Hotels are "shockingly poor" at innovation, delegates were told on the opening day of the 2014 Annual Hotel Conference yesterday in Manchester.
Shane Harris (pictured), chief executive of Jupiter Hotels, criticised hotels for being "miles behind" the airlines when it came to bookings via mobile technology, and for failing to provide any new kind of guest services for years.
Speaking at the Hilton Deansgate hotel, he hit out at mid-market hotels for failing to respond to the competition from gastropubs and specialist leisure centres. "The sector has not focused on services and amenities for which guests are willing to pay for and instead have focused too much on technology back of house," he said.
"Hotels need to look at what customers want when it comes to food and beverage. They basically want to be fed and nourished and that doesn't mean in traditional bars and restaurants, but within more exciting formats."
Harris was speaking on a panel of UK hotel leaders that included Michael Wales, of Starwood Hotels and Resorts; Steven Daines of Accor; and Tony Spencer of Shire Hotels.
In response to a question from the chairman of the panel, Michael Hirst of CBRE Hotel, regarding pet hates in hotels, Harris said his were "overpriced, bland food" and "being ignored" by receptionists at the front desk.
Spencer, managing director of Shire Hotels, said he has three pet hates: being charged for filtered, tap water; being expected to pay a £16 charge for WiFi on top of a £250 bedroom rate; and being served 14 courses of a taster menu of "not particularly good food, with foams".
Wales explained that his bête noire was the speed with which the industry transacts change, while Daines said that hoteliers are very poor at promoting the wonderful things the industry does for the economy. "We should be more proud towards the outside world about what we do," he added.