Hoteliers may focus on the tiny details, but guests won't consider a stay without the assurance of security and discretion, says Peter Hancock
Even though we lay our lives bare on social media, privacy matters more to hotel guests than anything else.
If asked what is the most important element in a hotel room, I expect most people would say the bed, or the shower, or the view. There are lots of alternative answers and none would be wrong, but if we stop to think it through the most important item by far must surely be the lockable door, for without that, one has no privacy.
At the recent General Managers' Conference organised by the Master Innholders, I was made to feel incredibly uncomfortable for a few seconds when Ian Millar, a senior lecturer on hotel technology at the famous hotel management school in Lausanne, used me as a guinea pig to demonstrate to his audience the possibilities of voice-activated devices.
He spoke my name into his phone, held it up to the microphone, and said "who is Peter Hancock?" The robotic voice immediately told the 450 hoteliers about me and Pride of Britain. So far, so good. He then asked for some further information which elicited lesser-known facts about my childhood and outside interests, including a completely fictitious one.
Before long I realised that Ian had played a splendid trick on the conference MC while making a serious point about how much information we unwittingly share through online activity. It sent shivers down my spine anyway.
So despite many of our guests wanting to post photographs of their meals and showing thousands of others where they've been almost daily, when entrusting their security to the warmth and comfort of a hotel the opposite applies. They need to know their credit card details will remain secret; that their movements are not made known to strangers and that their privacy is respected at all times. What a paradox. We are urged endlessly to capture data from the very people who rely on us to keep it safe.
If I were a well-known politician or television personality, I'd be very wary of queuing at the local chemists or being spotted buying jewellery. But I'd still happily check into a decent hotel, one place where anybody with a few quid can shelter from an increasingly intrusive world.
Peter Hancock is the chief executive of Pride of Britain hotelsGet The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).
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