Outsiders tell hoteliers the scoop about disruption
Outsiders tell hoteliers the scoop about disruption
30 APRIL 2018 7:42 AM

Disruption essentially is an exercise in how to increase profit share. Four outsiders told it plainly to an audience of hoteliers at this month’s Arabian Hotel Investment Conference.

Frits van Paasschen kick-started this month’s Arabian Hotel Investment Conference with a pretty blunt statement about marketplace change.

“As consumers, we love change, as it makes us feel in control. If we do not like a product, we will move elsewhere. Things that do not make sense get disrupted, and as (hoteliers) create all manner of pain points, there is ample opportunity for disruption,” Van Paasschen said.

Disruption never seems to go away. That, I would propose, is because entrepreneurs no longer think of new products and services per se, but about how new products and services specifically can disrupt a market.

That seems to me to be a little more of an antagonistic stance than one that simply wishes to fulfil its own idea of market share.

If Van Paasschen made the AHIC attendees squirm in their seats, what happened immediately afterward added to the discomfort.

For onto that stage marched a panel of millennials—or whatever young people are called nowadays—not long out of short trousers.

All are very accomplished in their fields, though, and those fields are not hotels.

They were here to tell us how it is in the normal world. They were here to show how in their universes innovation and disruption has to be at the core of any business model.

The manifest idea is of challenging the industries they are in, they said.

“We question ourselves every day. Why do we exist? Can we produce media in the ways people are consuming it?” said Richard FitzGerald, managing director and founder of online publisher Augustus.

“And we have to show we can make money from (any idea). Clients become convinced when they can see a new revenue stream.”

Ritesh Tilani, founding partner of start-up investment business Enhance and co-CEO of gift-delivery service Joigifts.com, said one secret is to innovate on the business model itself so that it can be used for all start-up initiatives.

Maha Abouelenein, managing director of organizational consultants OC, specializing in public relations, crisis management and reputation currency, said business is “now about thinking in real time, and that includes the stories you are trying to tell.”

She added a crisis is a really good time to come out shining and that real time, trust and transparency are the new currencies.

“Stories have to be ‘sharable’ and ‘snackable’,” Abouelenein said.

What she meant by that is stories need to be easily told by consumers to other consumers and effortlessly digestible.

“Put yourself in the shoes of your consumers. If they will not share it, then do not create it. Always remember you, too, are a consumer,” Abouelenein added.

Are these things hoteliers are not aware of and doing something about? Probably they are, but if anything the comments of outsiders can resonate deeply. Either they open your mind to other ways of doing things from other industries or walks of life or they reconfirm your common sense.

Top brands, bottom-feeders
The main disruptors were mentioned, of course—Facebook, Google, Airbnb—which just made the audience more fearful.

“The sense of disruption and change has to come from within, and you have to do that first, because if you do not then it will come from without,” Eric Fulwiler, executive director, London, at VaynerMedia.

The main point from this part of the panel conversation was that disruption does not follow one pattern. In other words, invent your own.

“Do not be fixated with how (others) are doing things, as you will still be sucked into thinking in the same way everyone does. Remove the trappings, and do not be the next Uber,” FitzGerald said.

There have been missteps, in case everyone thinks it is purely a matter of coming up with something disruptive, the panelists said.

“Google Glass is one,” Tilani said. “The price was too high, and it was socially unexceptional to walk around like dorks.”

“QR codes, too. Useful but ugly as hell,” he added.

Fulwiler said his boss, Gary Vaynerchuk, is fond of saying, when asked, I am assuming, about the firms, products and services he has created, “that he is not a disruptor but just practical.”

It’s also important to have a grasp on the exact form of how your disruption enters the market, Fulwiler said.

“It is important for senior leaders to have their hands dirty, as it easy to be disconnected as you delegate responsibilities to others,” he said.

“Always question the status quo. Why do things have to happen in the way they are happening?” Abouelenein asked.

Yes, why?

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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