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Viewpoint: Imagine there's no internet…

25 October 2016
Viewpoint: Imagine there's no internet…

In a world without Twitter, hospitality would still have that human touch, says Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels

At one of our recent press events, an accomplished hotelier was asked what customer relationship management system he used at his property. "I think I'm it," was his witty and indeed accurate reply.

Days later, my neighbour at a formal dinner devoted a considerable part of the evening to updating his Twitter followers, several of whom were at the same table.

All this caused me to reflect on how many tasks that were once exclusively handled by human beings we now entrust to technology. In fact, if you're ever in need of a dinner party topic to frighten the living daylights out of your guests, try asking them how long they think their businesses would survive if the internet suddenly failed to work, perhaps due to the hacking skills of a James Bond-type villain, bent on bringing the industrialised world to its knees.

At a stroke there would be no AirBnB, no Trivago, and GoCompare would have to go and do something else that editorial restrictions prevent me from suggesting here.

It's hard to think of any profession that would be completely unscathed, but in many ways hospitality is better placed than most because what we sell is still predominantly created and delivered by human hand. We'd still be able to cook food, serve drinks and make beds, and anyone my age or above will easily remember how reservations really could be made and recorded without a device of any kind. All that assumes, of course, that we still have customers with money to spend, which might be the major challenge here.

Let's hope it never comes to this and that we shall continue to push the boundaries of what information technology makes possible, to the benefit of customers and shareholders alike.

To that end, I think it has never been more important to stay abreast of new opportunities and one event in particular comes to mind. HOSPACE, the annual conference of HOSPA, the hospitality professionals association, takes place on 10 November at the Sofitel, Heathrow, and I've been entrusted with a supporting role once again. Topics will include the impact of leaving the EU, disruption within traditional hospitality and a debate on the proposition: ‘This house believes chain hotel brands suppress value rather than create it'. Whole careers have been built on that one.

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