Will You Become Obsolete in Your Prime? – By John Hendrie

The French have a coined phrase, which we need to heed every day – ‘au courant’, meaning informed on current matters, up-to-date. Perhaps, the opposite really occurs – ‘au contraire’ (on the contrary), the state in which we often find our Hospitality friends.

You know them, you watch them and shake your head, for they just do not get it, caught in that cloud of arrogance, self-delusion, just too comfortable to pay attention and look beyond  today into tomorrow.
Consider a few big time quick examples around us.  In just what three years, the publishing industry and the bookstore business gone the way of Vicks Vapo-Rub.  The Nook and Kindle have changed the way we read books.  No longer the  sensitivity to the paper feel, the weight of the tome, even the pleasure in turning the pages.  Now, it is a touch function.  Extend this thinking with all the applications on the horizon – who needs book bags or a library card.  Bam – our lives have changed. 
Do you remember AAA, who used to run the road with their ratings of lodgings and restaurants?  Then, those pesky Guest Reviews came on line, and AAA became marginalized, except for the top echelon of hotels.  Who would have thunk it?  Other examples abound of companies and products which did not adapt.  Let’s take a quick Hostess Twinkie break.
About seven years ago I was asked by a Chamber of Commerce for a bucolic Yankee setting in a Northern New England state to speak to their lodging members about Quality Assurance – how such an approach could improve their product and result in higher satisfaction and return guest visits.  I was attacked by a hive of hospitality hornets, when I started to talk about cleanliness, amenities even security.  More than half the audience of probably thirty ran small lodgings – inns and B&B’s, and they were doing just fine, thank you.  Why generations upon generations had come to their establishments.  Who cares that women might want a bit more counter space in the bath, one-ply toilet paper was acceptable, and why have locks on the door, even a simple hasp.  Keep in mind these folks drew their guests from Boston, New York and Montreal, probably looking for a simpler life, not camp fire more cabin type luxury.  Needless to say, I got nowhere and actually ended up leading a heated discussion about this idyllic setting becoming a year round Destination.  You can probably guess where that ended up.  This group had all the ingredients but the will.
At some point, every hospitality community has gone through a similar transition, adapting to change and the future.  The management of major lodging Brands normally lead the way, and they must be a patient lot, for any proposed change flies right into the face of I’m doing just fine.  Such is the way, a most tortuous path. 
Companies which listen to their customers, seek their feedback and then act upon what they learn move forward.  These companies also keep a keen eye on the marketplace, their competition and find research a boon not a bore.  They are continually changing, updating, enhancing their product, which then can be marketed swiftly and effectively.  This is the “au courant” crowd.  However, consider this anomaly.  Small lodging proprietors talk one on one to their guests all throughout the stay, gathering the responses we larger operations spend so much time and money soliciting.  Even armed with this critical information and certainly a strong guest relationship, these proprietors are also the most contrary.  Curious!  Now, time for a Ding Dong.
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