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More than half of aspiring hoteliers have no experience

Hotel bed

More than half of prospective hotel buyers have no experience in the trade, according to the latest sector survey.

The 56% of those targeting hotels for sale on the market-leading website who admitted to having neither managed nor worked in a hotel might be interested to hear the advice of one of the foremost figures in the hospitality sector.

Bob Cotton, who was chief executive of the British Hospitality Association for a decade before stepping down last year, says that aspiring hoteliers "should talk to a hotelier - and this is by far the best piece of advice I can give. They will tell you stories of guests that will make your hair curl - so be prepared.

"But even better than talking, work in a hotel for a couple of weeks, and get the feel of being in an industry that is on show every day of the week, sometimes under huge and seemingly - at the time - unbearable pressures.

"You'll soon learn that you need a powerful sense of humour and a deep conviction that running a hotel is the only job for you. You'll also recognise that you can't please everyone, but the art lies in wanting to try."

Generating enough income out of season is the biggest concern among would-be hoteliers, meanwhile. Asked to rank five key challenges facing the sector in order of significance, those polled cited attracting enough guests during the quiet months as their biggest worry about running a hotel, scoring an average of 2.37 out of five. 

Work in a hotel for a couple of weeks, and get the feel of being in an industry that is on show every day of the week, sometimes under huge and seemingly - at the time - unbearable pressures

Bob Cotton, CEO of the British Hospitality
Association, offers advice to would-be

Tourism concerns

The second biggest concern was attracting enough tourists as consumer spending power is squeezed by rising inflation and unemployment. Perhaps unaware that the UK welcomed a record 2.89 million visitors in June, aided by favourable exchange rates, respondents ranked concerns over tourist numbers an average 2.67 out of five.

However, images of rioting and looting on UK streets might have stoked concerns about Britain's international reputation. Meanwhile, the 'staycation' phenomenon arguably benefits caravan and camping sites and even landlords leasing cottages more than hotels, which are seen as expensive, especially in the capital and south-east.

Next up on the list of concerns is attracting business travellers, who can help pick up the slack during the months where tourist numbers are low, as well as holidaymakers (with an average of 2.79). 

The penultimate concern in the five-challenge list, according to would-be hoteliers, is government regulation (3.12), while competition from big chains is apparently the least of their concerns (3.30), which contrasts sharply with an earlier survey of prospective café buyers, who ranked big-chain competition as their second biggest challenge.  

Nearly one in three (32%) aspiring hoteliers have experience of running a hotel, while around one in four (27%) have experience of working in a hotel. Forty-two percent have always harboured dreams of owning a hotel, while for 43% the more general aspiration of being their own boss was a driving motivation.

Thirteen percent hope to build a chain of hotels and 11% expect a hotel to be a lucrative undertaking. Thirty-seven percent expect to enjoy the lifestyle.

Other reasons for considering the sector include having transferable skills from the catering trade, being able to combine a business with a home (as you can with a B&B) and believing it to be an ideal family-run business or husband-and-wife operation. 

More than two-thirds of respondents have in excess of £250,000 to spend on a hotel. Thirty-two percent have more than £500,000 to spend; 36% have a budget in the £250,000-£500,000 range; 16% are in the £100,000-£250,000 bracket; 7% between £50,000 and £100,000; 6%  between £10,000 and £50,000; and 5% have less than £10,000.

Seventy percent of prospective hotel buyers are male, compared to 81% of business buyers generally (2009 business buyer survey) or, to compare with another sector, 60% of prospective café buyers.

The average age of a prospective hotel buyer is 49, compared to 46 for would-be café buyers or 44 for business buyers overall.

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