The month-old smoking ban is having a positive effect on business at many hotels, according to Classic British Hotels, the consortium of independent hotels.
Fears of a downturn in conference and bar turnover has proved unfounded, and hoteliers are crediting the ban with helping them to deliver not only a greener and more healthy product, but also a more profitable one as the lifespan of bed linen and decor is extended.
Customer response in Classic British's 50 3, 4 & 5 star hotels has been overwhelmingly good. Matfen Hall, near Hexham in Northumberland went non-smoking in January in anticipation of the nationwide ban. General Manager David Hunter reports that: "The hotel is much cleaner and fresher for both staff and customers and is really a much better place for it. I can honestly say that there has been no negative effect to our business at all."
It's the same story to the west of the Pennines. Smoking was banned at Lancaster House, near Lancaster, back in 2005, and owner Tim Bell believes that the cleaner atmosphere has helped sales. "The ban was very popular with families and bar meal sales went up by 40% over the 2 years. We've made all our bedrooms non-smoking as the problem of a non-smoking guest smelling smoke in a bedroom has been amplified by the ban".
Lancaster House has no plans to make any special concessions to any remaining smokers either. "Heavy investment in furniture and shelters would be pointless as the percentage of smokers inevitably decreases" Bell explains.
At Chilworth Manor, just outside Southampton, a little caution is being exercised, as Director Gavin Elliott explains. "For several years it has been the norm for guests not to smoke in meeting rooms and very few request smoking bedrooms. However I'm still holding onto my four designated smoking rooms because many hotels in Ireland saw a big increase in requests for smoking rooms when the ban was first introduced there".
Classic British CEO Len Louis believes that the ban has been a major boost to all hotels. "Not only does our guests health benefit, but companies' duty of care to their employees is also being met. However there's one downside for our hoteliers - the fag ends outside our various entrances are a real pain!"