless check in and guest visit registration. This enabled us to pivot quickly to the changing guidelines and ultimately were welcomed by our guests. These features and benefits will be retained even after the regulations revert to a more normal environment as they have been valued by our guests.

For our employees, we had already introduced Microsoft Teams, which has subsequently transformed the way we communicate internally as a business, along with Workplace by Facebook which allows our employees to interact socially and easily share best practice between our various locations throughout the UK.

Digital transformation will continue apace over the coming years with customers expecting more and more information and services to be at their finger tips, importantly when they wish to access it.

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