Young people tend to enjoy three to four night stays, travel outside of peak season and prefer boutique breaks and experiences. Pubs are perfect, says Matt Thomas, of Guestline.

Over the last few years, pubs have continued to grow in popularity as an alternative to hotel and B&B stays. As their image has evolved to present a much more contemporary hospitality experience, encouragingly the accommodation market for pubs has seen sizeable growth in recent times and this trend looks set to continue.

The ability to combine traditional charm, contemporary décor, great food and a fantastic range of drinking options with a characterful 'home from home' experience - all under one roof - prompted nearly half (48 per cent) of those questioned to say they would prefer pub accommodation in the recent Pub Accommodation Report 2017 by industry organisation Stay in a Pub. When you consider that only just over a quarter (27 per cent) said they'd choose a branded hotel if the cost and location were the same, it's little wonder that the same report also revealed that one in five pubs (21 per cent) plan to increase their number of rooms.

 

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There's little doubt that the recent rising popularity of craft beer and on-site micro-breweries is also helping to inspire beer tourism, particularly as a growing trend amongst younger travellers. An accommodation provider's dream, this millennial demographic tends to enjoy three to four-night breaks and is keen to travel outside of peak season. Best of all, they have money to spend and a focus on a 'boutique' type experience, which plays perfectly into the hands of those pubs offering quality accommodation.

As more pubs recognise their potential to increase revenue and boost margins through the letting of rooms, the trend towards converting upper floors or outbuildings into boutique-style accommodation will remain a profitable next step for many establishments. And, with average daily rates often not dissimilar to hotels, it's easy to see why more and more pubs are choosing to capitalise on this increasingly important third income stream, especially when 56 per cent of properties report accommodation adds substantially to their income levels.

To target these millennial digital natives successfully, it's vital that accommodation providers market effectively with a strong online presence. After all, the Stay in a Pub survey also found that 65 per cent of consumers now prefer to book online, whilst three quarters (75 per cent) of millennials plan their own travel and half (50 per cent) travel independently.

 

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At a time when 74 per cent of pubs use OTAs, there's a lot more to keeping this key market engaged than simply having a mobile responsive site. Whilst one of the first steps is to make booking a pub stay online as straight-forward as possible, publicans need to remember that 76 per cent of millennials are swayed by friends' recommendations and social media. So, given 95 per cent of pubs with rooms are listed on TripAdvisor, yet just 57 per cent follow up on comments, it is clear there are plenty of opportunities to boost loyalty.

Employing effective hospitality technology is crucial in enabling pub operators to not only manage but also market their accommodation efficiently and profitably. Partnering with the right hospitality technology provider can also ensure that your operations are running smoothly. To reach additional potential guests, it can also support your distribution to the wider accommodation marketplace. Being sure that you have the right distribution agreements and software in place to enable your connection to your preferred revenue driving channels are key. Likewise be sure that you can support the customer journey with timely communications to enhance guests' stays and build that all-important brand loyalty to support the direct channel.

There are a number of solutions that can support this. These include EPoS (electronic point of sale) to enable staff to efficiently process onsite sales and property management systems to manage your rates and reservations in addition to enticing upselling techniques, all of which can result in more efficient operations and increased revenues.

 

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When you consider that there are currently over 5,700 pubs and 50,000 rooms across the UK and that a Buckinghamshire pub was crowned the best place to stay in the UK by the Sunday Times last October, it's clear that accommodation is set to be a key revenue driver in the future for independents and pub groups.