A look at how hotel owners are pushing to skimp on the guest experience
Sean O’Neill at skift did a great job providing insight into how hotels feel about their brands and the products they offer their guests. In a new interview, he highlights a major hotel asset manager who wants to see luxury hotels end turndown service and hotels eliminate food service.
“So why don’t we close the kitchen, have a great bar, and let people order from GrubHub or Uber Eats,” asked (Michelle Russo, CEO of HotelAVE (Asset Value Enhancement)). She suggests more properties should install these lockers that keep items hot and cold like they have in Vegas.
As for turndown service, she notes that many guests check in late and may only stay one night at luxury city hotels, so why even bother offering it? Also where a guest Rejects Decline but the offer And Selection is the essence of luxury. However, what she wants to see is hotels stripping everything to see what they can get away with.
Let’s test and remove something and see what kind of feedback it gets to figure out the value proposition.
However, we already know what happens when you limit cleaning!
She also wants to automate more functions to reduce the number of employees.
“Guest chat features (to replace phone calls) exist, but they’re not widely adopted or well-used,” she said. “There are tools to take room service orders online, but they are not widely used. Work still needs to be done on mobile check-in and kiosk check-in.”
Guests accepted fewer staff and services during the pandemic, so why not try to make this permanent? They are resisting the restoration of service.
“We had to start those conversations and say, ‘Look, we’ve been successful with fewer managers and gotten good guest comments. So what’s the rationale for bringing more managers back? Why are we adding all these extra amenities?’”
The reason for this – given the hotel brand standards – is that she looks for those standards to dumb them down. And you can understand that the modern hotel chain is trying to maximize the fee income of hotel owners, and hotel owners who want to benefit from a chain’s branding to attract customers while spending as little as possible on those guests.
When they hire the brand, they want the benefit without having to make the investment. The asset-light model creates an incentive conflict between brands and owners.
In the past, chains required investment and were monitored to ensure this happened. Surveillance fell away during the pandemic. This hotel manager describes it as chains “collaborating” with the owners. Chains allowed hotels to skimp, either out of sympathy for the owners’ plight or fear that those owners would leave and they would have greater difficulty attracting new ones.
The Cooperation Saving on the guest experience maximizes revenue in the short term, for owners who price based on what guests expect but don’t receive, and for chains who have happy owners who are happy to keep writing checks, but also value the value of the diminish brand. And in the asset-light model, brand—which succinctly communicates to guests the quality of experience they expect, and therefore drives guests to use brand as a shortcut to selecting a hotel—is effectively the only value a chain holds over time.
And when you remove services, you ultimately erase the distinction between hotels and shared apartments. Airbnb has been the biggest threat to the hospitality industry as it has massively increased inventory and competition, but hotels are responding by cutting costs and eliminating the things that differentiate their product from Airbnb. Imagine that.