Bath & North East Somerset Council commissioned us to undertake a Hotel Futures Study for Bath in 2015. The purpose of the study was to provide an up-to-date assessment of the future potential and priorities for hotel development in Bath through to 2030, to inform the preparation, finalisation and implementation of a number of key strategy and policy documents, including the Bath Destination Management Plan, the Placemaking Plan for the city, and the Bath City Riverside Enterprise Area Masterplan. The study updates the Bath & North East Somerset Visitor Accommodation Study completed by The Tourism Company and Hotel Solutions in 2009.
Bath has seen an 18% increase in its hotel supply between 2009 and 2015, with the opening of a new Premier Inn in the city centre in 2013 (108 bedrooms) and the £16m, 5 star Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel in 2015 (99 bedrooms). There has also been a significant shift upmarket in the city’s hotel offer, through the conversion of a number of 2 and 3 star hotels to boutique hotels, and the upgrading of 3 and 4 star hotels to a 4 or 5 star standard. The city is set to see further hotel growth in 2016 and 2017, with the opening of a new budget boutique Z Hotel (148 bedrooms), a 4 star Apex Hotel (177 bedrooms), and the redevelopment of two hotels into a Hotel Indigo branded boutique hotel (121 bedrooms). Plans have also been unveiled for a third Travelodge budget hotel.
Our research found a very strong hotel market in Bath, with hotels of all standards trading well ahead of national averages. Achieved room rates are particularly high. Weekend demand is very strong: all of the city’s hotels consistently fill and turn business away on Saturday nights throughout the year, and Friday nights in the summer. Midweek and Sunday occupancies are more seasonal, but very strong throughout the summer. The Bath hotel market is largely leisure driven, Corporate demand is relatively weak. All indicators suggest good potential for future growth in demand for hotel accommodation in the city.
The study showed potential for significant hotel development in Bath. The most immediate requirement is for an additional budget/limited service hotel, particularly in terms of satisfying the growing corporate demand for lower-priced hotel accommodation in the city, and converting more of the day visitors that are staying in cheaper hotels surrounding the city into staying visitors. There is sufficient pipeline activity in terms of upscale, full service and boutique hotel provision that is coming on stream in 2016 and 2017: the market needs to absorb this new supply first before additional hotels are warranted at this level. There remains very strong interest however from hotel companies and independent hoteliers that would like to open upscale hotels in Bath. The study also showed potential for additional serviced apartment provision in Bath, and possibly an aparthotel.
In terms of moving forward we recommended that Bath & North East Somerset Council should:
- Adopt a clear locational strategy for hotel development in the city in terms of prioritising prime sites in the historic core of the city for upscale, full service 4/5 star and boutique hotel development, and pushing budget/limited service and aparthotel development towards edge of city centre and riverside sites.
- Plan for a greater number of additional hotel bedrooms in the city centre in the Placemaking Plan than were identified as being needed in the Core Strategy.
- Adopt a more interventionist approach to hotel development in terms of its role of the owner of many of the key regeneration and development sites in the Bath City Riverside Enterprise Area, and through closer work with land and property owners to bring forward sites and buildings that would be suitable for hotel development.
- Support existing hotels and guest houses through the effective management and improvement of the city’s public realm fabric; the further development of the city’s visitor offer; more effective marketing of Bath as a visitor destination, particularly in terms of boosting Sunday and Thursday business and winter trade; and bringing forward office development to grow corporate demand for hotel accommodation.