Nicosia, Cyprus: March 31, 2021 – For the first time in a year since the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the global leisure industry, nearly one third of boutique hotel owners in the Mediterranean see ‘positive’ signs for this summer’s bookings.
Greece and Tunisia are heading the charge as bookings appear to be slowly recovering, according to the latest quarterly report of 125 independent hoteliers from the influential Boutique Hotel Barometer.
The barometer, hosted by the Boutique Vibe Collection, is the only real-time measurement of business sentiment among owners of boutique hotels in Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Tunisia, and Turkey.
The cautious sentiment among some hoteliers in the first three months of 2021 hint at a potential turning point in their battle to keep their business afloat just as Europe heads into its third wave of the pandemic and the UK tightens up on travel abroad.
While the end of 2020 saw nearly three-quarters – 71% – of owners of independent hotels completely demoralized, decisive government action and vaccination programme rollouts had begun to reverse this picture, the review found.
Only 43% of hoteliers were pessimistic about the coming six months (a -28pp change) and for the first time since the pandemic, 28% of responders are upbeat for the future.
“The message from our members is one of cautious optimism as business slowly returns” commented Rim Jourdan, CEO and founder of The Boutique Vibe.
Tunisia seems to be recovering faster than the average, with 60% of hoteliers reporting booking levels close to or above the previous year. In contrast, 90% of French and 83% of Cypriot hoteliers say bookings are below last year.
Due to strong Government action, 51% of Greek hoteliers are adopting a positive forecast for the six months ahead, with Tunisian hoteliers a close second this list.
The report revealed that, for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the threat of new trends in hospitality (i.e. AirBnB) seems to be concerning hoteliers (15%) as much as it used to, prior to COVID, as they turn attention back to how they can better compete with alternative methods of accommodation.
Sustainability remains central to 70% Med boutique hotel owners but continues to be an issue with communication and awareness for potential travellers. Greek (90%), Croatia (78%), France (80%) and Tunisia (80%) are outranking the average hotel in the sustainability stakes.
The report also revealed three times as many hotels since the pandemic plan major investments in their hotels, investments averaging over $50,000. Owners are focusing on changing customer focus (36%), hotel renovation (36%) or looking at increasing marketing spend (19%).
“Hoteliers are using opportunities presented by the pandemic to cut off the shackles that kept them dependent on large third-party re-sellers and focus more on facilitating direct bookings” added Ms Jourdan.
Hoteliers are also focussing on upgrading their website (30%) and investing in new back-office IT systems (15%) – indicating a change in marketing and distribution strategies for small independent hotels & potentially a change in traveller behaviour, who increasingly prefer dealing directly with hotels as it ensures accurate and timeline communication and action in case of unforeseen events.
The Boutique Vibe will be stepping in to facilitate this. Starting April 2021, it will redirect all bookings for their exclusive hotel partners directly to their websites, aiming at supporting them better in marketing their product and reducing the total cost of sales.
Ms Jourdan said the Collection is poised to grow its membership further in 2021 and called on other independent hotel owners across the Mediterranean region to join their colleagues.
About Boutique Vibe
The Boutique Vibe is the first collection of small independent hotels focusing exclusively in the Mediterranean region. Our mission is to promote Mediterranean hospitality in its most authentic form. We partner exclusively with small independent properties with unique character while focusing on the most environmentally friendly & sustainable hotels. Travel professionals and like-minded travellers assess all our partner hotels.
The Collection is built on five pillars: Best service; “Stay as a local” philosophy; independence; small scale operations and sustainability, including being eco-friendly and socially responsible.