From Flashing Lights to Unpretentious Experiences

EHL Students - Bachelor | 26 May, 2016

Dubai, Hong Kong, London and New York: only a few of the favorite dream workplaces for hospitality graduates. Something about them shouts luxury, reminding us of our deepest ambitions and ideal career ladders. For a long time, their competitive managerial job offers together with their reputation for exclusive holidays, have signaled nothing but success to us. The flashing lights of these big cities are obviously overwhelming for both hoteliers and tourists. However, do they really offer the best opportunities and potential today?

"An era of transformation has begun in the hospitality industry, which will lead to instability and profound management changes" explains Sara Fedele, Marketing Communications Manager, Università Della Svizzera Italiana.

The needs of customers have dramatically changed since the massive world globalization and the digital revolution; and, unfortunately, many well-known hotel brands are struggling to adapt to them.

We all agree that running a business today is more complicated. The substantial developments in the tourism sector have led to larger choices and more demanding customers. The way we research, book and plan our travels is faster, easier and much more fun.

"New generation of travellers sees luxury more in the storytelling of having an experience, rather than in the abundance of luxury items." concluded a study of leading hotels of the world undertaken by the Global Hotel Consultancy HVS London. The capability of creating life experiences is not easily acquired with the appropriate financial assets. Instead, it requires human knowledge and its cultivation, which is commonly overlooked in our market.

During the NYU Investment Conference last year, Kirk Kinsell, President and CEO of Loews Hotels & Resorts, said that one of the three main concerns for hotels managers is that they are becoming mostly bottom-line driven. The intense focus on the growing competition and contracting market shares fails to deliver a supreme guest experience, which is supposed to be the heart of every hotel.

Hospitality managers have come to the realization that many restaurants’ and hotels’ success depends on external rather than internal factors. Customers are looking everywhere for different destinations which address aspects such as authenticity, wellness, food trends, sustainability, health and design. Therefrom, tourism attractions will need a tangible and conceptual engagement to the external environment.

While the traditional hotel chains move slowly through a strategy transition by exhaustive market analysis and large structural changes, many young entrepreneurs have started to reinvent the hospitality world. It’s not a surprise that the two founders of the CitizenM Hotels are having so much success by featuring a new business model based on “affordable luxury for people”, introducing “the end of the hotel room as we know it” and a hybrid between leisure and business, called “bleisure”.

Managerial positions of multinational hotels such as Hilton, Intercontinental and Le Meridien include now Vice Presidents for Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Creativity and Technology. Other chain hotels such as Kempinski have decided to take a stronger culinary approach, by emphasizing on the local restaurant choices or by creating new concepts with renowned chefs. In the meantime, independent boutique hotels and even “poshtels”, a mix of posh and hostels, are driving profitability across supply chain and broadening the offer of unpretentious, smart and fresh experiences.

Consumers are the ones driving the change in the hotel industry. Destinations responding to their concerns and habit are on the top of the list; that is why the concept of “lifestyle hotels” has been adopted by major brands lately. However, there are still a lot of gaps to be filled and suppliers have a lot of potential to reinvent.

Author: Ana Sofía Acuña - EHL Bachelor Student 

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