The seasonal hotel 

We’ve talked about seasonal hotels before, and in that case it was looking at the likely impact of covid, which meant that the time during which you could pretty much guarantee being able to travel without the risk of having to have tests or carry huge screeds of paperwork was limited to the summer months. So a pure leisure season.

This week in The Caterer we heard that some rural hotels were thinking of closing during the winter,  creating a high-season-only model. 

The incoming energy price crisis is driving what many might think of as an extreme reaction, because the UK government – and this rural closure plan is in the UK – hasn’t offered any solutions, so, when faced with nothing, closing down seems rational. There are fewer temporary staff around in the off season too and with no plan to do anything about that either, only the deranged would stay open.

There are examples of seasonal hotels in the sane countries too, of course, the most-easily-conjured of these being the various ice hotels, which are usually open for four months, premium rate guaranteed. We also see these hotels in Olympic cities and, soon no doubt, in Qatar for the World Cup. Hotels destined to see a peak rate for a few weeks before hoping that profiles have been raised sufficiently to make it all worth while in the long run.

Every hotel has its specialism, be that leisure or business and every hotel models itself around the peak that brings. But what if, rather than ticking along in the off season, having an OK time with various mini-peaks around holidays and the like, hotels just mothballed themselves when business got tight?

Not the best selling point for investors: here’s a hotel, but you’ll only get an income half the year at best. Hotels are always trying to diversify, remember. One person’s ballroom is another’s conference venue. Plenty of investors are bailing out of office for just this reason, let’s not encourage more uneven revenue antics.

This could be a point to say ‘well maybe hotels could be hotels some of the time and residential the other’, but hybrids like to have access to hotel facilities and an eerie zombie hotel half the year is not reassuring when you’re on your way back to bed after a late evening.

Maybe this is where the operators and investors could work together. How about buying a package of hotels, covering all the peak seasons, or even all the off seasons, for those who like quiet, unchallenging investments? Many investors already hedge in this way, perhaps the operators could take a more active role.

We hear a lot about hotels are seasonal businesses, following the ebbs and flows of the economy. Maybe they should roll with the punches. 

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