On Thursday 16th January over sixty delegates gathered at the University of Westminster for the Tourism Society’s annual ‘Prospects’ event to discuss the opportunities and challenges that tourism businesses will face over the coming year. The evening was streamed live to a large audience at Plymouth University to celebrate the launch of the Tourism Society Westcountry chapter and to a smaller, informal gathering in Leeds. Distinguished travel broadcaster and journalist Alison Rice MTS chaired the event.Looking to the future Tim Sander (BDRC) focused on the demand side of hotel trends rather than supply, stressing the importance for hotels to create a unique and exciting experience for their consumers. This personalised touch would need to stretch beyond the confines of the hotel building and the welcoming concierge and be built into both the brand and website to create longstanding loyalty. The importance of fulfilling the needs of the ever more discriminating consumer was further highlighted by Tony Hall MTS (The Caravan Club) who described the need for cheaper deals with more value, and balancing an increased availability of WIFI with providing an environment in which to ‘unplug’.
Research guru David Edwards FTS (VisitBritain) predicted that the UK share of world visitor numbers would increase with the total reaching 13 million in 2014. The football World Cup in June, the growth of the Chinese market and the fall of the price of oil were all examined as factors that would affect travel trends. Technology continues to evolve leading to a need for instant gratification, demanding bigger and better products and events in order to achieve the same satisfaction. David Bridgford (Merlin Entertainments) discussed how this reflected on the behaviour patterns in youth who do not ‘use’ services but instead treat them as ‘platforms’ to facilitate their desire to have fun. He concluded by commenting on the Over 50s growth market, a demographic group that is currently holding a staggering 80% of the UK’s wealth, and are responsible for 40% of consumer spending, yet just 10% of marketing spend is directed at them.
The evening ended with a series of animated questions being fired across to the panel, including from those watching the live stream in Leeds that explored, amongst other issues, the failure of the UK government to recognise tourism as an export sector. The panel gave their own suggestions for changes including cutting VAT to 5% in accommodation and attractions, cheaper petrol and greater investment in infrastructure.
Tourism Society Executive Director Gregory Yeoman commented:
“Once again our Prospects event has brought together speakers and audience members from across our industry, and now from widely across the country. The panellists were all optimistic about business prospects for 2014 and the discussions in London, Plymouth and Leeds gave plenty of ideas about what people should be concentrating on for their own businesses to succeed.”