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Think back on the 90s, it's not so long ago! It was a time when hotels proudly displayed the cable company's name on their door, alongside their name because not everyone had it at home. Wide-eyed travelers discovered fully equipped bathrooms, quality bedding and sophisticated decoration that wafted them away from their everyday banality. It was a time when the hotel product itself still constituted a real-life modern, or even futurist, experience.

Hotel brands gradually established themselves through standardization, proved reassuring and innovative with respect to the diverse, somewhat incongruous, "independent" hotels where the best and worst could be found side by side. And then progressively, another logic was established that was more focused on profitability and a smaller financial investment.

While this does not mean that the hotel product remained unchanged, each improvement only brought more comfort or technology without causing any real revolution. Worse, hotel equipment fell a bit behind with respect to homes, which had become better equipped with flat screens and Wi-Fi access. The hotel industry entered the age of functionality and slipped into the background. Reassuring standardization became boring.

Each year the arrival of new revolutionary concepts on the market convinced us that creativity was still alive. Boutique hotels, lifestyle hotels, Citizen M, Yotel, Qbic, Mama Shelter, Generator, Buddy Hotel, 25-Hours, Cocoon Hotel, ... the list is long, and even includes concepts by groups - Element, Edition, Aloft,... yet it is misleading because in the end the total volume of these "new age" capacities is ridiculously low with respect to the volume of rooms available on the market.

So the customer looked elsewhere, first at prices, favoring online sales channels offering the best discounts on accommodations without very significant differences and then at alternative offers such as AirBnB and others with the feeling they were living a new experience for less.

And if the answer to these two types of loss of customers were in a real marketing product, in an effort to differentiate in order to resuscitate the desire to experience the hotel as a renewed pleasure rather than a banality.

The automobile industry is very instructive in this regard. In a very competitive universe, innovation is an obligation. In addition to "concept cars", which spark the imagination at each automobile fair, the industry constantly introduces technological innovations that bring improvements in driving comfort, security, and pleasure in general. There is something for everyone, a beginning of sophistication for the upscale models, decreased emissions for environmentalists, built-in screens for family cars, technological gadgets for city cars... This industry has understood that standardization was only a safe chassis on which to build and personalize to make the difference. At the end of the race the industry progresses overall and brands know how to stand out in terms of both product and communications.

Conditions for this success inevitably require investment and production management, an approach that the hotel industry has not followed. It is time to change certain asset-light strategies that led to a total loss of the hotel product. As a global industry, in terms of both location and tourist arrivals, the hotel industry cannot be simply satisfied with excruciatingly slowly developed experimental concepts. It can only hope for economies of scale by entering the industrial era for new standardized concepts. It is a veritable financial commitment which is not exactly in keeping with the times.

The other alternative for a service industry is to consider which processes offer productivity margins. The choice is not easy and does not come without risks, but as with any major turnaround, the one who shoots first takes home the prize. The time has come to seduce Prince Charming - the client - once again, casting off the rags to don the ball gown. 

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is President of MKG Consulting. Born in a family of hoteliers for three generations, Georges Panayotis, 51, left Greece at the age of 18 to pursue his studies in Political Sciences and to obtain his Master in Management at the French University of Paris Dauphine. He then joined the Novotel chain, which will become the Accor Group, to manage the International Marketing Division. After developing specific marketing tools for the hotel industry, he left the group in 1986 to start his own company, MKG Conseil, now MKG Group. In twenty years, the group has become the European leader in studies and consulting for the Hospitality industry. The company employs over 70 people in four departments: marketing studies, database, quality control and trade press, with two publications HTR Magazine and Hotel Restaurant Weekly. The company helped the development of over 2,000 hotels in France and in Europe, with offices in Paris, Cyprus and London. Georges Panyotis is the founder of the Worldwide Hospitality Awards and the Hotel Makers Forum, and the author of several publications on Marketing and Operations in the hotel business, He is a regular consultant for several television channels, among which Bloomberg Television, and radio networks.

Contact: Georges Panayotis

g.panayotis@mkg-group.com

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