Mark Stephens, Jodie Barton and Emma Ball from SACO tell us about Chinese investment, their new reservations and distribution system, demand for areas in London and travelling with the family.
You were shortlisted for the Services Award at this year’s Insider South West International Trade Awards. Can you tell us a bit about SACO in the international market?
We’re a Bristol based company and are involved with the South West’s Chamber of Commerce. As a big employer in the South West we are usually involved in the awards. In regards to the international market there’s a lot of Chinese investment in Bristol, especially from Chinese students. We aren’t doing so much actual business at the moment but instead are providing information, building relationships and trying to establish how to do business particularly with China as a focus. We have been sending people out to China, having people over from China and hoping for more Chinese investment in Bristol.
In May you introduced a reservations and distribution platform with the aim to enhance customers’ booking experience. How has this affected the number of online bookings and customer satisfaction?
Yes, the number of online bookings we do has increased considerably. The system makes it easier to place a booking and because they now go straight onto our system there’s less work for the reservations team. The system is less manual and clients can get our availability last minute. In regards to customer satisfaction it is a quicker process for our customers and we can offer better rates when we are quiet.
What areas of London do you think are the ones to look out for this year?
The City will continue to grow. Aldgate will see a lot of development with companies opening properties there. The City going into the East End, such as Whitechapel and Bethnal Green, will see the most development with the demand from the City. Everyone, including us, wants property in the west side – such as Kensington – but the availability and price of rental does not justify a business case. We offer The City as an alternative. It is still central but hasn’t got the name and is affordable for corporate travel budgets.
You’ve promoted ‘SACO Family Welcome’ with the summer holidays approaching. What does SACO do to support guests staying away with children? What’s your leisure/corporate ratio?
Yes a ‘Family Pack’ was introduced in Birmingham. We offer families cereal, extra beds and cots for the summer holiday. In specific regions a selection of our properties have outside space for children to play. Selected properties have a reception rather than a self-check-in which help and provide information for families. In regards to our leisure/corporate ratio it’s about 20 per cent leisure and 80 per cent corporate.
Quick fire round:
Corporate or leisure clients?
Mark: Corporate, long stay. That’s what we want.
Emma: Corporate. Everytime.
Jodie: Corporate. Much easier to deal with.
BlackBerry or iPhone?
Mark: Blackberry (that’s what we get given!)
Tennis or cricket?
Emma: [Quickly] Neither. I hate sport.