This week was the week in which many of you reading this will have been sitting on Zoom calls thinking of clever things to say on panels at IHIF. Treading that fine line between wise, sagacious and fired. You want to be invited back, preferably to display your astounding business acumen to the assembled next year via your gold helicopter.
For the moderators, it’s more a matter of making sure it all runs to time and that you managed to dress yourself, but there’s no harm in using this week to practice that too.
So this week involved trotting down to the dry cleaners and thinking about mixed use, specifically those guests who have many needs all at once, something which used to signify a demanding aunt and the promise that it wouldn’t end well.
Now these guests are everywhere and they are getting what they want. This is desks in a variety of locations, room to relax and work, the potential to make new chums from the local area and maybe a decent sandwich and a drink to wash it all down.
It doesn’t look like too demanding a list, but it is a sign of the malaise of the hotel sector that it seems thrillingly cutting edge. Is it really so demanding to think that when we go on a trip we might also do things which were not directly related to the trip’s purpose?
In the past two years plenty of people have embraced flexible working, but many of us would have to search all the way back to paper rounds to think of a time when we went on holiday and didn’t have a tiny bit of work to look at. Maybe some papers to read, or a report to finish off.
And likewise. We may not have called it a fun, hybrid name, but who hadn’t been thrilled when they’d managed to cram a quick open-top bus tour, gallery trip or just a coffee with a local friend into a business trip?
Hotels have now noticed that we are well-rounded individuals. Will they be able to cope?
It seems unlikely. The concepts which are pulling this off so far are those who have been doing it for a while: serviced apartments and their ilk. It’s no leap to realise that this is because they are the closest offering in the market to a home-from-home. And because of that, we can act like the normal humans we are at home, even away from home.
The regular hotel is not set up for this and is in danger of getting into the kind of state that the global operators have done when they tried to create a brand for everyone in the whole world. The cynical amongst you might say that’s because it gives them the option to have several hotels in one city without irritating owners. And you would be correct. But it’s also about ensnaring the unwary traveller in their loyalty programmes and keeping them forever locked in their sphere.
So far the loyalty programmes haven’t proved quite the booking driver the brands hoped they would. Probably they just need more brands, so they’re getting onto that.
But for the property which can offer it all, the guest will be happily captive, wallet included. Is it time to embrace the whole human, from flip flops to tie? Where do traditional hotels fit in? Come and find out at 14h00 on 4th May in the Pullman.