By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
The pandemic continues to plague our operations and practically all aspects of our daily lives. In 2020, we may have found ourselves feeling disconnected from the world around us and losing touch with old friends as we all shuffled about to adapt to the new normal.
That’s why it was great to reconnect early in January with Cornelia Kausch, a veteran hotelier who hails from Germany and who I worked with in what seems like several lifetimes ago. Currently living in Berlin, Cornelia is the founder of CK Hospitality Advisors, and she can offer a unique perspective on where hospitality is headed as we anxiously slide into the decade ahead.
Tell us a little bit about your career and experiences.
I am a senior expert in the hospitality industry and true hotel all-rounder, born into the business and smelling its air for over 35 years in different positions. As a member of a 200-year landmark hotel family business with a Michelin-star restaurant, knowledge of such areas as F&B, conference operations, logistics and ROI comes naturally.
As a coach and consultant, I enjoy working with diverse groups of people on an international platform. I am a sounding board, a paraphraser, a challenger and an inspirer of business professionals. I also invest time and energy as a mentor for bachelor and executive postgraduates at EHL as well as professionals of iW50 INSEAD Alumni UK, INSEAD ON-TRACK Germany and Reach UK.
How has the COVID situation altered your business practice?
I have taken my whole business online. Thankfully, I had already started back in 2018, so the challenges from a digital perspective were not there for me. I lost some of my clients and gained new ones. Right now, business is flourishing; currently 95% of my work has come from professional executive and leadership coaching.
How do you think hotels will have to continue to adapt to maintain their relevance?
We have been devasted and we need new ideas to see us through. Maybe a hotel will become once again a ‘one stop-shop for services’ for guests as well as for the immediate neighbourhood. This could mean being a safe space to go, a gathering place, a place of belonging and maybe include serviced apartments, elderly homes, a daycare center, common workspaces, laundry or numerous other community utilities.
Hybrid forms of meetings are going to stay while big conferences may become even bigger and much more global. New pricing models will be needed to calculate ROIs and everything what has been done prior to COVID19 will need to be questioned. However, client centricity was and will be even more important than ever before; anything which worked digitally should be an integral part of the hotel offering.
Right now, the major chains have a big role to play as they set standards. Do you see their role diminishing or increasing?
If they are able to adapt and be agile, yes, they will stay relevant. Some jobs in HQ will become obsolete. They will need to let go of their tight HQ control centre to more performance-driven reporting for the sake of the operation and not for the sake of protecting these HQ jobs. Recruitment and development of people is already a different ball game as we need people with different skills, driven by personal motivation and not control.
There is a lot of investment set for our hotel industry over the next five years in terms of new and renovated product. Is it too late, though?
Interestingly, I addressed this with a client and his project which is supposed to open in 2022. The client said, “Well, but the shell is there.” I think concepts need to be revisited, such as in-room exercise integration (and the opportunity to upsell those categories) in lieu of the common fitness center. Others off the top of my head may be easily accessible organic food parlours for both locals and overnight guests while also keeping all the services under one roof for efficient management. Pricing should also be calculated by the square meter (or square foot) and not be only rooms dependent.
How do alternate accommodations play into the future of traditional hotels?
These will flourish in the new normal because people are now in the habit of being self-contained and getting all the room features that are important to them. Yet there will be a host of new players emerging besides Airbnb – Under the Doormat is one such example of how niche entrants will carve out segments in the home sharing travel economy.
What technologies do you believe should be embraced by the hotels as a priority in 2021?
Everything needs to be embraced as far as technologies are concerned. Depending on the size, the location and the business model, digitalization through and through is what is needed. Here property owners also need to be part of the team and invest instead of just sticking to any kind of valuations like what they had done some five years ago.
If you had to describe the hotel experience in 2030, how would it be different than today?
Picture this. Already when setting my eyes on a destination, I would be linked up to the hotels that are within my pattern of being, based on big data analytics. Booking is easy – completed within 30 seconds, including payment details and fulfilling any extra wishes or amenities I might want.
Closer to my date of arrival, the hotel would send me tailormade offers for my well-being, enhancing my stay and I would be highly inclined to book these. All is seamless up to the moment that I enter the lobby. Here I am greeted by name by a real person, who has a full understanding about me as a ‘Persona’, and is trained to handle me, recognizing my needs and accompanying me into my room.
Digitalization within the property is used to support my well-being during the stay then real people would individualize and tailor my experience, touching my emotions and making me want to come back. It is all very ‘high tech meets high touch’ where the former enables the latter. It’s us relearning how to be ‘hosts’, reflecting what this business is truly about. Welcome any opportunity to better personalize our services, then continue to elevate the experience for both guests as well as your team.
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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry or Adam directly.