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
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
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
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
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.