Are hotels checking out? - Insights

Are hotels checking out?

The global hotel companies live and die by their pipeline, with many a CEO being jettisoned after failing to maintain a suitable flow and the structure of the sector has shifted to feed this passion for limitless growth.

But while owners were being told that brands were all different – the better to avoid territorial arguments – to the head in the bed, they all looked very similar. Branding has made everywhere familiar and nowhere memorable and, in the rush to expand around the world, being a hotelier and the art of hospitality is at risk of been lost.

Enter the sharing economy. Untold numbers of rooms, apartments, houses, yurts, treehouses, yachts, islands. And the degree of separation from the owner was often only one wall.

Airbnb, which dominates the sector and has become the noun-to-verb Hoover of letting people sleep in your spare room, had seven million listings against Marriott International’s 1.3 million rooms.

But the sharing economy is not just about rooms, it is about redefining what hospitality is, what true service meant and that it is no longer wearing a white jacket with gilt buttons. Homesharing came with the promise that you could feel at home while being away, that you could be part of a community and learn about more than you can staying in a room that looks the same in Albuquerque, Bangkok or Cardiff.

The sharing economy is being attacked from within, facing the challenge of growing numbers of professional investors, who would affect how well it keeps its homespun image, but for the now the challenge lies with the hotels. There was a time when the hotel sector introduced the world to the wonder of electricity, the marvel of room service, the novelty of the ice machine. Does it have the power to inspire love and loyalty again? Or will it be marginalised as a relic?

Increasing numbers of hoteliers believe that traditional hotels are on the brink of a resurgence in popularity. Global hotel chains are catching up to modern trends – adding technologised curation and personalisation to their offerings. In Checking Out, Katherine Doggrell interviews key figures in the hotel industry and draws upon various case studies to explore the ways in which this traditionalist industry can remain relevant in the 21st century. The hotel ‘experience’ has been redefined, as guests now value fast Wi-Fi and mobile check-ins over room service and mini-fridges.

Checking Out is an engaging investigation into the unprecedented challenges that face the hotel sector in the digital era and the strategies that are being employed by its leaders and innovators.

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