Andrew is working with Visit Isle of Man to support their work in providing financial assistance to help accommodation businesses to get through the COVID-19 crisis and to support accommodation upgrading and development as the island moves towards recovery and the regrowth of its visitor economy.
In an effort to help support DMOs and local authority tourism teams in assisting their hotel and visitor accommodation businesses through the COVID-19 crisis we have produced a paper –‘COVID-19: From Survival to Recovery’ summarising all of the research and discussions that we have seen about the impact of the crisis on the accommodation sector and the support that accommodation businesses need as they move towards reopening and recovery. We are also planning to produce updates to the paper as further information comes to light. Our first update was published on 1 June. The paper and updates are available to download from the Reports section of the Hotel Solutions website.
We completed our draft report in early May and are now in the process of finalising it in light of the comments we have had back from Visit Isle of Man. We will then present the final report to the Visit Isle of Man Board later in June or early July.
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis we have temporarily paused the work that we had been planning to undertake in terms of assessing accommodation development sites and engaging with accommodation developers. We are hoping to resume this work later in June.
Hotel Solutions completed a study in March 2018 of the future potential for hotel development in Brighton & Hove, updating a study that we undertook in the city in 2006. The main purpose of the work was to inform the City Plan Part Two planning policies for hotel development. The study showed good potential for further hotel development in Brighton, based on the city’s strength as a leisure and conference destination. A shortage of good hotel sites was identified as a key barrier however. We recommended a focus therefore on broadening the parameters of some of the major regeneration schemes in the city to allow consideration of hotels as a possible use, alongside a proactive approach to securing hotel products and brands on these sites that will help to attract new business and strengthen Brighton’s appeal as a leisure and conference tourism destination. The study also looked at the need to retain the city’s guest house supply in a changing marketplace, with new hotels potentially opening and a rapid growth in the short-term letting of residential properties through Airbnb and other online booking platforms. We concluded that there remains a strong market for guest houses in Brighton & Hove and that the Council’s guest house retention policy should remain in place, albeit with greater flexibility to allow change of use in cases where guest houses are unable to find a buyer after a reasonable period of marketing for sale. The Brighton & Hove study also looked at the need to regulate the short-term letting of residential properties through the range of online booking platforms that have emerged in recent years, most notably Airbnb. While the study showed a clear need to do this, it concluded that the City Council currently has very limited powers to make a difference in this respect.
Hotel Solutions completed work in December 2016 for the D2N2LEP, Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire and Experience Nottinghamshire on the development of a strategy for public sector intervention to accelerate investment in hotel and visitor accommodation development across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The objectives of the assignment were to provide a robust, evidence-based assessment of the future requirements and opportunities for investment in visitor accommodation provision across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and to prepare a clear strategy and action plan for public sector intervention to accelerate accommodation development across the two counties. The work included a review of national hotel and visitor accommodation development trends; audit of the current supply of visitor accommodation in the two counties; review of current accommodation development proposals; wide-ranging surveys of accommodation businesses to assess current performance and market demand; review of the strategic context for economic and tourism growth across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and identification of key projects that will drive future growth in accommodation demand; audit of potentially available hotel and visitor accommodation development sites; and survey of hotel and visitor accommodation operators and developers to assess their interest in investing in the two counties.
The research found evidence of need for investment in the upgrading of existing hotels and visitor accommodation, as well as potential for a wide range of new visitor accommodation development, including holiday cottages, holiday lodges and lodge parks, treehouses, further touring caravan and camping sites, camping pod developments, glamping sites, outdoor education centres and children’s activity holiday centres, additional budget hotels in key towns, 4 star and boutique hotels in a few locations, good quality pub accommodation, restaurants with rooms, new B&Bs and guest houses to replace those that close as their owners retire, wellness retreats and wedding venues with accommodation.
The key output from the study was a Visitor Accommodation Development Acceleration Plan, comprising 12 programmes designed to:
- Raise awareness of the opportunities for visitor accommodation development;
- Ensure positive planning policies for hotel and visitor accommodation;
- Further investigate the identified site opportunities and match them to interested hotel and visitor accommodation developers;
- Assess the accommodation development potential of local authority owned land and property assets;
- Assist local authorities in looking at direct investment in hotel and visitor accommodation development schemes;
- Establish clear hotel development strategies for Derby and Nottingham as regeneration schemes in the two cities start to deliver new hotel demand;
- Accelerate the development of glamping;
- Support the development of the pub accommodation sector;
- Encourage cyclist-friendly accommodation in the Derbyshire Peak District;
- Provide evidence of corporate demand for hotel accommodation in Mansfield, Ilkeston, Belper and Swadlincote, to help bring forward hotel development in these locations;
- Provide tailored business and quality improvement support for the accommodation sector;
- Put in place plans to keep the insight provided by the Visitor Accommodation Study up-to-date.
