How did hoteliers know about industry trends before the Internet came about? Cyberspace may not have existed in 1970, but there were plenty of trade journals and books to go around. Travel Trade, Travel Week, Travel Digest, Hotel Weekly…. The list goes on. Promotional materials from other hotels were another way to collect valuable information and if all else failed, we could book a room at that hotel and see for ourself what the competition was doing. Of course travel and hotels were also featured in newspapers and reading magazines from Conde Nast made hotels seem magical.
Here in 2018, it's impossible to keep track of everything that's being written about the travel and hospitality business however we do have supercomputers in our front pockets. That's no small thing. We have more information than we know what to do with. Sifting through it and finding what matters has become a very big business.
For hoteliers, it's our business to observe the industry and determine what matters to us just as much as it is our business to review online reviews, spreadsheets, analytics…. the list goes on. It is also our business to cultivate employees who invest themselves into the guest experience, but to do this, we have to facilitate a thriving work culture. To the extent that we find effective ways to invest in our employees, they will invest in the guest experience. All of these are serious considerations that require time and commitment and directly affect the prosperity of a hotel.
However, taking time to read about the industry is always worth it. We might need thirty or forty minutes to read and fully digest two articles (or browse pages from a classic book on hotel management (maybe something from this list of best hotel management books by Hotelogix). For a hotelier at work, thirty or forty minutes is a real amount of time.
But perhaps if you put in the time, your hotel IQ will increase dramatically.
"That's how knowledge works," according to Warren Buffet. "It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it." He was speaking of his habit of reading 500 pages of written material today per day. 500 pages! Could a hotelier ever do that? Maybe not - but then again we're not trying to be billionaires here, merely good hoteliers.
In any case, Mr. Buffet (along with many others who tout the virtues of consistent industry reading) has a very good point. He is speaking of the value of careful reading and deliberate reflection. Not necessarily the frantic consumption of headlines, which many of us appear to do, but taking the time to read and digest quality information. Taking the time to reflect and make your own sense of it.
Coming back to our employees, here's another great use for reading about the industry: When we discover something interesting, we could casually engage one of our employees on the subject and see what they think. It says that we care about the industry and hope they do too. It says that we trust and value their intelligence. It gives them an opportunity to share an original thought with us.
In terms of sifting through all that hotel industry data, there are a million ways to do it but what I suggest is setting aside time for a slower and more deliberate manner of reading. It might be over breakfast (assuming you allow time for that), it might be on the train, or, it might be setting aside some time each day in the office. There are certainly situations where you, the hotelier, will be unable to accommodate an hour of reading everyday, however it is a worthwhile objective to at least start. It's also true that some people read at varying speeds - some hoteliers might get through ten industry articles in a day, plus a hundred pages from one of The Guardian's list of top ten hotel novels - but that would be rare.
Whichever way we approach it, careful and pleasurable reading is an important metric in the performance of hoteliers and hotels. For those who write about the industry (including yours truly), Steven King has a stern reminder: "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time to write. Simple as that." I would add that if you don't have time to read about YOUR industry, then you aren't really in it.
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