We are all of us hybrids. Pressures on time and resources (ours/the planet’s/ours again) mean that, increasingly, it’s less a matter of the number of hats we wear, but more the number of hats we wear at once. And, as the saying goes, this is all accelerating. We are multiple roles and the places we practice those roles in also have multiple roles.
It’s quite the swirling vortex. And, like all good swirling vortices, it is volatile and prone to wheels, hats, sanity coming off and breaking.
So when it comes to hybrids in the hospitality space, you can see the conundrum. On the one hand; simple operations are simple and easy to do well. On the other hand, those simple operations lead to dead space. With space at a premium and investors getting tetchy about paying the loans they took out to buy this half-dead space, the pressure is on to use all your space all the time.
But as we have found in our own lives, without the proper support, that can end in sobbing and hats everywhere.
The concept of the hybrid hospitality operation was up for debate at this week’s Unfold event, hosted by Mews in Amsterdam. Amsterdam, sector watchers will recall, is currently trying to shed one of its hats, notably the one drunk/stoned/etc Brits vomit into. There are better things to be and it wants to be them instead.
Back in the room and Wouter Geerts, head of research, Skift, outlined that which we are hearing a lot of in the sector, namely that while people may be lacking in space, hotels have plenty and are looking to use it better. And, when those people go to the hotel spaces, they are looking to use it multiple ways. Business travel has changed – it’s not just a small group of road warriors, there are more staff retreats and offsites to help facilitate that lovely remote working. And of course leisure and corporate travel blurring. There is a word, but we don’t use it here.
So the dastardly guest is demanding at the very least a decent desk in their room, but preferably somewhere to take their laptop that maybe has other people in it and maybe even a coffee.
Beware, said Kevin Machefert, CEO, Machefert Group: “We don’t want to venture out into another industry. I have seen too many hoteliers want to get into coworking with poor wifi and a poor coffee machine. But what we do know is F&B.” So if you’re like Kevin, use those dead spaces for events, more interesting F&B, more generating what Navneet Bali, CEO & founder, LyvInn, has been telling us for years: revenue per square metre.
But again the message was not try to be all things to all guests. Erik Tengen, co-founder & CEO, Oaky, said: “We are seeing hotels get strong with segmentation and understand what each segment wants out of their stay. I love them saying ‘I’m going to go for that statement and screw the rest’. And if you segment in upselling, you sell 80% more.”
Ah, said Bali, but the benefits of hybrid spaces are such that you can decide the segmentation more flexibly, and do revenue management more flexibly, adding that “hotels like ours outperform the traditional sector by 20% because they can segment. I hate to see space being underutilised, but you must get it right from the beginning”.
And this takes us back to those multiple-hat wearing humans. Know thyself. Know where your strengths lie. Know your guest. The glory days of only offering a room and a dinner are not behind us for every hotel, but the majority of guests are demanding a bit more. The sector is being encouraged to know every single guest and make lifetime friends with them. Treat them as individuals. Each hotel must offer a unique experience, tailored to one person.
But before you do that, find out what every square metre of your hotel does best and what needs to change.
Technology can help with this, of course, but alongside that hotels have to communicate within departments. Hybrids only work effectively if the property works as one cohesive unit, with one overall role: hospitality.