Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, examines the use of technology by hotel chains and its lack of appeal to the next-gen workforce.
My fascination with dinosaurs has been a captivating interest since childhood. Ranging from early indestructible toys and eventually morphing into the late-night watching of the Japanese movie Godzilla. Size mattered in the fight for world domination and big, bigger, biggest was the order of the day. Eventually, my attention drifted and dinosaurs remained cool but they lost their luster and moved way down the pecking order to aliens, zombies, time travellers, and goth pursuits.
Generally speaking, the extinction of the dinosaurs was some 65 or so, million years ago and the trigger was either climate change or maybe a geological event, but at the end of the day, the epic creatures were toast in short order. Gone, but not forgotten, though relegated to Jurassic streaming, theme parks, and Marvelmania.
Today, my mind wanders a zig-zag course about what will happen to the hotel industry after the present madness has subsided? Scale, economics, safety, and disruption are all things that keep me awake in those maddening pre-dawn hours. You know those right? The silent time, when you are alone to fight the madness that lurks just outside, but remain safe at least for the moment, tucked into your designer duvet with a threatening world looming outside. Seconds from disaster.
My current angst, amongst many, is one that is focused on the future of the hotel business. Over the past decade, I have watched the allure of our industry fade as the next-gen enters the workforce. Somehow the service sector has lost its mojo to the best and brightest minds rolling off the assembly belt. Silicon tech, private equity, start-ups, and blockchain typologies are captivating the talent pool, leaving hotels and hospitality out in the cold.
This winter of my discontent is only made worse when I realise this evaporating talent pool can best be summed up when you look at how hotel chains have addressed the advances of technology over the past two decades. Look no further than lame brand standards that have opted for dumbed-down technology solutions such as Fidelio or Opera that assume hotel staff are unable to perform any task beyond data entry. Filling in the blanks and close the ranks. Yes, while the lurking danger of the OTA industry basically backdoored the entire hotel business, the best response was again cookie cutter-led towards a staid revenue management regime which essentially was like showing up an hour after happy hour and getting fleeced for a V&T at full price. A day late and a dollar short.
Hotel chains with their ignominious brand standards have created a culture of clerks at a juncture of time when technology is changing our world day in and day out. So when we look around and wonder why the best minds are shifting to other businesses, we have to look no further to how the dumbing down of hotel tech and how it reflects an industry unable to empower, innovate, or adapt to the influence of trends beyond the safety of our own little box-like world of hotels.
What I wonder about most these days is just how relevant hotel chains will be in trying to recapture their momentum after the pandemic? Resource stressed, severed loyalty from customers, staff, and owners, and increasingly non-competitive in the greater business world that requires talent to advance the industry? Suddenly hotels have to create their own new business streams with social media, or get beyond the antique, outdated business plan and tap into the amazing new technology that is changing our world. Only one thing is missing. The people who will drive change, as they seemingly have for the most part, left our industry and departed the box for greener pastures. Will they come back, or will this business go the way of the dinosaurs. Only time will tell that story I’m afraid.