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What Airlines Do Well That Hotels Don't

Category: , Posted:03 Dec 2011 | 06:00 am

Let's face it, hotel management is not exactly rocket science, irrespective of what your friendly global hotel chain may say. Meet, greet, smile, provide a bed and a meal, and of course, don't forget to ask if your guest consumed anything from the minibar as they check out.
It is almost like having a relative or friend stay over at your own home, except don't expect Uncle Ned to tip you or harangue about the soggy Belgian waffles on TripAdvisor.
I do love the minibar analogy. One of my friends constantly uses it as an example of how hotels get things wrong, like that golden, memorable moment in time as you are about to leave the hotel – and suddenly it feels like a waterboarding session with some intelligence agency.
Hotels have been around longer than airlines. Remember Jesus, Mary, and Joseph shacked up in that rustic desert eco-lodge many moons ago?
More than a few years ago, airlines somehow managed to get the upper edge on innovation. Let's take what used to be called "yield management" but today is "revenue management". Same thing, different tag.
On airplanes, the last person to book a ticket pays the most, while in hotels the late night arrival is likely to shell out the least. Airlines have long been champions of dynamic rates and religiously tracking supply and demand curves.
Hotels seem to be content with morning briefings. The only other enterprise I know who utilize this type of dawn group hug is the military and, coming from the US, I won't comment on this oxymoronic term "military intelligence".
I recently came off a plane and was reading an article about AirAsia and their innovative approaches to systems analysis and refining their business model.
Take food spoilage as one point. The airline now encourages online ticketing customers to pre-purchase meals. Since doing that usage has sharply risen, and food costs have declined.
Hotels of course have buffets, but there is the age old question of just how long can you put out quiche before it starts to look like a ripe slice of shag carpet?
There are other examples of course, such as booking luggage or those hot seats that get premium pricing. These refinements carry little to no cost for the airlines and all cliff dive right down to the bottom line.
Taking things further are those self check-in kiosks – which again cut manpower. Smart, as most hoteliers know the two biggest operating expenses in a property are staffing and utility costs. Looking at the subject of energy costs for airlines, demand modeling also helps them hedge on fuel, which again is aimed at reducing operating expenses.
As for hotels, yes, they remain stuck in the land of the dinosaurs. Airline people don't seem any smarter, but perhaps the margins and operating environment push them to nick and tuck wherever they can. Of course there is that pilot guy who landed in the river and saved all those lives – he would make a great hotel manager.
Perhaps the hotel industry needs to go to boot camp and take some lessons from our skybound friends.
Where else do people tip you just for smiling? And next time the desk clerk starts to interrogate you about whether or not you've been delving into the secret confines of those small sacred refrigerators, just snap back smartly "no, but did you?"

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