Luddites and the Modern Hospitality Industry

The pandemic has been an electric shock for hotels, especially as the latest variants have continued to jostle recovery efforts. While many hotel brands still yearn for the days of “high touch” hospitality where passionate, attentive and well-trained associates deliver service with a smile, those days are over.

The continued relevance of COVID-19 means that technology will be a cornerstone of operations in the future – and an increasingly dominant one at that – with what were seen as age-old service standards firmly in the past. This can be difficult to grasp in terms of what it means for the future of your organization, so we present the Luddites as a historical example with profound lessons on how to stay ahead of the trends. hospitality and customer expectations.

History has not been kind to the Luddites, nor has it been accurate. Our modern interpretation of these people is, in fact, wrong, and knowing the real story will help you understand both their motives and their actions in the moment – not through the omniscience of hindsight – as well as why they are important to this stage. pivotal moment for the hospitality industry.

A bit of historical nonsense

Today, the word “Luddite” has taken on a pejorative meaning for any individual who is tech-phobic or refuses to “go on the agenda” of any new digitized or digitized way of life. When they were most active in Britain, around the first two decades of the 1800s, amid the country’s rapid industrialization, they were branded terrorists, albeit with good intentions.

Throughout civilized history, creative destruction has feared those who are the losers of technological evolution, and coal-fired factories springing up all over England are putting many craftsmen out of work – not to mention the introduction of horrible working conditions for the burgeoning class. poor urban workers. The Luddites began as a virtuous protest movement to protect the economic interests of the recently unemployed, hoping to strike a balance between the newly wealthy industrialists of the cities and the usurped, largely rural artisans.

But radical factions quickly emerged within the Luddites, engaging in guerrilla sabotage across the countryside, which angered the aristocracy (who were now earning a fleet of silver from growing production national and export), inevitably getting the whole group outlawed. As history is written by the victors – in this case, the capitalists – we end up with the homogenized interpretation of the word. Luddite now means tenaciously opposing most forms of technological advancement, and yet we veil the events that led to this reduced definition. The Luddites were not necessarily abhorred by technology; they began as pacifists with the aim of protecting displaced businesses, seeking compromise in the face of rapid and uncontrolled change.

Lessons for dealing with home sharing

Consider how the Luddite movement evolved from lofty intentions to something more combative and what might apply from this example to the current model of our industry. Often we are so determined to preserve a modus operandi that instead of innovating internally to survive in the long term, we leave ourselves vulnerable to systemic creative destruction from outside forces.

Nothing demonstrates this better than the rise of home-sharing platforms, led by Airbnb. Is your chosen action in the face of this global creative destruction to complain and seek more protectionist laws from various governing bodies (i.e. to oppose new technologies)? Or do you think of Airbnb as just a simple iteration of supply and demand, where an influx of room supply (shared accommodation units) inevitably forces all current supply (hotels) to improve in order to justify their prices? ?

If the past two decades have taught us anything about tech companies, it’s that they move much faster than the law. As such, the best course of action is not to be a Luddite and pin your hopes on punitive fines and injunctions – as this could take years and travelers will have changed their behavior by then – but to adapt .

Important to consider in your response, here are three of the characteristics that make these colocation newcomers more adaptable to today’s economy:

  • Home-sharing inventory is introduced and managed on an individual basis, thus requiring far less capital for integration, brand differentiation and renovation, not to mention a more laissez-faire organizational structure that significantly reduces management requirements.
  • The technology stacks that underpin these home sharing platforms are more agile, less complex and better integrated, bringing inventory online faster, cheaper to manage (less labor and SaaS costs) and easier to use by the end consumer.
  • In a positive feedback loop, home-sharing platforms are training the next generation of customers not to expressly value the “premium” service of a traditional hotel, preferring instead a hands-off experience with fewer amenities but truly unique living spaces.

The message here is not to abandon ship. By listing these three benefits, we hope you can help discern the necessary changes you can make to appease the changing interests of young customers as well as the attributes that will serve as true defensible moats for your property in the future.

Adopt technology for high touch

In speeches to crowds around the world – before and after the pandemic – we have consistently pointed out that a hotel’s team is its greatest strength. Despite all the clues above that elevated touch is dying, the optimal solution is to embrace the technology so your teams can be even more tactile than ever (or hands-off if that’s what the IT wants). guest).

Reminiscing about the good old days of hospitality, the General Manager was front and center, knowing all guests by name and conducting a service orchestra to personalize the experience. Today, most managers are bogged down with emails, meetings, maintenance issues, and all the other issues that might get in the way of developing a real rapport and nurturing a vibrant social atmosphere.

By building better tech stacks, you help shift guest staff dynamics from transactional to interpersonal. While most home-sharing units use keypad inputs and only virtual contact with the host, you want your guests to leave your property thinking, “Wow they treated us like real friends and really made our stay special. Ironically, this lofty goal echoes one of Airbnb’s first intra-company slogans: a friend, not a reception.

Of course, there are countless other ways beyond service that can help a hotel resist creative destruction. Think physical aspects like location, golf courses, spas, restaurants, marinas, inspiring decor, themed rooms or lobby art. Perhaps you also have (or can develop) strong supply-side relationships, good branding, or exclusive access to other entities.

Any tool in your shed can work, but always keep in mind the true lesson of the Luddites. It is honorable to want to protect what has worked in the past, whether it is an operation, an SOP or a business structure with specific management roles. Nevertheless, change is inevitable and innovation is essential. If you don’t strive to meet customers where they’re headed, someone else will.

Larry Mogelonski
Mogel Consulting Limited Hotel

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About Imogene T. Bishop

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