It’s time for hotel operators to get an education from another industry — technology. The hospitality industry is constantly following trends in an effort to improve the guest experience. We renovate properties, add new and improved systems for operations and grouse over whether it’s truly worth the money to buy mirrored televisions for a 250-room hotel. What we do best, however, is patiently wait to see who else in our competitive market will take the “next step” so the rest of us have a proven direction.
What we need to do is follow the paths of Larry Page of Google and the late Steve Jobs of Apple. Hospitality leaders need to become pioneers. Let’s iterate, take bold risks and be okay with failing fast so we continue to progress and deliver on improving travel experiences. The next generation of travelers is looking for the creative thought leaders to anticipate needs that travelers don’t even know they are looking for yet.
New & improved: embracing the next version
Apple is comfortable with rolling out the iPhone 4 knowing that the iPhone 5 is soon to follow. Sure, give them feedback and gripe on the boards or via social media about what’s wrong with the product. They want to know because they’re actually going to take that feedback, tinker and test knowing that a new, improved version is truly on its way. Technology also understands that the public will line up in droves to buy version 4.0. The public will praise what works and criticize what doesn’t. Tech pioneers will correct the shortcomings and continue to innovate and the exact same public will line up for version 5.0 and they’ll bring two friends along with them.
So, let’s ask what are the next versions in the hospitality industry? How do we harness the Google mantra of “fail fast and iterate?” Here are some ideas to consider that can be executed, changed or terminated to keep the hospitality industry nimble and always progressing.
1) Add a new product, feature or service into your portfolio every year.
2) Change what you’re doing or who you partner with. Are you successfully operating in Mexico? Add Central America. Cater to the business traveler? Go leisure.
3) Kill the product, then do one better. Not making money in F & B? Close it out at one location and perfect concierge service.
4) Eliminate some of the laborious and outdated notions of a traditional hotel. Stay the night in one of your hotels and when you wake up, look around the room and ask yourself a series of ‘why’ questions. Why is there a bill under the door? Why are the items in the amenity package included and what’s missing? Why aren’t there more outlets for a generation that has 12 items to plug in every night?
Apply the next version specifically to your business. Hone in on strengths and then make iterations on them. It’s time for hospitality to make better versions of ourselves. If we do it right, the public will follow and reward our creativity and our ability to provide them with luxuries. They will reward us with loyalty and multiple return trips.
CEO, Beachtree Properties
What was your first job?
A variety of yard jobs: cutting grass, cleaning gutters, shoveling snow, raking leaves, trimming bushes/trees/hedges.
Who inspires you?
Civil servants who dedicate their lives and careers to a cause greater than any individual. Clearly, they aren’t doing it simply to get rich - it’s about a bigger picture and a better community for our families and future generations.
What technology excites you?
The smartphone. Not sure we will need much more than this technology. It’s a phone, e-communication, Internet, wallet, airline tickets, GPS, hotel key, soon to be car key, possibly passport/license, toll pass, etc. It’s everything one will ever need to function at a high level.
Words of wisdom:
Be better than what your clients can get elsewhere or even at home.
Who would you invite to lunch?
Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney and Larry Page. Each of these men displayed an uncanny vision and saw something that most or all others could not see.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
I love the mountains in all seasons. My favorite trips include great spots in Colorado and Wyoming but my favorite has to be the incomparable Lake Tahoe.
Brad Callahan is CEO of Beachtree Properties (www.beachtreeproperties.com), a collection of 11 boutique hotels across the country. Embracing his love of technology and following his rule of adding a new service each year, Brad has kicked off an iPad loaner program at Beachtree Properties. He believes it will help guests maximize the local flavor of each area and enjoy their personal lifestyle preferences, while staying in touch with the outside world (when they want to).