Tough year for hotels


Almost a third of South West hotels (30%) report that 2008 takings were down by more than 10%.


Almost half of the region’s hotels ( 43%) saw a reduction in overseas visitors, with even more (47%) reporting a reduction in UK visitors.


These are among the top-line findings of a survey of South West hotels, conducted by the specialist hotel & leisure team at Bishop Fleming, the accountancy firm with the widest spread of offices throughout the South West.


For most South West hoteliers (42%), the reduction in overseas visitors was due to Britain not being perceived as a value-for-money destination.


Most hoteliers (71%) suggested that the reduction in bookings from UK visitors was the result of poor summer weather.


Despite the challenging reduction in UK and overseas visitors, more than half of South West hoteliers (60%), reported that extra red-tape legislation is costing them £thousands of investment, without any obvious benefit.


According to Will Hanbury, head of Bishop Fleming’s Hotel & Leisure team:  “This is a crucial sector for the South West’s economy.  Global market conditions are restricting bookings at a time when extra Government red-tape is making life more difficult for this sector”.


While most South West hoteliers (52%) believe that the advent of cheap flights from the region’s airports are good for the regional economy, more than a third (38%) say that those cheap flights are reducing the number of UK bookings for family holidays in the South West and making very little difference to the number of overseas tourists coming to the region.


“The role of regional airports and cheap-flights is hugely emotive”, said Bishop Fleming’s Will Hanbury.


“It is easy to see their impact on exporting UK holiday-expenditure:  it is more difficult to identify a significant contribution to boosting in-bound visitors”, he said.


More damning was the verdict of Bishop Fleming’s survey of South West hotels on the role of the region’s tourism agencies.  More than two-thirds (67%) said that local and regional tourist agencies make no difference to bookings.


Just 13% of hoteliers suggest that these tourism agencies are making a significant difference.  A bigger number (20%) said that it is local agencies, like hoteliers’ associations, who are making a difference.


“This is a major issue for the industry”, said Bishop Fleming’s Will Hanbury.  “While Government funding for national tourism promotion is being reduced, new initiatives are being created in this region”.


While almost a quarter of hotel-owner respondents to the Bishop Fleming survey (24%) said that the current economic downturn will have no effect on future bookings, more than a third (40%) said that the down-turn will decrease the number of both UK and overseas visitors.


“South West hoteliers have to adjust their offering to the fast-changing economic scene, at a time when national budget-brands are cutting room-rates and hunting for new South West locations”, said Mr Hanbury.


“It is hugely significant that almost half of our respondents (42%) said that  overseas visitors view Britain as being poor value for money.  This is a major challenge and opportunity for South West hoteliers”, he added.