With staycations here to stay and some of the county’s biggest events and festivals set to return this year, there are high hopes for the hospitality industry in 2022.
SoGlos spoke to Visit Gloucestershire about the opportunities and challenges the new year holds for local businesses – and what people can do to support their favourite Gloucestershire venues now and throughout the season.
About the expert – Steve Gardner-Collins from Visit Gloucestershire
Steve Gardner-Collins is the director of Visit Gloucestershire – a partnership designed to champion and support the visitor economy and tourism sector in Gloucestershire.
With a vision for responsible and sustainable tourism in the county, Visit Gloucestershire provides a non-competitive platform that allows local tourism businesses to share ideas, build relationships and work together.
The hospitality industry in Gloucestershire has had an extremely tough couple of years. What opportunities does 2022 bring?
If hospitality businesses can survive, they can expect to see the return of the staycation for another year. We were unsure if the staycation trend was set to continue as domestic staycationers had expressed their excitement about returning to a foreign holiday after two years of M5 delays and unpredictable weather – which has been enough to push people to want guaranteed sun this summer.
However, with the latest Omicron wave and further variant uncertainty, we can see that over Christmas, people were thinking staycation once more – and many of them were thinking Gloucestershire!
How have local businesses survived through the hard times?
Local people have been supporting their cafés, restaurants, bars and venues throughout the pandemic and we’ve had two very busy summer seasons.
Even during the winter months, businesses have kept their venues as Covid secure as possible and through the hard times of finding staff, have still managed to open.
It’s this new-found Think Gloucestershire mentality that we’ve all been exploring – thinking what’s on your doorstep and realising that you don’t need to travel far to find great food and drink, great experiences, great hospitality and feel like you’ve had time out from everyday life – that’s what has helped businesses survive.
What can people do to support local cafés, restaurants, bars and venues in the coming months?
What should be important to customers right now is ensuring that their favourite place to visit survives. It’s much quieter than usual and we are not seeing enough visitors from outside the area to keep the numbers up – even with hospitality businesses continuing to follow the latest government guidance around Covid-19.
I have seen lots of special offers and flexible booking options still out there, we just need people to think ‘let’s go out, let’s visit somewhere we haven’t been before in Gloucestershire’. It doesn’t have to be far – and we need people to spend their money, not take a flask and picnic, which only tops up the supermarket balances.
We want people to support their local tourism businesses by stopping off at a local café, bar, restaurant, or farm shop – just try to buy and think local.
How important are things like live music and events going to be for the hospitality industry this year?
Live music and events are a lifeblood to the sector, providing the draw for people to visit, have fun, be entertained and spend.
There is plenty of entertainment in Gloucestershire, we have festivals around the county to satisfy nearly all tastes. As long as the events can take place, the people of Gloucestershire and those who visit have plenty of options to eat, drink and enjoy experiences at local businesses.
It feels as though many businesses are still hesitant to make any long-term plans or commitments – is that wise? Or can businesses be more confident in planning for the 2022 season?
We have struggled with uncertainty now for two years. No business or person can thrive on uncertainty. But we can be sure that with good weather, people both local and far and wide will want to get out, enjoy the spring and summer and will want to find great things to do.
We just have to make sure that businesses are here to offer those great services and experiences and that when people do visit, they tell their friends – that way we continue to get people to think and visit Gloucestershire.
Do you think staycations are here to stay? And if so, how can local businesses make the most of this trend?
I would imagine that for some, having at least one holiday a year as a staycation is something positive the sector can expect to continue for years to come. People have really explored and experienced their own area over the last couple of years as we’ve had to think local or travel domestically, reimagining what holidaying in this country can look like.
Despite the weather sometimes, we still have this great place to explore and experience. It’s what attracts people to visit the UK from overseas. While we can’t expect people only to staycation as there is no doubt that when the opportunity is there, people will go back to foreign holidays, we should be embracing our own offering and supporting our local tourism sector to ensure it’s still here to welcome people from other countries when overseas tourism returns – for them to have a taste of what we’ve had these last couple of years.
What are the main challenges hospitality businesses are still facing in 2022?
Right now, it’s quiet in terms of customers. The next challenge will be staffing. Staycation season brings in lots of business and we can only hope this continues in spring and summer this year, but with increased demand, we need staff – and we all know what 2021 was like.
It’s not just Covid the sector is juggling either, it’s Brexit as well. There is also the rise in fuel costs to contend with and the rising cost of food and drink. Everything is relative and businesses are facing the balance of what it costs them versus what they need to charge to make ends meet.
What advice can you give businesses on overcoming some of these challenges?
In a short space of time, we have been presented with so many hurdles as a sector, my advice would be not to do this alone. If you are facing challenges, there is help out there. We have a great network of business support in Gloucestershire and the hospitality industry is a tight community, where you can find help when you need it.
What support is available for hospitality businesses from Visit Gloucestershire?
As a partnership we have a Partner Network Hub on our website, where there is advice and links to a network of visitor economy businesses you can tap into for support. You can also explore new opportunities for your business at the same time.
You can also contact Visit Gloucestershire by emailing
email@example.com at any time and we will link you up to a support partner.