It feels like pre-pandemic already
For the time since the beginning of the pandemic the level of room nights booked is reported at a staggering 64% to be ‘better’ or ‘much better than the same period last year – indicating that Mediterranean hoteliers managed to recover faster than other regions. In addition to that, only 15% of the hoteliers report that bookings are ‘worse’ or ‘much worse than last year, compared to 82% just 3 months before that.
Drilling down to a country level, Greece and Spain seem to be recovering faster than the average, with approximately 80% of the hoteliers reporting booking levels above the previous year. In contrast, once again, France and Italy seem to struggle, with over 50% of the hoteliers reporting booking close to or below last year, strongly correlated with the reopening policies that each government implemented over the summer period of 2021.
Looking ahead, ‘summer’ breeze, and restrained optimism
While the end of last year found most hoteliers completely demoralized, the beginning of 2021 brought an air of optimism. This feeling seems to be expanding across the Med Sea with 52% of the hoteliers stating that they forecast a ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ outlook for the future, reflecting more and more the pre-pandemic sentiment. Still, almost 1 in 5 hoteliers anticipate a more challenging future, mainly the ones based in markets like France, Italy, and Morocco.
Which are the hoteliers’ top business concerns for summer 2021?
The Boutique Vibe is the only entity measuring and reporting on hoteliers sentiment in summer 2021 with a focus on small, boutique hotels across the Med Sea. We have developed a deep understanding of the segment and the needs that expand over 18 months now. When it comes to top business concerns of hoteliers in 2021, as expected, the ongoing softening of the global economy remains the top concern for hoteliers across the region (consistently for over a year now), on average 1 out of 3 hoteliers will report it as a top challenge. With COVID-19 protocols and travel complexity rising, hoteliers find that operations require more focus than ever (24% of the responders) closely linked with their appetite to invest in technology and systems to help them manage this complexity. As the ‘new normal’ is closer than before, hoteliers also start refocusing on issues like the overall rise of costs (16%), ‘distribution costs’ (6%), and the ‘threat of new trends in accommodation’ (8%) indicated a potential return the more competitive strategies and a renewed focus on streamlined marketing and distribution strategies.
During the peak of the pandemic, most hotels had to deploy a set of tough but necessary measures, including staff reductions, additional cost-cutting, and reduction in the operating period. While most of those are still in place, we see a significant drop in staff redundancies (40% this quarter compared to 53% just 3 months prior) indicating that hotels are back in the market looking for experienced personnel to man various roles. This is further reinforced by qualitative comments from hoteliers, stating that they now find it challenging to find and attract the right talent. Another positive development is that for the first time since the pandemic only 1 out of 5 hoteliers is still considering reducing their operating period (compare to 1 out of 3 before).
On the flipside, hoteliers continue to see the crisis as an opportunity to strengthen their brand and overall proposition, 33% stated that they will proceed with property renovations, 26% are upgrading their websites, 20% are further increasing their marketing spend, and 12% are investing in new back-office systems to support them with hotel operations, marketing and more.
The Boutique Vibe is actively facilitating this positive momentum – starting April 2021 we have started redirecting all bookings for our exclusive hotel partners directly to their websites, aiming at supporting them better market their product and reduce the total cost of sales. In addition to that, starting Sep 1st, 2021 we will be offering The Boutique Vibe participating hotels with access to exclusive rates for new website development.
Sustainability is still at the core
Once again, In complete contrast with popular travellers’ perception, sustainability remains at the core of the DNA of small, independent boutique hotels in the Med sea, with 80% of the responders reporting the same.
After more than a year of systematically monitoring this, communication and awareness of the sustainable and eco-friendly character of boutique hotels remain the number one issue. The Boutique Vibe is committed to helping hoteliers on this front, by launching our sustainability ranking and doing a detailed and thorough report on every hotel’s sustainability initiative we actively step in to support our members. We use symbols of Mediterranean nature – Thyme, Citrus, Fig, and Olive to indicate hotels sustainability (by growing order), based on our observations and information provided by owners. We evaluate the eco-friendliness of the building and its operations. We also pay great attention to the owners’ effort to preserve the local heritage and support local economies.
Drilling down to country level, we report that focus on sustainability spans across the Med Sea, from North Africa to Southern Europe, 80% of the Greek hotels report that sustainability is part of their strategy for 2021 onwards, 64% for Italy, 88% for France, 89% for Spain and 78% for Morocco.
When it comes to specific areas of sustainability, ‘reducing energy and consumption’ tops the list with 66% of responders selecting it as the number one activity, followed by ‘promoting local identity (59%) and ‘reducing waste & water pollution (58%).
Investing in a brighter future
The positive booking trend and optimistic outlook also translate into further business confidence. 61% of the responders indicated that they are planning at least a minor (41%) if not a major (20%) investment in their property, while the % of hoteliers planning no investment dropped by 6pp to 39% of the total number of responders, still above pre–pandemic levels. Indicating further room for improvement.
About this report – Hoteliers sentiment in Summer 2021
The Boutique Vibe Barometer is an ongoing assessment of hoteliers’ sentiment across the Mediterranean.
To measure hoteliers Sentiment in Summer 2021, the survey was answered by several small boutique hotels from Greece, Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Spain, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, and Albania. Hoteliers were prompted about their business performance and concerns concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and their ongoing business plans & challenges.