More than 60% of small and independent hoteliers in the Mediterranean say bookings are rising faster than at any time in the last 12 months.

The second quarterly report of 2021 from the Boutique Hotel Barometer of independent hoteliers revealed owners in Greece and Spain recovered the quickest between April-June, with about 80% of hoteliers seeing higher booking levels above the previous year.

Proving the previous slow-burn recovery is now gaining rapid momentum for the boutique hotel market, only 15% of owners said bookings were 'worse' or 'much worse' than this time last year - and compared to an 82% high in winter 2020.

As more travelers look to embrace Mediterranean hospitality, a high of 52% of respondents questioned now had at least a positive outlook for the future.

To facilitate this forward momentum, the Boutique Vibe has begun redirecting all bookings for their exclusive hotel partners directly to their websites, aiming to support them better, market their product and reduce total cost of sales. In addition, autumn 2021 it plans to offer Boutique Vibe participating hotels access to exclusive rates for new website development.

"Sentiment among members is of restrained optimism. They can see light at the end of the tunnel as pre-pandemic optimism returns, but challenges remain," said Rim Jourdan, CEO and founder of The Boutique Vibe.

These underlying concerns revolve around remaining COVID-19 protocols, travel complexities, and softening of the global economy.

One in three hoteliers questioned are concerned about the global economy's future. At least 24% said operations require more focus than ever before and is closely linked with their appetite to invest in technology and systems to help them manage this complexity.

As the 'new normal' is closer than ever, hoteliers are refocusing on issues such as the overall rise of costs (16%), distribution costs (6%), and the threat of new trends in accommodation (8%).

The Barometer highlighted how hoteliers coped during the pandemic in different ways, with reduced operational periods, additional cost-cutting and staff layoffs.

While most of these remain, there has been a significant drop in staff redundancies (40% this quarter compared to 53% in Q1 2021), indicating hotels are back in the market for experienced personnel.

This is reinforced by qualitative comments from hoteliers, stating they now find it challenging to find and attract the right talent. Another positive step is that for the first time since the pandemic, only 1 in 5 hoteliers is still considering reducing their operating periods.

On the flipside, hoteliers continue to see the crisis as an opportunity to strengthen their brand, with 33% investing in property renovations, 26% upgrading websites, 20% increasing their marketing spends, and 12% investing in new back-office systems.

The positive booking trend and optimistic outlook also translate into further business confidence with 61% of owners considering investing in their properties.

While sustainability is at the forefront of most participating hoteliers, their main concerns center on reducing energy output (66%), promoting local identity (59%) and reducing waste and pollution (58%).

Keeping in step with its members' sustainability efforts, the Boutique Vibe has launched a sustainability ranking, with a detailed and thorough report on every hotel's sustainability initiative.

It will use symbols of Mediterranean nature – Thyme, Citrus, Fig, and Olive - to indicate hotels sustainability, based on their observations and information provided by owners. They will evaluate the eco-friendliness of the building and its operations and pay attention to the owners' efforts to preserve the local heritage and support local economies.

A copy of the Q2, 2021, report is here: The Boutique Vibe Barometer July 2021

Rim Jourdan
The Boutique Vibe