The image of an anchor is useful for a hotelier. It is not to say that we need to stay in one place and not get out of the harbour, but rather to emphasise ways in which we can remain successful when others around us are being buffeted by the waves.
The only way to deliver a consistently great product is to be deeply established in principles and protocols. A great hotel is a strong part of community, has a sense of identity, and delivers consistently across all touchpoints of the guest experience, from the booking portals to the bed sheets.
On the other hand, the hospitality industry has reached a point where every assumption is being questioned. The lobby, the reception desk, the room key, the light switch – nothing is safe from the chopping block. Reinvention is more than a practical undertaking; it has become a tool for positioning hotel brands in a landscape that feels cluttered, chaotic… and rich with opportunity.
If we look at the qualities that anchored excellence in hotels before the internet revolution, most of them are as relevant as ever:
• First impressions have an impact
• Quality and comfort matter
• Location is huge
• Attention to detail is paramount, and;
• The list goes on.
But the rules of success do not remain the same. We can’t ignore the changing reality of our industry any more than we can ignore the timeless qualities that have always defined hotel excellence. To that end, we need to continuously explore and assert our principles; not passing trends, but principles by which hotels ought to be anchored. Here are three suggestions.
AirBnb brought global change to the hospitality industry by urging travellers to “live like a local” and “be at home anywhere.” In recent years, however, complaints against the business model have been widespread – for example, that it disrupts neighbourhoods and wreaks havoc on local housing markets. (e.g. a article recent in The Guardian is entitled: How the world is going to war with AirBnb).
Hotels can capitalise on the desire for local flavour without carelessly blurring the line between local life and tourism. Local art on the walls, local produce in the kitchen, local furniture in the guestrooms – these details can give hotels a stronger connection to place, showcasing local styles and providing guests with the experiences they’ve sought through sites like AirBnb. From a hotelier’s perspective, it isn’t all about putting on a show, either. Utilising local goods and services can help ease logistical burdens and build respect within the community. AirBnb may be in for increased regulation in many markets throughout the world, but the desire for greater connection to local culture is not going away anytime soon.
The desire for a consistency was the driving force behind some of the big hotel brands (e.g. Holiday Inn) that came up during the mid-20th century. Increasingly, however, even global chains are seeing too much consistency as a liability. This is apparent in the diversification of individual hotels from city to city, as well as the parade of “soft brands” being launched. Where consistency saps creativity and character, it should be questioned. This too is a principle that will stick around for a long time.
This is one modern anchor of hotel success that can absolutely be counted on for decades to come. Early efforts, like the classic towel re-use protocol, have become common practice. Water filtration dispensers for hospitality are become more sophisticated, and may soon provide an easy and valuable initiative for many more hotels. Bioplastics and wood fibres can increasingly used in everything from bath product packaging to room keys. An inventory of chemicals being used to clean the hotel property, including the pool, can reveal meaningful ways to either embrace products that are less irritating to people and the environment, or do away with them altogether, without sacrificing performance or raising in-house costs.
The best sustainability measures are those that strengthen a hotel’s financial health, its environmental ethos, and its unique character. The Waldorf Astoria and The Intercontinental Melbourne, for example, uses rooftop beehives to supply honey for their bars and kitchen. AccorHotels is now harvesting vegetables from rooftop gardens in 1,000 of its hotel properties, and is aiming for a 1/3 reduction in food waste by 2020 whilst the Radisson Blu in Sydney was one of the pioneers in using less chemicals and more microfibre cleaning.
Anchored to lasting principles
We know that many aspects of exceptional hotel service will not change. Others come and go with social and technological trends. When in doubt as to which ones to embrace, consider if they are anchored in lasting principles and be prepared for the waves.
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