Luxury Hotels

Every luxury hotelier should take Skift seriously

One hotel got momentary publicity

When it comes to luxury hotels and resorts, a complicated arrival process can be part of the overall appeal – in Chile, think the Explora hotels in Atacama and Patagonia, or on Easter Island, in Indonesia think Nihiwatu on Sumba Island. Well, the gal had never been to Tobacco Dock, a good 15 minutes’ walk south-east of The Tower of London, but she is glad she has rectified that omission. The brick building, used for storing imported tobacco, dates back to 1811 (there had been an exotic pet store here, more recently). Today it is owned by the Al-Hasawi family’s Messila House – will they still turn part of the area into a hotel? Up to 5,000 people can be accommodated here for mammoth events. This week the event of note, there, was hosted by New York-based Skift, which since it was founded in 2012 has become the largest, and most important, intelligence platform in travel, thanks to its strong team, led by Co-Founders Rafat Ali, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief, Jason Clampet. Skift’s first European Forum, Wednesday April 4th, 2017, attracted over 450 intrepid hospitality and technology professionals, all eager to hear about the Future Of Travel.

Debbie Flynn, left, and HE Lina Annab

The full-day event, from 8.45 a.m. sharp, was click-clock organised. There were, in lightning succession, 15- or 20-minute highly professional presentations, no spaces in between other than for first-class food and drink, and, thankfully, no questions and answers. Well done to Rafat Ali and his colleagues, recognisable by their buttercup yellow socks. They had rehearsed content, to absolute professional level, with no paper notes and no autocues. I would have to say, at the end of the day, that the main messages that came out were, unsurprisingly, constant and unexpected change in the entire fields of travel and tourism, and hospitality – and the need for even more attention to the customer. Let me give you some examples. Bruno Chauvat, Co-founder and CEO of Travelsify, owner of MoodMatch, pointed out that hotels’ websites all too often stress beautiful rooms and other facilities – but what consumers want to know is not that, but experiences. Today’s travellers also want trust. This is the new guarantee in travel. Trust requires transparency and explanation. One hint that came up on several occasions is to make use of online virtual assistants VAs as communicators. If you do not you might well even lose business.

Gerald Lawless, left, and Rafat Ali

Lonely Planet CEO Daniel Houghton said travel is something you do not want to mess up, you do not want a bad hotel, a bad meal, a boring tour, and getting it right is in the details. Another speaker, Hugo Burge, CEO of the Momondo Group – stressing the fact that metasearch offers transparency – said go for emotional engagement. As it happened that emotional connection was reiterated by Steve Hafner, Co-Founder and CEO of the mighty Kayak. Yes big players were here, including Expedia and TripAdvisor, the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities for The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Lina Mazhar Annab, and even both founders of Mr&Mrs Smith, Tamara Heber-Percy and James Lohan. Far more impactful on the stage were, separately, IHG CEO Richard Solomons (at the top of the story, left, with Rifat Ali), and – the only presenter wearing a tie – Gerald Lawless, Chairman of the World Travel & Tourism Council WTTC. Other hoteliers, in the audience, included Jumeirah’s branding expert, representatives associated with the Citizen M and the Dorchester Collection, and The Set boss Georgi Akirov, flown here from Tel Aviv. Now read more, tomorrow…