Evolving the experience

Evolving the experience

It’s the cherry on top that differentiates UK hospitality and leisure businesses.


Deploying its trademark creativity and resilience, the sector is well placed to weather the economic backdrop – and to continue to surprise and delight customers, who need escapism more than ever.

Philip Richardson

Industry Director, Hospitality & Leisure, Barclays Corporate Banking

What can the UK hospitality and leisure industry expect?

UK consumers are reprioritising their spending as core inflation hit its highest rate in 30 years1. This means hospitality and leisure operators need to offer richer experiences and better value. Our research suggests they are rising to the challenge. Find out more on the research methodology and findings.

Positive prospects

Staying upbeat in tough times

Despite a challenging environment, UK hospitality and leisure businesses remains largely optimistic about growth prospects. 78% of businesses are confident of growth this year.

On average, operators expect their revenues will grow by 33% this year over 2022.

At the same time, business costs are rising by around 40%, however operators are unable to pass on these increases to their customers in full. On average, just over half (53%) of these costs are being reflected in price rises.

That means operators are having to find creative ways to drive trade and limit costs. This ranges from special promotions and extended offerings, to investment in automated services and improved standards of accommodation.

Experience adds value

Inflation has hit discretionary spending. Over a third of UK consumers are going out less often to eat and drink than they did last year, for example.

However, average leisure spend continues to rise, sometimes well beyond inflation, as people prioritise memorable experiences in their leisure time.

That’s especially true of younger consumers. For example, adults under 25 are spending 28% more in pubs and bars, and 26% more on eating out, than they did last year.

Consumers are also ring-fencing their fitness regimes from any spending cuts, our research suggests. 25% of adults across all age groups are spending more on gyms and leisure centres.

Time to spare?

The lure of games

‘Competitive socialising’ is a growing trend, and an example of how some operators are extending their offering to generate excitement and drive repeat visits.

The sector covers everything from old-school arcade games to reimagined versions of darts and shuffleboard, plus newer pursuits such as axe throwing.

A new class of businesses are offering these activities in standalone venues. Meanwhile, existing businesses are also incorporating games into their venues.

Around a quarter of adults under 45 now take part regularly. With a further 35% (including over half of under-25s) not yet playing but expressing an interest, this area offers real potential for the industry.

New ways of working

The way our work patterns have altered since the pandemic is reshaping leisure pursuits.

The net effect on pubs, bars and restaurants is fewer visits by consumers. At the same time, there is anecdotal evidence that hybrid workers are taking opportunities for post-work socialising earlier in the week.

Of those whose working patterns have changed, 42% are using gyms or leisure centres more, and 37% are visiting spas or wellness centres more often.

This suggests that operators with venues in both city centres and suburban areas are positioned to benefit by offering member access that is convenient to work and home.

Smart Operators

Automatic for the people

Leisure activities are increasingly automated, a development consumers seem to welcome on the whole.

In the past year, for example, 34% of businesses have introduced automated check-in or access.

The same proportion have adopted digital purchasing, while over half of pubs and bars have introduced remote menu ordering.

Almost 40% of customers say they are happy to use automated services provided there is human back-up on hand, with younger consumers more receptive. 15% actively prefer the convenience of automated services. This suggests automation is viable for more businesses.

Investing for the future

Leisure outings may be more limited, but consumers are expecting the best experience when they do splash out.

Upgrades enable operators to deliver a customer experience that matches price increases, or to move up the quality scale.

High quality accommodation is a key booking factor for 29% of holidaymakers, for example.

Nearly half of hospitality and leisure businesses are carrying out some form of premises upgrades this year. Holiday operators are especially active here, with 60% of self-catering and B&B providers, for example, investing in improvements.

Sustainability maintained

While the cost squeeze is taking up attention and energy, the industry is sticking to its commitments on sustainability. An impressive 41% have invested in environmental improvements such as solar panels. Meanwhile 40% are investing in low carbon travel, and 34% are installing electric vehicle charging points.

Consumers haven’t lost sight of the importance of sustainability, with 64% of holidaymakers seeing this as an important factor when deciding on a booking.

Our green financing options offer one route to fund a variety of environmental projects, from renewable energy to green transport.

Strategies for success

Our report suggests several routes businesses could consider to mitigate cost rises while broadening their customer appeal.

Extend the offer

Consider incorporating new activities beyond your traditional model – such as competitive socialising – giving customers additional reasons to visit and return.

Plan your calendar

Plot special events ahead of time. Find national or local events to link with themed nights, and promote one-off events with local producers or community groups.

Invest to thrive

Create freshness or excitement by upgrading tired accommodation, or extending your environmental, digital or automated services.

Keep a grip on ESG

Promote low carbon and low waste products and initiatives to heighten the feelgood factor for customers, who continue to expect and appreciate sustainability efforts.

Success in action

Red Engine

Game on

Competitive socialising gains popularity in the hospitality and leisure sector.

A focus on fun and relaxation

Find out how Butlin’s stands out from the crowd to provide a unique experience for all.

Your next steps


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