The Then and Now of the Ho­tel In­dus­try

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Neels Bezuiden­hout Im­age © istockphoto.com

Neels Bezuiden­hout (N.B), op­er­a­tions man­ager of The Cap­i­tal Ho­tel School, was re­cently in­ter­viewed on de­vel­op­ments within the ho­tel in­dus­try and the ne­ces­sity of con­tin­ued train­ing for em­ploy­ees within this in­dus­try.

SLOW: Be­tween when you started in hos­pi­tal­ity and now, how has the ho­tel in­dus­try changed?

N.B: The sin­gle fac­tor that has caused the ho­tel in­dus­try to evolve most is in­creased guest aware­ness. In the past, ho­tel brands could cre­ate per­ceived value of their prod­uct through mar­ket­ing, cus­tomer loy­alty pro­grammes, and re­ly­ing heav­ily on word of mouth. But now it is pos­si­ble for first-time guests to eas­ily com­pare prop­er­ties, view fa­cil­i­ties, and read re­views in real time due to the ad­vances in In­ter­net use and the avail­abil­ity of in­for­ma­tion. This level of ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion has given guests a form of silent bar­gain­ing power where, what is not com­mu­ni­cated to them through elec­tronic me­dia, is deemed to be non-ex­is­tent. Guests tend to miss out on great ho­tels not mar­keted cor­rectly on­line.

SLOW: What is your hon­est opin­ion on Airbnb ver­sus ho­tels?

N.B: In a way I be­lieve that Airbnb has in fact as­sisted the ho­tel in­dus­try in keep­ing it hon­est. It has caused the in­dus­try to start think­ing out­side the box and to re­alise that their guest ser­vice is ul­ti­mately what sells, more so than the fa­cil­i­ties. Airbnb prop­er­ties of­ten sim­u­late some grand ho­tels in the avail­abil­ity of fa­cil­i­ties but are un­able to cre­ate an un­for­get­table guest ex­pe­ri­ence through in­ter­ac­tion. In the words of Amer­i­can en­tre­pre­neur and mo­ti­va­tional speaker, Jim Rohn: “One of the great­est gifts you can give to any­one is the gift of at­ten­tion.” I like to be­lieve that this will ul­ti­mately be­come the de­cid­ing fac­tor when guests book a place to stay.

SLOW: Which chal­lenges do you think the ho­tel in­dus­try faces?

N.B: The in­flu­ence of the In­ter­net on pub­lic per­cep­tion of ho­tel lodg­ing, labour re­la­tions and union is­sues, con­tin­u­ous ris­ing en­ergy costs, keep­ing up with guests’ tech­no­log­i­cal ex­pec­ta­tions, cost of con­struc­tion and main­te­nance in the built en­vi­ron­ment, re­ces­sion-like eco­nomic con­di­tions, and bud­get-cut­ting in the travel spend of busi­nesses.

SLOW: Where are the op­por­tu­ni­ties for new hote­liers in the lo­cal mar­ket, if any?

N.B: The cur­rent evolv­ing trend is for peo­ple to steer away from chains or groups. Con­sumers are con­stantly on the look­out for be­spoke, bou­tique ex­pe­ri­ences. This leads to a world of op­por­tu­nity wherein one can sell ex­pe­ri­ences that are out­side of the norm. With South Africa hav­ing a mod­er­ate cli­mate, en­trepreneurs think in the line of open-air ho­tels and restau­rants, re­ju­ve­nat­ing de­cay­ing city cen­tres, and pop-up ho­tels (like those seen at mu­si­cal fes­ti­vals). Th­ese type of op­por­tu­ni­ties can be seized for rel­a­tively low en­try in­vest­ment com­pared to clas­sic, fullser­vice ho­tel ven­tures.

SLOW: Which is your pre­ferred ho­tel brand when trav­el­ling lo­cally and why?

N.B: I like Protea as a truly South African brand, but I also lean to­wards pri­vate, in­ti­mate, and out-of-the-box ex­pe­ri­ences that in­di­vid­ual/owner-run ho­tels of­fer. Th­ese type of ho­tels are a rare find, there­fore Airbnb is al­ways an op­tion where one can look to cre­ate one’s own ex­pe­ri­ences in unique set­tings.

SLOW: How do you feel South African ho­tels com­pare with in­ter­na­tional ho­tels?

N.B: I be­lieve that South African ho­tels gen­er­ally com­pare very well with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. If one takes price into con­sid­er­a­tion, and the ef­fect of a weak rand, South African ho­tels gen­er­ally of­fer some of the best value for money in­ter­na­tion­ally. Also, with South Africa be­ing such a beau­ti­ful coun­try, the set­tings, sur­round­ing land­scapes, and at­mos­phere of many of our top ho­tels are frankly un­matched.

SLOW: Where is the in­dus­try lack­ing at the mo­ment?

N.B: Guest ser­vice. Ho­tel staff are not ap­pro­pri­ately trained and prop­er­ties or groups hold back on spend­ing on train­ing as costs in other ar­eas keep ris­ing. How­ever, with­out ex­tra­or­di­nary cus­tomer ser­vice, I be­lieve ho­tels will be a dy­ing trade. We need to start fo­cussing on “mak­ing the guest’s day” and cre­at­ing those “mo­ments of magic” in what­ever way it is we can con­trib­ute. Peo­ple are tired of be­ing con­sid­ered as trans­ac­tions, num­bers, data, or per­cent­ages, and are seek­ing to once again be cared for like hu­man be­ings with emo­tions, wants, needs, and de­sires.

SLOW: How does train­ing aid the ho­tel in­dus­try and why?

N.B: Train­ing en­cour­ages per­sonal growth while it ad­dresses ap­a­thy. Trainees re­alise very quickly how their ac­tions or lack thereof can eas­ily af­fect the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s bot­tom line. This is true whether they are be­ing trained in cost man­age­ment, guest ser­vice, gar­ment care, or even soft­ware. Once they are made aware of the im­pact of the spe­cific train­ing, they buy into the rea­son for the train­ing and they can grasp why it is nec­es­sary. More im­por­tantly, a cul­ture of train­ing means a cul­ture of in­vest­ing in peo­ple and in the words of Henry Ford: “You can take my fac­to­ries, burn up my build­ings, but give me my peo­ple and I’ll build the busi­ness right back again.”

SLOW: What, in your opin­ion, is the next big thing in the ho­tel in­dus­try?

N.B: Per­son­alised ex­pe­ri­ences. In the fu­ture, ho­tels will be more re­source­ful and adapt­able in or­der to of­fer guests a be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ence. Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy en­sures that we now have the abil­ity to know ex­actly what makes ev­ery guest tick. From his or her pref­er­ence of food, mu­sic, en­ter­tain­ment, and dé­cor to daily rou­tines, travel his­tory, and other in­ter­ests. The ho­tels that yield to as much in­for­ma­tion as each guest al­lows them to ac­cess, and tai­lor a guest’s ex­pe­ri­ence ac­cord­ingly, will be the pioneers of the in­dus­try go­ing for­ward.

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