10 August 2012 10:35
Large hotel chains are quick to adopt and adapt innovations developed in other industries, while smaller hotels make almost continual incremental changes in response to customers' needs, research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has found.
The project was led by Professor Gareth Shaw of Exeter University and Professor Allan Williams of Surrey University, who say that the findings counter the traditional image of the hotel sector as "slow to change".
Official measures such as the UK Innovation Survey (UKIS) state that just 39% of hotels reported some form of innovation.
One major area of innovation lies in the growth of new hotel types. Branded chains such as Travelodge or Holiday Inn now make up some 12% of London's hotel stock, while budget accommodation has also seen the rise of the 'microtel' which is based on a variant of low-cost hotels. Innovative design plays a key role, particularly in the growth of the luxury boutique hotel market.
Many hotels have introduced environmental measures, which range from switching to energy-efficient light bulbs to the installation of solar panels. Other hotels incorporate recycled materials into their interior design, use furniture made from sustainable sources and bedding and towels made of natural fabrics.
Changes in small and medium-sized hotels may involve the development of a new website or marketing materials, the purchase of new software for property management systems or simply updating the decor.
"Customers are playing a large part in shaping the innovation as hotels increasingly seek consumer feedback through social networks. Some conduct in-depth research through focus groups, while one major international hotel group has a laboratory bedroom which is used to test the latest innovations and gather customer feedback to new and emerging technologies," Professor Williams stated. "Our findings suggest that large and small hotels can learn from each other. Larger corporations tend to lead innovation in their systems and processes, IT and marketing. Small hotels are good at responding to customer needs and providing more personalised services, as well as cutting-edge design ideas," he added.