The brands are confused about what technology the consumer uses, and what technology hotels should be using. They encouraged owners to invest in 20-year leases on televisions and then nobody watched video on demand, leaving everyone feeling burned.
Guests don’t need technology, they need to feel loved again. And whether that’s with a brand badge or whether that’s as an independent, people are going to hotels for the experience, whether it’s for business or pleasure. They want to know that they’re going to be looked after, they want to be known, not just be a loyalty card number. People want to be loved and I don’t think that they get that currently from the brands.
Hotels have forgotten the basics of customer experience, which starts with what happens before they arrive and how they communicate. Most hotels will only communicate by text message, or email, or telephone. Whereas actually, the customer wants to use WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, but hotels just aren’t geared up to do any of that. It doesn’t matter what brand you’ve got, it matters how you’re engaging your guests. The reason why the OTAs have done it so well is because the guest customer experience of booking was so much better than any other hotel platform.
The pandemic has highlighted bigger questions about whether the brands are making the right decisions for individual owners. One area where the mismatch between owners and brands is most pointed is where short-term owners such as private equity groups start looking at their value prospects on exit. They would rather operate on an absolute shoestring and get the multiples as high as they possibly can, which makes total sense.
But there’s a completely diverged sort of stakeholder alignment there, the hotel operator is looking at operating long term, they’ve got a very fixed objective from a systems point of view. How are you going to join them together? How can you make investments work for all sides? The marketplace is changing in front of us in terms of owners looking more closely at what they want the brands for – which is filling rooms – and whether the brands are doing a decent job. If you went to Booking.com and asked them to sell a hotel, could they do it cheaper? Could you do it yourself with some generic technology which is available off the shelf?
Even in business travel you will see people choosing which hotel they stay in based on the experience and not the points they’re going to earn. People have spent a year and a half working in their kitchens, they’re a little bit sick of being in confined spaces, so being in a monolithic hotel for days when they’re away from home is not that appealing. You’re better off just staying on Zoom.
By Kevin Edwards, director of global business development at Alliants