WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR INDUSTRY OVER TIME? WHERE DID ALL THE GLAMOUR GO?
From time to time an industry expert will issue a set of Global Trends that are neither trends in the true sense....... or global.
On the eve of a large anniversary of mine in this industry served in a couple of dozen countries, I set out in this article, my view of Global Trends that I have gleaned from watching, listening and learning about our industry....every single wonderful day of my working life.
- LESS REAL SERVICE. Look around! There used to be dozens of staff around. Now one is hard put to find someone without having to queue....at the Front Desk or Reception to check in....at the restaurant for a table at breakfast......at the concierge...everywhere. Well at least they wrapped the ropes in red velvet!! There is less service provided by the staff and more service provided by the guest. This is evident in everything from making one's own reservation, checking in, unpacking, making a telephone call, help yourself breakfasts, wakeup calls, used room service trollies, hanging wet towels, market research disguised as a registration card. The term user-friendly has been accepted as a replacement for service. This is not necessarily less of an experience, it is merely different.
- FOREVER CHANGING EMPLOYEES. There are less applicants for jobs and they stay in the job less time either by their choice or ours. They are largely foreign workers in the urban developed world and untrained but willing workers in the developing world. The shortage of 10-15 million workers in this industry will result in hotels having insufficient workers to operate, exploding salaries, eroding profits and increased illegal immigration. Multi-tasking employees would allow more productivity but will be difficult to impossible in Union controlled situations. Management has also morphed from largely European to largely Asian.
- HYPER-ACTIVE OWNER GROUPS. Owners are less likely to be individuals and more likely to be corporations. They are often represented by Asset Managers who act like managers, micro-managing everything daily. Owners are hyper active now and were super-passive before. They want rapid financial returns and will dispose of the asset far quicker than in years gone by.
- MULTIPLE BRANDS FROM THE SAME MOULD. Chains are so hungry for expansion, they now lack consistency from one hotel to another or from one country to another. Rather than fix an old chain, it is easier to create a new one. There are more brands offering the same base product with virtually no differentiation. What has transpired is that gradually the character has been squeezed out of the hotel and replaced by a homogenised version of hospitality characterised by that horrible enemic expression, "Have a nice day!"
- MANAGEMENT COMPANIES. The function of a third-party management company has been largely replaced by technology. Best Practices and performance measurements are easier to communicate and measure through technology and does not require a headquarters overhead to deliver or monitor personally. Today's battlecry is more that "you can teach an old dog new tricks!"
- RELATIVE LUXURY. Luxury is a term that is becoming looser and less-defined and now differs from one client to another. What is luxury for an entry-level worker may not be luxury for a rockstar. A Western construction worker can afford luxury and international travel today but could not years ago. A Chinese or African construction worker can not afford luxury today but may well enjoy it in the forseeable future.
- ACCUMULATING HOTEL NAMES. They now get longer with age. A rebranded hotel may well keep its' original name, add a qualifier or two with a brand name bolted on at the end or the beginning. What was the "Grand Hotel" may eventually become The Marriott Grand Hotel & Spa Toronto Midtown........and if you tack on ".......and how may I direct your call?", the greeting becomes a jaw-breaking yawn, just like "have a nice day".
- QUALITY CONSISTENCY. This is no longer any more predictable than the weather. At a time when the employees were 'lifers' and recognised instantly a returning guest, they are rarely there for any more than a few months. Add to this the restrictions of an owner who will not reinvest, a brand that is hungrier to grow than consolidate or a manager that is entirely focused on the bottom line....and you produce inconsistencies in the hotel itself, between the brands, the countries and the individual hotel experiences. The exception.....a massive movement toward 'fresh' and 'locally produced'.
- PRICING BY GREED. While in days gone by, pricing was largely based on the cost of the product, today it is largely based on demand. In these circumstances, one can pay a fortune for a product that costs pennies but rarely benefit from the cost-based, cheaper product in slow periods.
- LESS FORMALITY. The days before first names, paper napkins and plastic cutlery were days when men were men, ashtrays were ashtrays and waiters had last names. Days with quill fountain pens at registration, starched white tablecloths for breakfast and liveried butlers at teatime. Tuxedo dinners with candlelight and harps preceeded by huge mind-numbing Martinis and followed by port and cigars in the mens lounge. Foot poofs for the ladies feet......cigarette lighters at the ready, silk stockings..... but no silk flowers...."Hi you guys. ..my name is David, I will be your waiter this evening!"
And while some of these trends are easier to identify as having an obvious base in the developed world, all are relevant to some less exagerated degree or another in every country in the world.
And while many would take from this set of Trends a negative thread, I would quickly add that there is an exciting Positive Outcome that is emanating from each one of these trends which includes,
- An exciting link between Hospitality and Entertainment which will attract Generation X.
- A friendlier more casual, less ostentacious environment in which to work and stay.
- A more profitable investment with quicker returns.
- Less consistency, more surprises, most pleasant and more genuine.
- Enjoyable jobs anywhere in the world..... for life.
- More consumer access to the truth.
- Better, healthier way to travel
- Sustainability and variety.
- Reduced poverty through labour pressures on our borders.
- International, exciting, variable industry careers, reduced turnover.