What a strange week that was
What a strange week that was
21 DECEMBER 2020 8:40 AM

Are any of us sad to see 2020 disappear? The last week might just have been the strangest of them all, but expect innovation to make 2021 strangely normal, or normally strange, or just as strange as ever, but in a different, healthier way.

This is my final blog for 2020, a year that I certainly need to remind no one was the strangest year of all, or at least for those who have shared the number of years I have on this planet.

Thank you for reading my musings over the last 12 months. I wish you all the happiest holiday season possible (and it is sort of possible, I imagine) and definitely a fantastic 2021.

My parents went for their first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine jab last Wednesday, so we all hope the end is in sight.

I saw last week as perhaps the strangest of all the 50 or so in 2020 had gone so far, and we here at Hotel News Now have covered it all.

It started with Airbnb’s valuation building up to become the most valuable travel-related entity on Earth, which, I am sure you remember, started by someone renting out their air-mattress—a $100-billion air-mattress.

London then was plonked into the severest COVID-19 tier of regulations, although ironically that now means I can visit my parents and go birding, my passion, in Kent where I was born, which even though now I live in part of Greater London that traditionally is Kent, too, was out of bounds to me when we were in Tier 2 but Kent in Tier 3.

Doesn’t that mean that because the rules are now more severe, I have more freedom—yes, I know, travel should be kept at the barest minimum and out of necessity, rather than my enjoyment of White-fronted geese, Great grey shrikes and Rustic buntings.

Most of my friends have simply canceled Christmas. If the season is a time of hope, then let’s hope for a more fulfilling, less risky 2021 as the general sentiment.

The one sector best able to provide hope, good sentiment and enjoyment is the hospitality industry. Hoteliers I have spoken to all week are nonplussed that after so much care, attention and love—and cash—being put into their hotels in making them the safest, cleanest, most hospitable havens, the new rules have dumped them once again into a shadowy backwater of crowding and an alcohol-fueled lack of common sense.

It is heartbreaking, the type of political decision-making that has penalized good faith and the hopes of employers, employees and guests.

Amid all of this I listened in on Bench Events’ third hospitality conference of 2020, known as Hospitality Tomorrow 3.

I wished they had called it Ho Ho Hospitality 3 and did suggest that.

There was much talk about innovation being needed now more than ever.

Two speakers said wonderfully insightful things about the subject.

Terry Jones, who helped create Travelocity, said when he started the online travel agency (although it probably was not called that then), customers would not put their credit card details on the fledgling Internet, but would only do so via the telephone.

Then Travelocity stored those numbers online anyway, which I am sure would not pass regulators’ ordnances today.

He also likened decision-making in companies to a pinball machine. He said ideas are the metal balls whizzing around the machine, and they bounce off the sides and obstacles due to all the “noes” emanating from middle management (he seems not to be impressed by middle management), while the two flippers controlled by the player can be given parallels to the two biggest sources of the word “no” of all—finance and legal.

Fuad Sajdi, co-founder and CEO of procurement firm Toggle Market, said innovation must be regarded in relative terms.

“The most innovative thing is the washing machine. It has liberated half the world, and (my firm) takes much inspiration from it,” he said.

Stranger innovation than the washing machine has been announced this week, with LG Business Solutions unveiling an “autonomous robot” that will use ultraviolet light that is able to disinfect “high-touch, high-traffic areas in hotels, restaurants, airports, train stations and other transit centers.”

The robots, it added, will be able to move easily around tables, chairs and other furniture, generally irradiating a room’s touchable surfaces within 15 to 30 minutes.

That might be a strange thing to behold as you tuck into your appetizers, certainly in a 2021 where we all hope things just become very normal.

Things never do become normal, though, do they? I suppose that is how we evolve.

Happy New Year!

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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