David Nicholson, proprietor of the Holbeck Ghyll hotel in Windermere, Cumbria, and a Master Innholder, admits that he takes an old-school approach to modern technology.
The internet certainly is an amazing phenomenon and the advances in technology over the years have been incredible. But, as the owner of a country house hotel, I regularly ask myself if it has all been for the benefit of my business. I was pleased to see the fax replace the telex and a computer replace the typewriter, but after that…?
When we first joined Small Luxury Hotels of the World, committing a large sum of money for what was a small hotel at the time, a major plus was that we were featured on the Global Distribution System, therefore gaining a major advantage over most of our competitors.
But now the world can view every establishment via a website and, unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous hotel operators that totally misrepresent what they have to offer. Likewise, customers will often request specific rooms from the website, giving us no option at a later stage to move bookings (within the same category) to create a flow.
Then there are e-mails. How many enquiries convert to bookings? I would suggest a relatively small percentage, leading to time wasted by reservations/reception. Equally, how much easier and nicer is it to be able to speak to a potential guest? I sometimes think society has lost the art of communication.
To generate reservations we need to facilitate online bookings. It may be relatively easy for some hotels but when you are a country house there are many different categories, which makes life difficult. And if we have five different websites, that means doing the job five times - unless there is technology we don't know about (which, I admit, is quite likely).
It all may be an age thing with me - I'm probably playing catch up and suspect that the younger hoteliers are rightly making the most of the opportunities technology gives them.
To finish on a positive note, the internet allows me to keep in touch with news from Sunderland Football Club 24/7 from anywhere in the world… although that is not often a good thing either!