Nothing is etched in stone: a jigger of creativity, common sense and a splash of know-how and there is no telling what magnificent things might emerge. Not everyone will like them of course, and there will be those who always say "It was better before". But can we seriously keep our blinders on while saying our prayers that nothing changes? Make no mistake, customers change and their expectations have evolved drastically.
The history of a revolution for the hotel industry and European tourism
Half a century ago, a winning duo created a revolutionary concept in France by bringing innovations from the United States that have been successfully adapted to the European market.They thus revolutionized the hotel industry because these innovations perfectly met the market's needs with a much higher level of comfort than average French people had in their homes. They were first installed with spacious 24m² rooms on the outskirts of large cities to reduce investment costs. They had private bathrooms - an unprecedented luxury at that time - as well as a catering concept and swimming pool. Everything was taken into consideration to reduce construction and operation costs while offering the customer dreams. The businessman could be certain as to the comfort he would find and that he would not be disappointed going to a Novotel. With this product the founders created the brand and had complete control over distribution since clients booked directly through the hotel. Revenues were thus possible at all levels.
Other pioneers made the leisure tourism industry flourish with all new concepts for the period that are totally adapted to the market which they quickly conquered. There was Gérard Brémond with Pierre&Vacances for mountain destinations, Gilbert Trigano with Club Méditerranée at the seaside, and Jacques Maillot with Nouvelles Frontières and Jacques Borel who completely revolutionized the world of catering. Each of them contributed to the transformation of a craft sector within a profitable and prosperous industry that reported steady growth for decades in France, Europe and the world. These tourism industry geniuses were outside the system, and they were able to take a good idea, the right concept that fully responded to the needs of the market at the time. The pure players of the Internet have also brought strong innovation through the digital revolution that has opened the doors of the world to hosting providers and made life easier for customers.
What innovations will we see in the sector in the 21st century?
This cycle is over, a new period is beginning, the deal has changed, the world has changed, who will the next pioneers be? In this era of the 3-D printer that offers possibilities whose limits remain unknown, which concepts will change the market? How is it that some hotels are so timid when it comes to renovating? Is it due to a lack of R&D internally? Did marketing services fail? Was there a structural problem in management? An inability to think outside the box? It would appear that these hotel groups no longer have development services that are powerful enough or the necessary ressources to completely reinvent themselves, and that they also don't have good mastery of new technologies.
Today, the global brands are Booking, Expedia, Google and Airbnb. There are very few hotel brands that have global reach. Hoteliers lost the digital platform because they didn't have the technology. They're missing the mark, and if they don't react they lose the product. While Airbnb has fallen into a gaping hole, we can hope that men and women of the trade will be able to keep market share by offering concepts that are as innovative as those of their predecessors. Here and there, fine initiatives are being taken, innovation remains in the DNA of some, but we are still waiting for the spark that will light up the sector the way pioneers did a half century ago.
Hybrid concepts work well. Mixed-use would appear to be the future with co-working, co-living, wellness, catering concepts, childcare… we are increasingly making a number of opportunities and services available to customers the way the new hotel model brought all new comfort to their clientele a half century ago. Like it or not, innovation happens through the product. A very strong product results in a successful experience, to make something good you need something that is very good. Conrad Hilton's mantra is no longer fitting, Location, Location, Location has become Product, Digital and Brand. The new mantra that should be adopted by all professionals in the hospitality sector is: The Good (Product), the Bad (Digital, the crafty merchant that knows how to become indispensable), the Ugly (Brand, which must have a formidable striking force).
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