The study has been used to support a number of hotel and visitor accommodation development proposals that have since come forward in the two counties.
Hotel Solutions completed the 2018 Bath & North East Somerset Visitor Accommodation Study for Bath & North East Somerset Council in October 2018 to up-date of two previous studies that we undertook for the council in 2009 and 2015. Hotel accommodation in the city of Bath was a particular focus, but the study also covered other forms of serviced and non-serviced visitor accommodation. In addition to a supply and proposals audit and face to face and telephone interviews with hotel and visitor accommodation managers, Hotel Solutions’ demand forecasting model was run for the city of Bath to identify the need for additional bedrooms at different levels of the market under a range of growth scenarios. This provided an indication of the number of hotel development sites that will be needed in Bath to accommodate envisaged future demand growth.
As this study was primarily planning-driven, a variety of planning options were explored to manage new hotel development. This included site allocation – which had been acted upon following the 2009 and 2015 studies, with the current local plan identifying three city centre sites where hotels are put forward as part of mixed-use allocations. Our recommendations also advised on future policies for other forms of accommodation in the rural area. We undertook some specific research and consultation work to look at planning policy approaches in other UK heritage cities and in sensitive rural landscapes to identify best practice and the range of planning tools that had been used. This revealed some very different approaches to similar issues, with some local authorities being happy to leave development to market forces, within a loose policy framework, whereas others were much more directive about what they were seeking and where they would like development to take place.
The B&NES study also looked at the issues around the rapid growth of Airbnb and short-term letting of residential properties, serviced apartments, and student accommodation being let to the visitor market during the summer but in some cases all year round. There are numerous concerns around these, including the impact on local housing stock and noise and disturbance to neighbouring residents. The research investigated some approaches being trialled in other cities in the UK and overseas, and explored whether there was a role for planning in regulating these forms of accommodation, or some other route such as licensing.
Hotel Solutions completed work in 2017 for Lincolnshire County Council to assess the potential for hotel development across Greater Lincolnshire and to devise an action plan for intervention by the County Council and the Greater Lincolnshire LEP to support and accelerate hotel investment in line with the identified opportunities. The work involved:
- A review of national hotel performance and development trends of relevance to Greater Lincolnshire, to provide a context for considering hotel investment opportunities in the county;
- An audit of the current hotel supply across Greater Lincolnshire and hotel development proposals, including discussions with the developers of schemes to determine the likelihood of them being progressed and any barriers to implementation;
- Email and face-to-face consultations with relevant County Council and district council officers and the LEP, and a review of relevant economic development and tourism strategies in order to understand the key drivers of future growth in demand for hotel accommodation across the county;
- An assessment of potential hotel sites in each part of Greater Lincolnshire;
- A telephone survey of hotel companies to assess their interest in opening new hotels in the county;
- Interviews with hotel managers in Lincoln, as the key location of opportunity for hotel development in Greater Lincolnshire, to gather detailed information on hotel performance and markets in the city.
Key outputs from the work were:
- A Greater Lincolnshire Hotel Investment Fact File providing information on the current hotel supply across the county, recent changes in hotel supply, planned new hotels, planned investment in existing hotels, hotel proposals and sites, growth drivers and contacts for further information.
- A Greater Lincolnshire Hotel Development Action Plan setting out 9 action programmes for public sector intervention to help bring hotel investment forward across the county over the next 3 years (2017-2020).
- A Lincoln Hotel Development Strategy for the next 5 years (2018-2023).
- Separate reports on the assessments of hotel sites and hotel developer interest.
- Presentations to the local authority tourism officers and the Greater Lincolnshire LEP Visitor Economy Board.
In terms of hotel development opportunities in Greater Lincolnshire, the research identified potential for:
- A number of new hotels in Lincoln, with priorities in terms of a branded boutique hotel; independent boutique hotels; a budget boutique or lifestyle hotel to help the city to attract the Generation Y market; and an aparthotel to cater for the extended stay corporate market.
