Some other sports to use as hotel industry metaphors
Some other sports to use as hotel industry metaphors
24 MARCH 2017 7:18 AM

The baseball metaphor seems to be in at least the ninth inning itself, so it might be time we find some new sports to compare hotel performance to.

The baseball metaphor is tired. This is not a new take, but it’s true nonetheless.

As my colleagues down in Atlanta this week for the Hunter Hotel Investment Conference pointed out, the attendees there are more than willing to throw out the tried-and-true comparisons of the state of the hotel industry cycle and the innings of a baseball game. 

Maybe spring training and the World Baseball Classic are top of mind at this time of the year, because it seems like people are going out of their way to keep the discussion relevant by saying we’re in an 18-inning game and other borderline nonsense.

That struck me as particularly silly, because I can’t ever recall a baseball play-by-play guy ever proclaiming a game is going to 18 innings even in the bottom of the ninth. An 18-inning game is not something someone can predict or claim to have inside information or understanding that would reasonably and predictably lead to that outcome.

The real problem is the industry no longer has a functioning sports metaphor. So maybe it’s time to take stock of the pros and cons of some other potential sports that can be used to explain hotel performance.

Basketball is a popular international sport with four quarters and the possibility of ongoing overtime. Obviously four quarters is fewer than nine innings, but it could still be workable.

The game also has a lot of built-in metaphors for delivering on fundamentals and taking calculated risks. Also it could be an excuse to have top hotel CEOs come out at events like the Americas Lodging Investment Summit and the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference to really hyped-up intro music.

(American) Football
People already use football’s blocking and tackling jargon as metaphors for keeping up with the boring necessities of business. There is a similarly favorable time and overtime structure to basketball. The clearly defined plays and options for strategy within the game could provide lots of fodder. It doesn’t work as well internationally, though.

We’d get 10 frames instead of nine innings if the industry switched to bowling. There are pretty clean metaphors for absolute success (strike) and failure (gutter ball). Also, I would like to make use of the term “turkey” more often.

Like baseball, cricket also has innings. There are only two in a game, but they seem to go on forever. This got some play last year at NYU, but it’s not likely to get much traction with U.S. audiences, I’d guess.

As was proved a few years back, tennis (specifically at Wimbledon) is theoretically never-ending.

The problem is it’s a game of two clearly opposing forces. That’s true of all sports, but since this is a direct one-on-one competition, you’d need to outline who is on the other side of the net.

I know really nothing about the rules of rugby. It looks like organized chaos. If we’re looking to apply the structure of the game for comparison’s sake, it seems like this wouldn’t be the best target.

Now the obvious con about curling is it’s very much a niche sport that almost no one really knows the rules for, making true comparisons to the hotel industry difficult. But the pro is it’s very much a niche sport that almost no one really knows the rules for, giving you carte blanche to say almost anything and likely not be challenged.

The idea of saying we’re in stoppage time actually sounds really good to me as a descriptor of the state of the current cycle. There’s technically only two halves in a soccer match, so it’s not as pinpoint as baseball’s innings.

But it’s a game where big moments are meticulously recorded by the time they occurred, so this suggestion could have legs.

I view this as kind of similar to soccer, although there are some key differences. Like basketball, you could make an overtime or double-overtime comparison. I’m curious what would correlate to a shootout.

Also, with the Airbnbs and online travel agencies of the world, there seems like there’s some room for fighting in the hotel industry. And there’s probably a lot of good potential uses for telling hoteliers to “finish their checks.”

What do you think? Am I completely out of bounds? Let me know via email or on Twitter.

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