Let's Get Crazy
4/16/2012 | Hotel Ruminating
Maybe it's time for the hotel industry to let its hair down, put on its best outfit, and head out on the town for a crazy night once in a while. Spending a weekend on a college campus—at The Hotel School at Cornell University—that's somewhat of the message distinguished alumni of the 90-year-old hospitality college received at the Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC) conference. And that message came not from students, but from some very distinguished professionals in the lodging industry.
Ian Schrager, a man who has seen—and probably contributed to—his share of craziness, got the conference off to a start by simply saying that going crazy with ideas is what helped him develop the concept of the boutique hotel, as well as many of the other innovations his company has been credited with over the years that many other hotel companies have followed.
We all know that the hotel industry has been slow throughout its history to adapt to new ways of doing things. "One of the things I've noticed is that the hotel industry is in exactly the same place as it was 30 years ago when I entered it," Schrager told the audience at HEC. That may be a slight exaggeration, but the point is well taken.
There was a time in its history when hotels weren't referred to as "product" and weren't nearly as commoditized as they are today. While having everything in a book of standards is good for branding and running hotels efficiently, there is a need to be disruptive once in a while to bring in fresh ideas that keep guests interested.
Lee Pillsbury of Thayer Lodging Group led a panel of technology thinkers at HEC titled "Disruptive Innovation," with the gist being that disruption in the status quo, no matter how successful it has been, leads to new innovations that move the industry forward.
Earlier, Schrager expressed a similar idea when he told the audience that he seldom gets his inspiration for ideas from within the hotel industry. In fact, he listed Apple as his top inspiration.
The point is that innovation is a key to moving the hotel industry forward into a bright future, and innovation comes from letting go of conventions and from not being afraid to tinker with what may have been successful in years past. Times change and so does what makes success.
Often the greatest ideas in history have come from the minds of those deemed to be out of their depths. There is an entire world of inspiring ideas in business in many different types of industries. Some of them are crazy enough to possibly work in hotels.
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