While the global pandemic continues to bring hardship to many in the UK hospitality industry, some have thankfully recovered from its impact. Sentry Mead is one such example. Set 100 metres from the sea in a peaceful corner of the Isle of Wight, the nine-bedroom Victorian guesthouse is solidly booked until November, despite having nearly only reservations from local English travellers on its books.
For Sarah and Jean-Pierre, who have been personally running Sentry Mead for over 15 years, March was the first time that the business had been forced to close, although that didn’t eliminate their need for technology to help manage bookings.
“I think a lot of people think that when you close, you close and there’s nothing to do, but people cancel, people book, people make enquiries. So, our systems needed to stay updated,” says Sarah, a long-time user of SiteMinder.
An insight into what’s been working
Since reopening, the bookings have been non-stop, and the property’s success provides a number of learnings worth considering for other independent operators:
- Open dialogue is vital. It’s always been important for Sarah, however, since reopening in July, the need for clear and regular communication pre-stay has intensified. By knowing the exact safety protocols that the business has in place, Sarah notes that guests are far more at ease on arrival, regardless of their age.
- Being more flexible pays off. As a response to COVID-19, Sarah has implemented a number of new options for guests, from remote room servicing to room only rates, both of which have been appreciated. In particular, by introducing room only rates, she’s noticed a slight demographic shift taking place, with more younger guests looking to make a saving by not including breakfast as part of their stay.
- Keeping a long-term view ensures that the right decisions are made. With each business call, Sarah has weighed up how it will impact her property’s reputation in the long-term, something that’s guided her through the COVID period, and in the years prior. She proudly states that she currently does zero advertising outside of social media, her hotel website and the third-party distribution channels she manages through SiteMinder, yet is heavily booked. And, as a small business, knowing the power of word-of-mouth has proven invaluable. She also educates her guests on the impact of negative reviews, and takes extra special care of the locals. As she mentions, “We’ve had people from all over coming to stay, however a lot are from very close by here on the island, who of course we offer a special rate to.”