The media seems to love bad news, and is having a great time with this recession gig. I’m pretty sure that things aren’t really as bad as they say, but that what we have here is the fulfilment of their prophecy, which becomes self-fulfilling if they beat the drum loudly enough. (Don’t rant at me; I’m losing some of my paid employment this year too…)
Anyway, this week the head honcho at Visit Britain gave an interview about the challenges facing the UK hospitality industry in these difficult times. The papers reported this as him saying that we are so crap at welcoming and looking after people, that several gazillion jobs will disappear in the hospitality industry by tomorrow morning. That’s my summary of their reports, but it was along those lines. This made front page headlines everywhere.
This came a day after Janet Street-Porter – who we warmed to, despite her brash and provocative style, when she championed Northumberland in ‘Britain’s Favourite View’ – had written her second piece in three weeks about how crap we are at welcoming and looking after people.
Actually, she went further – she said that when she goes away, she takes some essential travelling items with her. Reasonable? Yes – but she takes two showercaps, to put on each of her feet in order to avoid various carpet-transmitted diseases, and a blanket to cover the bed before she sits down on it. And so it went on. (Frankly, I’d sack the logistics person - who's booking these places? Why?!)
I spent a whole morning (don’t tell Jill) writing indignant responses to the Indy letters page, and J S-P. Actually, three weeks earlier, following her last diatribe about bad hospitality in UK, I had already written to J S-P, inviting her for a freebie to SCH. I even said I would collect her from the station, because I know how busy she is. She didn’t reply. I think this is rude. Even if you couldn’t come, you would reply, wouldn’t you? So my second email to her was perhaps less respectful. Here’s what I wrote – it made me feel better:
Janet, you've gone and done it again…
I wrote to you a few weeks ago, asking you to come to Northumberland (a place I know you love) but you didn't respond. Then this week, there you go again, moaning about horrible hotels and guest houses, and detailing how to put shower-caps on your feet in order to avoid disease.
There are good and bad examples in every trade and industry in this country. The good news in the hospitality sector is that we, as consumers, have more power than ever to simply wipe out the ones who don't go the extra mile. You need never be surprised at what you find when you check into a hotel or guest house again. Sites like tripadvisor.com allow us to post real-world reviews and experiences, so if you check what other people have said about a particular place, the element of uncertainty is pretty largely removed. Although its far from being a perfect or fool-proof system, the savvy traveller is no longer taking 'pot-luck' Janet, and you do neither yourself nor the industry any favours by staying in places you should not.
We run a Gold-Award winning accommodation business in a unique and fascinating building - a former church - on the stunning Northumberland coast. We take great pleasure in surpassing guests' expectations, and going the extra mile. We will not be embarrassed 'when the tide goes out'. But, give us a break - please stop reinforcing the message that all accommodation in England is rubbish. Show people how to be discerning, by effectively researching their trip, and the problem of grim accommodation will pretty much go away. And, one more thing - I ask you, please, to redress the balance a bit for our industry as a whole, by accepting our invitation to St Cuthbert's House, and then write even one tiny sentence to show people that it's possible to stay overnight in Britain without needing a decontamination suit.
What do you think?