How a boutique hotel and restaurant in the UK pivoted its business model in response to COVID-influenced consumer demand.

After the uncertainty of lockdowns followed by a rise in domestic travel, UK hotelier Robert Stone from The Bay Tree Hotel knew he would need to adapt his strategy in order to meet his guests’ evolving expectations in the new normal.

Adjusting to the new normal

Although the hotel remained open throughout lockdown taking key worker reservations, Robert explored a different direction to maximise his revenue potential and fulfil consumer demand.

“After we reduced the number of patrons allowed in our restaurant and limited everything to table service, we began offering home-delivered meals to our customers instead,” says Robert. “One that really took off was our home-delivered afternoon tea which certainly kept us busy. People understood that hospitality businesses needed to make changes and were pretty accommodating about it.”

Following the ease of restrictions, the hotel remained busy throughout the summer which continued into September, with October looking pretty healthy too.

“We believe this steady occupancy is a result of having a good product that is following all the extra cleaning procedures and protocols. We also benefit from location; our hotel overlooks the beautiful promenade bay of Broadstairs and is in a small town with plenty of fresh sea air which is what people seem to want. It would be very different if we were in a big city where people might not feel safe.”

Utilising technology to alleviate the challenges

To maximise this change in COVID-influenced consumer demand, Robert focused on reducing bottom-line costs, utilising smart tech to do so. The RMS internet booking engine (IBE) drives direct bookings straight from the hotel’s website and reduces their OTA dependency.

“We’re still getting a lot of enquiries and bookings, many of which are made directly via the RMS IBE. We always prefer bookings to be made this way as it’s a lot quicker for us to be able to keep track of reservations."

"The IBE creates a seamless journey for our guests; they don’t notice when they're transitioning from our website over to RMS to check availability and make a reservation. On the whole, it's been pretty good."

Robert Stone

Co-Owner and Manager of The Bay Tree Hotel

For the remainder of the year, Robert wants to focus on the low months and implement strategies to raise occupancy levels, such as pricing. One trend he has noticed is the increase in last-minute bookings.

“People aren’t booking more than about three or four weeks ahead, so it's very hard to predict what November will look like. I haven’t looked at the figures, but my instinct is that our occupancy ADR is higher than this time last year. We’ve also noticed that more guests are visiting from further away, whereas in low season, we usually only get people within an hour’s drive.”

Looking ahead to 2021

The rise and demand for domestic travel is clearly having a positive impact on consumer demand for The Bay Tree Hotel. Moving forward, Robert is looking to give other features of RMS more attention, such as the pre-check-in and COVID track and trace functionality in the guest portal. This will save his staff time and offer guests a frictionless experience, as well as satisfy British government requirements as declarations are stored in the system for 60 days.

“We're very happy with how RMS is working. We're looking forward to adding new features to further enhance our operational efficiency, which should be quite exciting.”