Global hotel brands deceive customers, staff, says radical YOTEL chief
By Raini Hamdi, Editor, TTG Asia
Big brands are lying to their customers as they do not offer clear meaning and lack consistency, Yotel CEO, Mr Gerard Greene, says during a discussion on hotels at World Travel Market last week.
He also said the hotel industry had let down its staff over the years and did not accord them real caring.
Mr Greene aired his views when panelists the other three were senior executives from global brands Best Western, Cendant Hotel Group International and Hilton Group plc were asked for their opinion on issues such as distribution, differentiation, customer service and staff training and retention.
Mr Greene said customers were supposed to understand what brands stood for yet "I can go to England and the Maldives and get opposite standards of the same brand".
Franchise makes it a real struggle. "How are you going to control those standards? A brand, I think, does not say anything," he said.
To make staff proud, he said, it was not just about money and bonuses but what they would remember. Mr Greene said if he gave the housekeeper a massage, she would remember, asking why the hotel industry could not do for staff what it did for customers.
On customer loyalty, he said what would make customers return was "the best product, best value-for-money" rather than loyalty points. To study customer satisfaction, hotels must look at not what they were doing right, but where it could go wrong for the customer.
Mr Greene’s opinions heighten anticipation on how radical Yotel can be in concept and operation. The new hotel concept aims to offer first-class hotel experience at a fraction of the price in major cities worldwide. The first Yotels, which will open in London Heathrow and Gatwick airports in late 2006, will be priced at less than £80 a night, for example.
A prototype at WTM shows a room of no more than 10sqm, the size of a deluxe cabin in a luxury train. Designed by Priestman Goode, who helped Airbus define the double-deck aircraft of the future, it features a bed with plush cover, techno wall, sophisticated lighting, pull-down desks, monsoon shower and flatscreen TV. The revolutionary element is, windows look into corridors which are naturally lit through reflective mechanisms and the channeling of light. This will allow Yotel to literally go where other hotels simply cannot tricky central city locations, airports and even the underground. The reduced land costs and savings can then be passed on to customers.
In an interview with TTG Asia after the forum, Mr Greene said the vision was not to have hundreds of Yotels but to offer an honest and quality product at a good and fair price.
For Asian hotel developers who might be interested in the concept, Mr Greene said a franchise for Asia was on offer. It could be for a Yotel or for countries. He was looking for strong partners with good financial backing and hotel experience.
Yotels could look different everywhere, they just needed to be exciting and innovative, he said.
Mr Greene said: "It is about affordable luxury, about having fun, about reinventing the wheel and ensuring that customers know what a Yotel is all about."
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