Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Stephen Gow: After the post-Covid revelry, prepare for the decline of business travel in the north east

While some are predicting a summer of spending and socialising similar to the "Roaring Twenties", the hospitality industry faces an uncertain future
While some are predicting a summer of spending and socialising similar to the "Roaring Twenties", the hospitality industry faces an uncertain future

The notion that crises – from flu pandemics to the end of world wars – lead to periods of unbridled public revelry is being bandied about.

Commentators predict a summer of spending and socialising similar to the “Roaring Twenties” which followed the Spanish flu pandemic.

No doubt welcome news for the ailing hospitality industry.

Stephen Gow, general manager of The Chester Hotel.

But what about the rest of the twenties – what lies ahead for the beleaguered industry?

Businesses across the industry, which are currently struggling with unparalleled staff absences, a nationwide sectoral recruitment crisis, soaring debt from what is now years of poor trading, supply chain issues from sheets to Champagne and the looming return of higher VAT rates and business rates, also have to look to the longer term.

As we continue to firefight the effects of Covid devastation, while counting the cost of the Christmas that “almost was”, we all need to look over the horizon.

We may not have a crystal ball, but we have hindsight, insight and foresight.

Major challenges: Brexit and business events

We’re facing a future where recruitment will continue – as in pre-Covid times – to be a major challenge. A challenge exacerbated by the effects of many excellent international staff leaving because of Brexit, with no one to replace them.

We also have Brexit to thank for continued supply chain difficulties – whether a lack of drivers or difficulties in importing goods and produce from Europe.

Based in the north east of Scotland we must also embrace a future where business travel plays a much smaller role in our revenues.

Don’t look back in anger

There’s little point in harping back to the “good old days” of pre-2014 oil prices.

At the moment, we have to face up to the fact that we’re unlikely to attain even the 2019 rates of non-essential business travel.

Equally, business meetings and events will likely see a drop off compared to pre-March 2020.

The good old days? Offshore Europe in 2013. Photo Ross Johnston/Newsline Scotland

Our long-term view on recruitment must focus on attracting and retaining young talent and showing them that hospitality is more than carrying plates but is a rounded career full of myriad opportunities in different departments.

Although many of us may already be sourcing more local goods and considering food miles, we can all look more to local producers.

However, buying locally has to mean that suppliers establish reliable, consistent deliveries and availability of goods, either delivered directly or through recognised wholesalers.

Changing our city’s hospitality model from one with a focus on business travel to one with more of a leisure emphasis will be important going forward.

And this is one of the biggest challenges for our sector.

Leisure v business traveller  – what do they want?

We have to give guests what they want, and leisure guests want a different proposition from the business traveller.

Transformation requires investment and after two years of being battered by compulsory closures and waning customer confidence, most business coffers are empty, with little money available for investment in change.

Transformation requires investment and most business coffers are empty.”

It can also be argued that investment in attracting more leisure visitors to the city is not the sole responsibility of hoteliers.

Based on worldwide research, shopping is important to 50% of tourists of all ages on a city break. It’s hard to make a case for the shopping experience in the city centre currently.

Union Street central, between Market Street and Bridge Street, is at the heart of council pedestrianisation plans. Picture by Scott Baxter/DCT Media.
Shopping is an important attraction for leisure visitors. Picture by Scott Baxter/DCT Media.

But if the end of “pandemic conditions” brings on a hedonistic, indulgent period of cocktails, parties and get togethers in the “soaring 20s”, the hospitality sector will be adapt and respond as it always does.

Stephen Gow is the general manager of the Chester Hotel

Already a subscriber? Sign in