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Hotel Industry Trends in 2009: A Lighthearted Approach

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By Daniel Edward Craig, January 2009

The new year has begun and so far it’s not pretty. With the hotel industry facing the lowest occupancy rates since 1971, a number of alarming trends are emerging. In the midst of all the doom and gloom I thought I’d take a more lighthearted approach to my predictions for the hotel industry in 2009.

1. Everything learned in revenue management training will go out the window. Hysteria will rule the day as hotels drop rates, get indignant when competitors lower rates in response, and then panic and drop rates even further. All inventory will be treated as distressed inventory, erasing years of brand-equity-building and training travelers to look for the best deals on third-party websites. It will take years to recover from these rate wars, and the only victor will be the traveler. 

2. Travelers will become more demanding and less forgiving. Smelling the hotel industry’s desperation to fill rooms, travelers will demand even deeper discounts and more value add-ons, while at the same time refusing to tolerate the cuts to services hotels will be forced to implement to stay afloat, posting nasty comments on TripAdvisor like “Save your money! This hotel has gone to hell!!”

3. Service levels will nosedive. The labor shortage crisis of 2008, when hoteliers blamed poor service levels on the lack of employee resources, will give way to the job shortage crisis of 2009, when hoteliers will blame poor service levels on tight labor budgets. Managers will be forced to cover frontline shifts to save labor costs, thereby revealing they have no clue how their department operates, resulting in a deluge of missed wakeup calls, accounting errors and guests checked into occupied rooms. 

4. Eco-friendly initiatives will be tossed into the recycling bin. Faced with the realization that going green costs money, hotels will opt for programs that guilt the guest into making the sacrifices, such as the now-ubiquitous optional towel and sheet replacement program. Having discovered that guests will tolerate plastic recycling bins and off-white tissue paper, hotels will begin to phase out those adorable little bottles of shampoo, blackberry jam and Dijon mustard in favor of “eco-friendly” (cheap) bulk offerings.

5. Automation and do-it-yourself options will replace costly employees. Hotel managers, faced with the horror of having to deal with guests themselves, will consider previously unthinkable initiatives like automated check-in kiosks. New labor-saving programs will include make-your-own-bed-and-breakfast packages, do-it-yourself luggage carts, and computers standing in for concierges. Meanwhile, all gratuitous positions created during the halcyon days, like “tanning concierge”, “dream butler” and “pillow consultant”, will be summarily retired.

6. The trend toward offering more healthful food choices in restaurants, room service and mini-bars will be reversed as hotels realize that cheeseburgers, Coke and Kit Kats sell better and are more profitable. 

7. Lifestyle hotels will spring up as quickly as Starbucks outlets are closing. Customization will be taken a step further, with such options as the daily repainting of rooms to match the guest’s wardrobe, smart lighting that adjusts according to the guest’s mood, and hotels designed exclusively for germophobes, anarchists and narcissists. Meanwhile, lifestyle hotels will continue to confuse guests with cutesy names for traditional positions like “comfort consultant” for housekeeper, “personal nutritionist” for waitress and “ambassador to happiness” for front desk agent. 

8. Complimentary amenities will mysteriously vanish. “Amenity Creep”, the one-upmanship game hotels played during prosperous times by adding superfluous items like lip balm, wrinkle cream and nose-hair trimmers, will give way to “Amenity Retreat”, in which all but essential items will be removed and guests will be charged for non-essential items like blankets, soap and hot water. Meanwhile, dog-friendly hotels will be phased out as hotels realize that dogs are not hotel-friendly. 

9. The boutique-hotel-as-nightclub trend will spread to traditional hotels like Ritz Carlton, Fairmont and Four Seasons. Lobbies will morph into late-night clubs, with Bach concertos replaced by techno grooves from in-house DJs. Traditional doormen in Beefeater-style uniforms will be supplanted by lobby hostesses in booty shorts, and the mantra “It’s my pleasure, sir” will surrender to “Hey, no problem, man.” 

10. Standalone hotels will be a thing of the past. Mixed-use developments, in which hotels are housed in the same complex as condos, retail outlets and office space and condo owners shoulder the burden of costly hotel construction by paying for access to services they will never use, will expand to include hospitals, churches and crematoriums to ensure guests never check out. 



 

Daniel Edward Craig’s third mystery novel, Murder at Graverly Manor, comes out in April 2009. Craig has worked for luxury hotels across Canada, most recently as general manager of Opus Hotel in Montreal. His blog provides a frank and entertaining look at issues in the hotel at www.danieledwardcraig.com
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Contact:

 Daniel Edward Craig 
dcraig@telus.ne

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Also See: Home Sweet Hotel; Living in a Hotel Not as Glamorous As it Sounds / Daniel Edward Craig / October 2008
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