The Death of the Hotel Business Plan
I’d like to share a recent piece I wrote for Hotels magazine which is reprinted courtesy of the publication. Read on….
Death, or more appropriately perhaps, dying, is not my idea of a good time. It must be life’s ultimate buzz killer. Still, like those teary greeting cards say, every season has an ending. Just ask Tower Records, print newspapers, CDs and brick-and-mortar bookstores.
Speaking of printed books, walk into the hallowed halls of hotel chains or even a general manager’s dank office, and high up on a bookshelf, way past the smiling photos of dead celebrities, shiny trophies from sports day or an ornamental samurai sword (the latter has come into vogue for those on the losing end of hotel consolidation), sits a massive, dusty ancient tome titled “Hotel Business Plan” – thick as a brick and using up more trees than a national park.
The time has come to end the useless legacy of the process best summed up as “things we do, because it’s just something we do.” Hotels by nature are not innovative places. Yes, there was that genius moment when a long-forgotten housekeeper figured out that folding the end of a toilet paper roll would make it look luxurious. And yes, the accidental genius who first christened the in-room refrigerator a “mini-bar.” Overall, hoteldom is a pretty repetitious regime.
What amazes me, aside from the color of Donald Trump’s hair, is how the industry holds onto traditional practices that frankly need to be delegated to the dumpster. Asking hotel management to create a forward-looking strategic business plan, often in the middle of the year, and that dictates how to do something 12 or 18 months later is nonsense by any stretch of the imagination.
Yes, there are components of the plan that have some relevance to listed companies’ fiduciary requirements as in the budget, but remove that portion and you still end up with a book that can kill a party of 12 if thrown off a 10-story building. Today’s access is unparalleled. We have instant access to trends, customer feedback and engagement, and the world is sprinting ahead, while some lagging hotel executive is still sitting behind their desk trying to find out what went wrong.
Certainly, hotel owners and management agreements dictate the necessity of this massive document. But in reality, aren’t owners better served with hoteliers creating daily strategies, understanding the market that exists, and not just a segmentation table from a year ago that has gone completely off the rails?
More is not better. More is just quicksand that turns businesses into slow, crawling beasts. I wonder how many business plans saw the OTAs coming and had a strategy to create an alternative business approach. Sorry, but the GM had a dustbuster out and couldn’t take the call.
My call to all hotel chains everywhere is: Be bold and don’t tie up a quarter of a year doing this inane rain dance in the middle of a drought. Imagine all the time your hotel team is taken away from customers, selling rooms or creating moments, while expecting them to just pass the paper test. Move on, in the same way other industries have, and create a dynamic, interactive, tech-led tool that allows thoughtful changes and meaningful metrics.
In closing: Legacy breeds contempt, and the time has come to relegate the annual big book pain in the ass that it has become to history. Or better yet, recycle the print into toilet paper and knock yourself out folding those edges so very nicely. The effect will be just about the same.
For the story on the Hotels magazine website CLICK