Guests quicker than hoteliers to seize on media passion
Guests quicker than hoteliers to seize on media passion
24 JUNE 2019 7:16 AM

I expected a panel I attended last week would take on labor difficulties, Brexit, business rates and indecision, but rather we were entertained by tales of TV, movies and fantasy. Hoteliers should still listen (or watch) carefully.

Last week, I attended a half-day seminar on the state of British tourism organized by Westminster Media Forum.

It was refreshing to hear a set of new voices, as the only person I knew there was Sir James Devitt, managing director of hotel-purchasing advisory company Herald Hotels, who told me he came for that same reason.

The event was held at The Royal Over-Seas League Club, which sits next door to the St. James’s Hotel & Club and The Royal Ocean Racing Club and is reached from Piccadilly by finding some half-hidden stairs that drop down from Arlington Street onto Park Place.

Turn right after emerging from the steps, and a building—previously unknown to me, and myself a Londoner—sits grandly at the end of the close with meeting space, bars, a restaurant and accommodation.

Membership clubs like these abound in London (I tend to think of P.G. Wodehouse’s fictional character Bertram “Bertie” Wilberforce Wooster’s Drones Club, but I am sure they all do sterling things).

Another “club” I do not have any knowledge of is the TV-series boxset-binging set, but these two worlds came together at the WMF seminar when several speakers spoke of hoteliers not being able to afford to delay on capitalizing on entertainment excitement.

The Right Honourable Lord Shutt of Greetland, a life peer and member of the House of Lords and on its Regenerating Seaside Towns & Communities Select Committee, spoke of something called “Gentleman Jack,” which he said is filmed at a stately home near where he lives (Greetland is a place in Yorkshire) called Shibden Hall, in Halifax.

Lord Shutt said hoteliers needed to be “fleet of foot” and underlined his point with a tale from TV Land.

“Have you seen ‘Gentleman Jack?’” he asked attendees.

“What many do not know, though, is that the program was shown in Japan three weeks earlier than it was in the U.K., so (the Japanese) have already arrived in Halifax. No one from the BBC (which co-created the series) called hoteliers.”

Keep your ears and eyes open, and do not dilly dally. That is Lord Shutt’s message.

I doubt it comes as a surprise to any that travelers always have loved seeing the places their favorite films and TV programs are made.

The morning’s other chair, Baroness Valentine, also a member of the House of Lords and also on that same seaside committee, said she works a great deal in the seaside town of Blackpool, Lancashire, famous for its lights and music-hall entertainment, although much of that entertainment style is not so much clamored for today.

Baroness Valentine said one of the regeneration projects in the city is The Chariots of Gods theme park, based on the sensationalist books of Erich von Däniken.

I have not read any.

Baroness Valentine said the project is a £300 million ($381.7 million) undertaking, the largest the city will have ever known, and added the only business currently on the proposed site not agreeing to vacate is the Courts of Justice, which I imagine sits rather more in the world of reality, not that of aliens with intergalactic spaceship runways in the Andes Mountains, which seems to be the stuff of Von Däniken’s quill.

No construction is due until 2024, but the message here is that hoteliers should get their plans together to capitalize on this as soon as possible.

John McGrillen, CEO of Tourism Northern Ireland, spoke of the novels and TV series “Game of Thrones.”

(No, do not ask me if I have seen this. I have not.)

McGrillen said “360,000 tourists have come to Northern Ireland because of the series,” which I know is a sensation as anything crossing my eyes related to it is stamped with a “spoiler alert.”

McGrillen is planning, though, but got in deep water because of it.

“We advertised the ease of reaching Northern Ireland from Dublin’s international airport. It is 90 minutes away, but that rather angered the airports in Northern Ireland,” McGrillen said. He hinted he’d been accused of something close to treachery but defended himself by stating that there are no flights to Northern Ireland from the Americas, but there are 30 or so a day to Dublin.

Meanwhile, I am reading the autobiography of Orkney Islands’ writer George Mackay Brown, whose writing is full of sagas, mystery and fable.

As for the main thrust of the forum, the points and arguments made by speakers and attendees, an article will be published on Hotel News Now on Thursday. And given the current state of politics and Brexit here, my copy might be even more fantastical than the TV series described above.

After all, fact is always more fanciful than fiction.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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