- Upper-tier budget hotels in Scunthorpe, Grimsby and possibly as part of the proposed Grantham Designer Outlet Village.
- Budget hotels in Boston, Cleethorpes, Gainsborough, Skegness and Stamford;
- Pub lodges in Sleaford and Spalding;
- Boutique hotels in Stamford;
- Pub accommodation in the county’s smaller towns.
New hotels have subsequently opened across the county in 2018 and 2019 in terms of:
- New Travelodges in Lincoln and Gainsborough in 2018;
- A new Premier Inn in Skegness in March 2019;
- Marston’s Inns pub lodges in Lincoln and Spalding.
Lincoln’s Doubletree by Hilton and Premier Inn hotels have also expanded.
Hotel Solutions is currently providing an aftercare programme to support the County Council in implementing the Hotel Development Action Plan, with a focus initially on securing a branded boutique hotel for Lincoln.
In 2016, Hotel Solutions completed work for Dorset County Council to develop a strategy for supporting the future development of the hotel and visitor accommodation sector in the Western Dorset Growth Corridor, focused on the seaside resort of Weymouth and the historic town of Dorchester. The strategy that we developed included initiatives to support the upgrading of hotels and guest houses in Weymouth; new hotel development in Weymouth and Dorchester; and the development of various types of non-serviced accommodation in the surrounding coastal and rural hinterland, including the upgrading and expansion of existing holiday parks and touring caravan and camping sites, and the development of new holiday lodge parks, caravan and camping sites, holiday cottages, glamping sites, and camping pod parks.
Hotel Solutions completed a study in September 2018 for Wirral Council to identify the potential for hotel and visitor accommodation development across the Wirral. The study was commissioned from an investment perspective, with a view to accelerating hotel and visitor accommodation development in Wirral. The project commenced with a review of hotel and visitor accommodation supply and pipeline schemes, alongside an assessment of current accommodation performance, providing a baseline from which to assess future potential. A range of research modules were undertaken to assess the potential for growth in the hotel and visitor accommodation market, including stakeholder consultations, research and strategy reviews, an analysis of major projects and assessing the impact of forecasts in economic, employment and population growth.
Having identified the market potential, together with a review of national accommodation development trends and the degree these had been taken up on the Wirral, the study then identified gaps in provision by type and location, and went on to test hotel and visitor accommodation developer interest as well as assessing potential development sites, with a view to matching developer interest with best fit development opportunities.
We found immediate potential for budget hotel development in Birkenhead, and longer-term potential here for new hotels as the Birkenhead and Wirral Waters regeneration plans are progressed. We also found potential for the upgrading and development of existing hotels and guest houses, new pub accommodation, holiday cottages and lodges, touring caravan and camping sites, motorhome stopovers, camping pods and glamping.
Wirral has a number of challenges that the study sought to help overcome in identifying a role for the hotel and visitor accommodation sector within the wider visitor economy and strategies for economic development. It is a district of two halves – a very developed, industrial urban eastern coastline in need of major regeneration and with some major developments proposed and underway – and an affluent east coast and rural area that is heavily protected in terms of Green Belt planning policy and environmental designations. Our work drew on our experience elsewhere of developing visitor accommodation in sensitive landscapes, including National Parks and other Green Belt locations, to try to encourage greater flexibility in the application of planning policy to enable some of the types of visitor accommodation for which market potential has been identified to come forward. Our knowledge of innovative visitor accommodation product development across the UK also meant we could identify low impact forms of development that could be more acceptable in planning terms.
It was necessary for this study to take a long-term view about hotel and visitor accommodation potential, as part of the brief was to understand what scope there could be for hotels to form part of major regeneration schemes such as the huge Wirral Waters project. One important lesson for client groups to take on board is that hotels will not lead regeneration, they need to follow, once drivers of demand are in place. Our findings around potential are now being fed into masterplanning for some of the key sites and regeneration schemes.
The conclusion of our work was the preparation of a Visitor Accommodation Development Acceleration Plan for Wirral. It comprises six programmes of action designed to grow hotel and visitor accommodation demand; progress hotel development in Birkenhead; support other hotel development opportunities; encourage pub accommodation development; support guest house improvement; and progress appropriate visitor accommodation development in Wirral’s rural and coastal areas, as far as can be achieved in the context of Green Belt constraints.