A very interesting article by Tammy La Gorce in the New York Times of 26 May brought me to reflect once more on the state of our industry and the "attacks" that create the "best possible" space for the new generations of guests. Tammy states, with more than 500, yes, you read that right, 500 hotel brands operating in global markets have "smaller and smaller market areas for hotels to capture".
Ben Schlappig, a hotel blogger, points out: "Hotel managers are all about millennials and expect the millennials to work in these trendy community lobby areas or in bed." Desks and what do designers come up with next to the right answer? Is it true that the vast majority of millennials do not want a cabinet or desk? And what about the boomers and all the other generations that are still here and will exist for years?
I still like to have the desk in my room if I want to use it. I like to unpack the minute I arrive, and have my room set up as a "home", which makes the brands feel like you will have when you live with them. But my home has a desk and plenty of storage space. So how can a room without this be my home?
I have written many articles about the impending threat to the independent owners and operators, as well as highlighting the upcoming saturation point of offering rooms and hotels. Fortunately, guests in the hotel industry do not experience a stay on the Internet, so hotels are always necessary. This is the opposite of the retail industry, which is witnessing the demise of major brand shops and outlets as people shop more and more online. A headline in today's newspapers says Reitman's Canadian clothing store will close 40 stores next to the 100 stores closed in 2016.
However, this does not mean that the threat to the hotel industry is lower. More and more "cookie cutter" hotels are being built according to new and ever changing trends. Shared lobbies, lower-priced bedrooms, cutting-edge technology and communication; In these boxes everything is stowed to win the occupancy and the real estate value.
So where do the independents stay? The situation in Europe is better than in North America, as many of the independent operators are located in historic buildings or buildings whose history can be traced back to the past.
However, all independent companies are in the crossfire of the big branded juggernauts trying to take over all different types of hotels to cleanse the market.
The offer is complemented by more and more hotels, and the OTAs are devouring more and more of the occupancy. AirBnB and private homeowners complement the offer on the holiday market, which will eventually reach saturation in the foreseeable future.
In the face of this fierce competition and ever increasing costs, it is natural to choose the simplest available occupancy and to give more space to the OTAs. In some properties, 70% of the rooms occupied by the OTAs are now occupied. Some hotels start cutting staff. Others save on maintenance while others delay renovation.
All these measures are understandable but inexcusable and inevitably lead to losses and closures. Can you imagine the battlefield of the hotel when a recession hits? The answer for independents is to adapt to the new customer generations and create a market segment. This means venturing in a different direction than competing with generic drugs in the hope that everything will be fine in the end.
The first and most important task is to create a good and caring hotel culture. This is not easy, but results in valuable staff being retained for a longer time, savings in cost of sales (up to £ 3,000 and more per employee), pride and better performance. Do not reduce the training budgets, but learn more about the variety of new generations of guests.
Leaders need to understand and meet the new needs and expectations of Millennials and other new guests. The stay experience must have added value. What the baby boomers and the generations before them expected of a stay is radically different from the expectations of the new guests.
Finally, the branding that distinguishes the hotel from the generic has to be created. Creative ideas must tie the property to the history of the building or the city. Community engagement must be an important pillar of the hotel and environmentally friendly policies should be introduced. Some resources may be needed to change the interior design to make it more meaningful and refresh the message of the new branding.
All these changes do not mean that the hotel should not install the latest communication technology or find a happy medium for the new room design and furniture installed in it. Good care, clean rooms, good facilities, friendly staff and a good F & B standard are still of utmost importance, but that's not enough for tomorrow.
It is time for independents to sit down and contemplate their future as a small fish in rough seas, where sharks are added daily.
This feature was first published in the August 2017 issue of Hotel Owner.