Is the Traditional Hotel Chain Dead?

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23/2/2018
Excerpt from The Robb Report

In the era of Airbnbs and travel apps, are classic hotel chains obsolete? Three industry titans weigh in.

Oh, how the world of travel has changed. If you remember the 1990s, you recall that booking a hotel was once a vastly different affair than it is today. Nearly every accommodation looked like the next—it hardly mattered whether you were in New York or New Delhi. There was room service and a restaurant (likely of the buffet variety), and a concierge whose limited services were in many cases travelers' only connection to the destination just beyond the hotel doors.

Fast forward to 2018 and the travel industry hasn't just changed—it has expanded to greater territory than we ever thought possible. There's an app for virtually every traveler's need, whether you want a penthouse tonight or a reservation at the hottest new restaurant in town. And the demand for authenticity—not just the canned guide-book-style suggestions of days gone—is at an all-time high. So where does that leave the traditional hotel? And how can it remain relevant in a world where digital disruption is redefining entire industries?

Hospitality legend Ian Schrager—whose cutting-edge hotels are often social hubs for tourists and locals alike—believes that adaptation is essential. "Everything changes," he explains. "Cars change, fashion changes, kitchen appliances change—and hotels have to change and keep up the pace."

Modern accommodation options such as Airbnb are an obvious threat to the industry, but Schrager is quick to point out that hotels can offer what these services cannot: an experience. “The only way that hotels can compete is by offering the socialization and communal aspect that Airbnb cannot,” he explains. “This along with the level of service.”

Schrager is widely credited for introducing the boutique hotel concept (which received a lot of skepticism at its inception during the early 1980s) and his latest venture, Public, was developed with equally revolutionary ambitions, as a response to the threat of online booking services.

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