#Operator Forum: The art of saying no

4 min reading time

Published on 29/05/24 - Updated on 30/05/24

Hospitality Operator Forum Michael Levie

Michael Levie, co-founder of CitizenM and transformation consultant for the hospitality sector, discussed about the art of saying no, while the discussion was constructed around the following questions: How do I build my product? What's the right balance between the ideal product on paper and the reality? What are the levers of operational profitability? What about the next hotel cycle?

Where do we stand to your opinion in the hotel cycle?  

Well cycle is an interesting word. Because it is obviously the most fresh cycle in our memory is  what happened during Covid and how we got out of it. If you look it a little bit longer and the innovation pattern and what happened to our industry I think the cycle is very long, very slow. 

And I do believe that our industry has learned that there are other ways to do it, than we have done it in the past. 

If there is something we should have learned from this short- term  cycle, guests have changed, except way different ways of offering hospitality.

There is this dilemma between answering the guest’s needs and being profitable in a more demanding context. Nowadays, which markers shall we use to define what we want and what we don’t want for our activity?

I think that there are many industries with data based decisionsled organisations. So data tells them what to do. 

But as an industry, we really manage with our gutfeel, and we are insuffisiently leaning on data. And we have insufficient data. Simply because our systems are not highly architectured enough together. 

I believe that our guests have gone through a major transition and we as an industry we are ignoring that. 

But when you are a small organisation maybe is not that easy to collect that data and do it something interesting for your operations?

I think in the past there were no systems  that were easy not to implement.  But today there are SAS systems off the shelf, that basically you can operate, especially smaller independent hotels. 

It is all possible today. Why are we not willing to? Because people are afraid to make that switch. They are comfortable with the old, the new is too unknown for them. 

At Citizen M, we had made a ton of efforts and mistakes in order to get to the level where we are right now. 

How can we manage to work on our employee brand and  client public brand? Should these two be different?

So if we give our employees too many tasks they have to have their computers all day long. Then, they won't be able to provide services. If we take things digitally and they have time again to provide that service in a smile, that works both ways. 

I think technology and digital makes us facilitate so that we can have time to provide services. 

The best way not to make money is to say yes to everything. But isn’t it harder today to say NO?


I do believe that we, as an industry, are focused on yes. We try to facilitate with everything. 

The art to say no, is to really understand what we have to provide, and what it needs to be cut out. 

I do believe that the most important word that needs to be introduced to the vocabulary of most of the organisations is to say No. 

If you were to start a new adventure as Citizen M, what would you change today if anything?

I believe that we have done in the past is still something  pretty very unique. 

Few pieces of advice for the audience and the young entrepreneurs who are willing to succeed in the hospitality industry?

Follow your heart and be happy every day. And don’t look so much on the competitions.

The second thing is that I believe it is more important to find the right organisation to work with. So find the people with the same values. 



Hotel Group

  • CitizenM Netherlands
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