Editorial
Georges Panayotis' column

6 October 2017

Fracture, rupture, humanity

Georges Panayotis

How can the image of hospitality be improved when a good share of hotels has been weakened by the trivialization and aging of the product and by the turnover and demotivation of personnel who are often poorly paid and poorly regarded? Not to mention the value for price that is often considered excessive.

Lately there has been talk of rupture regarding new hybrid products, hotels, and also inns that respond to the needs of millennials, post adolescents or carefree adults who wish live and share a community experience. If we look at the overall picture we can finally see innovations on certain segments, but is this a real trend? The question deserves to be asked, but the answer is not so evident.

What is certain is thar a rupture took place in our profession a few decades ago when we decided to subcontract everything: housekeeping, laundry, catering, maintenance, recruitment and even management. But when you subcontract everything, you lose control and become a customer of external service providers and wind up being at the mercy of their productivity, their reliability and their competitiveness. Paralyzed by contracts in all branches of business, hoteliers lose their ability to act as well as their control over business operations. In order to be profitable, retain clientele and satisfy them it is important to keep a manoeuvring margin in order to adapt and be able to react to market fluctuations and customer expectations, especially in times of crisis.

It is urgent to ask the right questions, big data will radically change the founding principles of all trades including the hospitality industry. In what trades will humans be able to compete with artificial intelligence tomorrow? To what aspect of the industry can the hotel employee add value with respect to all these algorithms? This is no longer science fiction: this is real, in the daily lives of everyone in the four corners of the world. As human beings our added value may be summed up in our individual characteristics that differentiate us from our new competitors, robots. We are intelligent, so are machines – maybe even more so…, we are sensitive, and have the ability to interpret and convey emotions that even the latest state of the art robots are incapable of transcribing and interpreting; most of all we are versatile and it is precisely this versatility that needs to be further developed. Our ability to adapt has allowed our species to stand the test of time, and we can make a good bet that we will also be able to overcome the current challenges.

But in order to do this it is important to reinvest in human resources, put the employee back at the center of a property’s projects, upset organizational charts and missions, rethink welcoming and providing services, it is in this area that the long-awaited rupture can be realized. It is by putting the focus back on the people who make the company, by valorizing their missions and relying on their skills, motivations, know-how and enthusiasm that it will be possible to bring some extra soul that is lacking cruelly in many of today’s hotels.

The hotel of tomorrow will no longer be just a hotel, it will be a place of life, a place of welcome and encounters that is integral to the destination. Hospitality, in the noble sense of the word, will be the key word. The new concepts make no mistake when they digitize tasks that have no added value – such as check-in and check-out - and take pride in a homey welcome in a cocooning atmosphere with employees all willing to offer advice about the destination in order to experience it "like a local". By reviving our humanity, which had been quashed by individualism in recent years, we will succeed in reconquering our peers, who are our customers, and with them, perfect servuction which is the key to the success of our profession.

 

Publication director