By Georges Panayotis
After battling against all forces to confront the profound changes in our sector, we react rather than act. And yet, Churchill once said, "We must take change by the hand or rest assuredly, change will take us by the throat." Aside from a few cosmetic changes for some, none of the current players has revolutionized its product or services.
What we are seeing, however, is that the responsibilities are shifting… the monkey is changing backs… brand owners no longer own both the walls and the business. Today, franchisees support investment costs and must make up for years of backlog. Meanwhile, rather than invest to modernize and maintain the supply, operators have chosen to invest in faraway markets or other types of accommodation. But within this squaring of the circle, we can only observe that the problem has grown more complex. Owner operators will have to break away, and within this metamorphosis what will happen to brands? In France, the economy and budget supplies represent more than 60% of the chain hotel and independent supply combined, if we include the midscale that accounts for close to 90% of the total room supply.
But some operators are turning to the high-end market with an aim to offset distribution and maximize their EBITDA. What about this economy and midscale offer? How will it remain profitable and competitive? New hybrid concepts have been appearing on the market for about ten years now. Hannes Spanring announced at the Global Lodging Forum last April that he has no less than 120 projects underway in promising destinations as well as 25 properties in the pipeline in the United States.
More than 2500 years ago, Heraclitus made this observation: "The only thing that is constant is change", one cannot say they were unaware of it. The offensive is there and well established, but who will retaliate and how? New-generation concepts offer products that are cheaper to produce (such as Qbic, which is developing a technology that allows it to build quickly and at low cost), where much of servuction is digitized with strong and differentiating products, very carefully selected locations (no more under-serviced suburban areas) and staff reduced to the strict minimum for the most part. Guests check themselves in, digital tools follow them, guide them and even encourage additional sales. The staff, for their part, develops skills but also, and above all, know-how and all this at the service of the sacrosanct customer experience. In the end, it is the customer who works and is delighted to do so!
Competition between destinations will intensify, not only to attract tourists, but also to attract new projects, and it will become necessary to attract all stakeholders, from the investor to the operator. To do so, it is imperative to federate all the players in the territory, to communicate effectively and also to provide potential investors and managers with effective monitoring tools for the destination. The appeal of destinations, and therefore their tourist income, is at stake. To ensure that they hold all the cards, resources must be decentralized to the territories so that each tourist destination can work alongside professionals to develop creative and relevant communication methods and promote the DNA of our territories.