Give me liberty or give me points

It’s a week to consider destiny and eternal rule for those of us in London. Just as we’re about to enjoy our ‘you can have any ruler you like as long as it’s this one and they’re wearing ermine’ jamboree, we’re observing the hotel sector offering yet more choice.

Yet this choice is the sort where it feels like you’re getting more, but to get the most benefit, you must agree to worship the one true king. Choice yes, freedom no. 

To labour the point long after the Stone of Destiny has been put back in the cupboard, the big branded operators want to keep us within their kingdoms, and, for doing this, they will grant us the occasional party. Or, if you will, points-spending frenzy. Now. These frenzies may come but once in a lifetime. Those more devoted subjects may enjoy a more frequent bounty (and in republics like France they push earn and burn, but the least said about that the better).

Today was the turn of Marriott, which is less a king and more of an emperor. The early leaks pointed to a benevolent ruler, wary of overtaxing its subjects and sparking revolution. After some legal leaning in, the group is due to make resort fees more transparent. Out from under the cosh we come when we’re trying to relax. That’s the downside with all these creeping rights of the proletariat, of course. 

In the call itself, the current resident on the gilded throne, Tony Capuano, outlined what he had in store for his 182 million loyal subjects and hinted at more in the way of freedom of movement, telling his courtiers that, in the centre of the kingdom itself, he was “just a few weeks away from announcing a simple, modern, streamlined, new build, extended-stay product that has very basic services and amenities for those looking for longer stays at our mid-scale price point”.

As we have seen whenever the subjects get uppity and start to think about taking themselves to more welcoming kingdoms, more flexibility is seen across the incumbent system and regular observers will note than only last week Hilton’s Chris Nassetta announced plans for a lower midscale product to be launched at around the same time.

Nassetta said: “There are so many workforce housing needs that are just unmet with this kind of product, for somebody who needs to be somewhere 30, 60, 90, 120 days. So, you’re talking about an average length of stay of probably 20 to 30 days, versus most of the core extended-stay brands that are like five to 10, maybe. We think that is a mega brand opportunity for us, even in an environment that’s been more challenging from a financing point of view.”

This is what the people want. We have seen across the sector, from the luxury offering of Cheval Collection to the likes of Budget Suites, that there is a growing clamour for stays the way they want it, no longer being dictated to about meal times, what to wear, when to work and when to enjoy their sparse leisure time.

Driving this as a movement has been the unruly kingdom of Airbnb, where there are, indeed, few rules. Live free! And possibly die. But such is the people’s taste for liberation that many have been lost and must now be lured back to the kingdoms before they fear collapse. 

Will these new freedoms stop the revolt? The exodus? Will people seek comfort in the old, familiar ways and a system which rewards them, no matter how far away that rewards may be? 

When the last Victoria sponge has dried, the latest edict from the barbarous lands will be laid down*. Will success have dulled their lust to overthrow? Are we due to see purer insurrection still? Or a new hope? 




*Translation: Airbnb results on 27 May, long after everyone’s bored of coronation antics 

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