How to choose your own British brand
How much does being British matter to the UK hospitality business? Brand Britain has become rather a hot topic in recent years. Hotels everywhere sell themselves and their approach firmly on a notion that the national heritage can offer something distinctive, historic and evocative to visitors from home and abroad.
But not everywhere is equally suited to marketing itself as British. And not everybody’s idea of Britishness is the same, as a survey by the Pride of Britain hotel group this year made clear.
The survey, based on a poll of 1000 adults, found that 37% thought that ‘politeness’ most identified Britishness closely followed by 33% saying a ‘stiff upper lip’ and 23% sarcasm, which seems rather odd when coupled with politeness.
Britishness then, is a broad concept and an elusive one. Most British hotels try to use it to their advantage but also realise it is hard to pin down.
Kate Levin, general manager at London’s Capital Hotel, says that Britishness is very important to them but she recognises it does not apply across the board. She says: “For us it is a USP but London is a very international city, so clearly it doesn’t apply to everybody.”
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), says: “The UK brand is very important to how hospitality and tourism is sold to our overseas visitors but it means different things to different people. To some it might mean our magnificent coastline and countryside, cosy Cotswold villages, stately homes, a trip to the theatre or a cream tea in a traditional hotel. However to others it might mean a zip wire, a craft beer in London’s trendy Shoreditch or a meal in one of the hundreds of top restaurants in London where there is not a Yorkshire pudding in sight.”
Hoteliers are well aware of this. Beppo Buchanan-Smith, the owner of the luxury Scottish hotel, the Isle of Eriska, which has a Michelin-star restaurant, says: “On a world stage we use the Great Britain badge as it helps attract business. In the same way that Edinburgh helps bring visitors to Scotland and then Eriska, London helps bring visitors to Britain and then Scotland. Overseas visitors, especially from the Far East, see Britain as the attraction and Scotland very much as a subset, so while kilts and tartan and whisky may help identify us around the world the Union Jack is better known than the Saltire. And we never use the European flag!”