Since writing my last Pillow Talk, I’ve attended six conferences. Three for the short-term rental industry, two covering the Living sectors, and one focused on hotel technology.
It was a lot to soak up. My head’s been spinning with the themes and opportunities that fall across all of these ‘lodging’ verticals.
What are the unique challenges for each sector and, more interestingly, what are the common problems that unite the experiences of all the operators, vendors, and owners who provide a temporary bed — whether that’s for a night, a week, a month, or throughout the later years?
The perception problem uniting two lodging sectors
The one problem impacting STR but also posing a major problem for the senior living sector is one of perception. No one wants an STR or ‘Airbnb’ at the end of their street or slap bang in the middle of their town center. Likewise, no one wants to face a later living complex full of ‘old’ people when they come out of their front door either.
Reputationally, both types of ‘lodging’ have a bad rep. Generally speaking, the public perception can be that these properties are badly run, are manager/owner focused rather than community and guest-centric, harm the characteristics of the neighborhood, and generally suffer from NIMBYism. It’s okay for your area (especially if it’s one I want to visit or place my mother in) but ‘Not In My Back Yard,’ we scream.
Reputation and trust are interesting concepts. They are hard-won but easily lost. Challenging and changing perceptions requires time, education, nuance, skill, insight, and context. And sometimes, only a miracle will do. A story that goes viral, a Netflix documentary made, or a significant celebrity endorsement. But, most of the time, change has to make do with a persistent PR effort, good storytelling, and consistent hard work.
Why storytelling matters
I spoke about the importance of reputation and storytelling at last month’s Skift Short-Term Rental Summit. It was a call to action. A rallying cry for the STR industry to come together and get serious about telling the stories about the industry’s positive impact. Not in silos, but together — the associations, OTAs, managers, hosts, vendors, and owners, collectively.
The issue of change management
I was in Toronto recently for HITEC, the hotel technology conference. The challenges for this sector are different. The perception problem here isn’t externally looking in. Everyone loves a hotel! The hotel sector’s perception problem is internal and has to do with change. Across the board, vendors I spoke to at the show talked about how hard it is to move the needle for innovation and adoption.
They may get buy-in from on high but, fundamentally, boots-on-the-ground operations just aren’t ready to innovate and move with the times. There’s a disconnect between evolving consumer expectations and the pace at which hotels are responding to tech advancements.
I heard a panelist say, ‘The hospitality sector is moving at the pace of the construction sector when it comes to tech deployment, which is about ten years behind the rest of the world.’ That’s really saying something.
The perception challenge for the hotel industry is really about change management. The ‘robots’ and ‘holograms’ tend to get the headlines, but the need for innovation is much more fundamental than that. It needs to be at the core of operations, at the very foundation of a hotel manager’s tech stack. That’s where change needs to begin.
What the DATA is happening this summer?
Our friends at AJL and our client Key Data are putting on a webinar this coming Monday (July 10), where Simon Lehmann, Jason Sprenkle and Melanie Brown will deep dive into what the data is showing for STRs for 2023 plus some forward predictions. This is one not to be missed! Registration is here.
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About me – I’m the CEO, and founder of Abode Worldwide, a public relations agency focused on raising the profile of technology solutions and operators, transforming the global lodging, hospitality and living sectors. We work across STR, hotels, multifamily, coliving, senior living and PBSA.
Pillow Talk is my ‘newsletter’ sharing musings, learnings, and insights about the pioneering lodging technology brands and operators transforming how we work, rest, and play. I hope you find this interesting. If not, there’s an unsubscribe button at the bottom.