Most of you I am sure, remember your childhood Disney classics – especially one we already used as an example in our previous article last week – the Jungle Book. In case you don’t, may I invite you to go back to it before your read the article below. We will use it to explain how the digital transformation is affecting the hospitality industry, more specifically, independent hotels and restaurants and their brands.

“I wanna be like you ouhouuuu, walk like you, talk like you, that’s true ouhouhhh” – King Louie and Baloo, The Jungle Book

 

In this scene, the monkey King Louie – the ‘bad guy’ – is singing “I wanna be like you”, referring to his wish to become human like Mowgli – the main character – look, behave like, and dance like him.

The King Louie Curse

The hospitality sector was part of the first ones to become 100% Uberised, with the rise of online booking systems and online travel agencies (OTAs). With these game changers, the number one priority for hotels and restaurants was to get on board the digital wagon as quickly as possible, not to miss any business opportunity. As a result, hotels and restaurants made deals with the devils, the OTAs and other referral websites: they agreed to give away a piece of their precious revenue in exchange for online visibility. This deal worked for a while… but no one really thought about the longer-term challenges. Thankfully, we see more and more companies, such as Triptease or BookBeddercome to the market with solutions to help hotels and restaurants who have been trapped for so long and get out of this deal! 

Same story on the social media side: restaurants and hotels’ number one priority these past 10 years was to get setup on social media – no matter how or why – in order to have access to numbers of fans, numbers of likes. Fake digital gurus, social media geeks and other fake geniuses who noticed their eagerness and ‘sugar cravings’, came up with a magic trick of their own to feed them quickly: algorithms, web templates and other automated/robotised solutions. Again, this deal worked for while. But now, it is the King Louie Curse that is affecting the independent hotels’ and restaurants’ brands: they all look and feel the same online!

The common part to these two issues for the hospitality industry may be the fact they underestimated the impact of digital transformation, which is not only about technology and the digital tools. It is also and foremost about the changes of individuals’ behaviours. The Millennials or Digital Natives embody this change, which Emmannuelle Duez, a French entrepreneur, founder of the Boson Project talks about best:

Collaboration, authenticity, ethics, personalisation… as per the title of our panel discussion during the last Independent Hotel Show in London, these are some of the Millennials’ values that are already shaping the future of the hospitality industry:

  •  Family and friends are the most influential source of travel information for 67% travelers.
  •  80% of respondents feel travel reviews have a real influence on their decisions, with 56% posting online reviews after a trip
  •  Mobile use is high, with 43% using their phones every five minutes.

(Forbes, 2014)

In this article, we try to understand to what extent independent hotels and restaurants short-term focus or King Louie Curse is affecting their brands? What is the antidote to the King Louie Curse?

The Destructive Process

Too many independent hotels and restaurants, when they identify a need to communicate online – using digital tools or social media – go through the same process:

  1. Look at what competitors have/do online. 
  2. Second of all, they go to their supplier and ask for the same as their competitors’: same type of website as hotel/restaurant X or Y or same style of content as the Instagram page of hotel/restaurant X or Y.

Let’s do the #HBDTEST, in order to show you what we mean: take two hotels’ Instagram pages or two restaurants’ websites and compare them.

  • First observation: they all look the same!

  • Second observation: their real life brand image has been wiped-off their online platforms, leading luxury hotels to resemble a Formula 1 property online. 

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The worst part is that even the strongest brands go through this process. Recently, the hotel collection Relais & Chateaux binned 60 years of strong brand positioning in exchange for a deal with Air B n B (BFM TV). And it particularly hurts the luxury segment. Indeed, luxury hotels, 5 star properties, are known for their unique, personalised, memorable experiences and hence create an expensive offer relying on the value they create for customers (not price). Now that they all look and feel like a Formula 1 type of hotel – where the service relies on low prices – how can the customer see the value of the luxury hotel and why would the customer make a choice based on that invisible value ?!

The Mowgli Antidote

In this extract of the Jungle Book, Baloo wanted to distract King Louie by dressing up like him and dancing like him, in order to give a chance to Mowgli to escape. Hotels and restaurants may have fooled their customers with their great Baloo-like distraction: dressing-up like one another even though they do not sell the same products, are not located in the same places and do not have the same menus.

It seems all they have done is spend their resources to make their consumers/guests believe they had adapted to the new digital world. But guess what, the “Baloo Moment” has arrived:

There is a disconnection between independent hotels’/restaurants’ brands, their online visibility/online positioning and Millennials values.

It seems independent hotels and restaurants are now being uncovered and their brands are paying the price for it.

Fortunately, the independent hotels and restaurants have the antidote to their King Louie Curse already. We believe it is their USPs that will help them succeed in their digital transformation and adapt to the needs and behaviours of the next generation of travellers.

Your most strategic move for 2017? Stop hiding under King Louie costumes and invest in humanity, authenticity, personality and personalised services to create more human digital strategies as we explain in our Boutique Hotel News article:

  • Revise your marketing investments to communicate in two dimensions

  • Setup a proper short-term AND long-term communication strategy

  • Drop the Hare strategy, time to go very slowly and become the Tortoise (Hare & Tortoise)

 

A larger hotel or restaurant group might be less likely to be bothered by the King Louie Curse and the impact of it on their brands, as they have the resources to invest in digital, implement the latest new tools, or setting up X amounts of algorithms to get and much visibility as possible. It is another story for independent restaurants/hotels who’s biggest asset is their difference and uniqueness reflected in their brands

A new year has just begun, what better time to set new strategy resolutions and Mowgli-Up your Digital Transformation? We can help you develop a more human digital strategy and accompany you in your digital transformation, in order to build your business, brand and increase revenues. Get in touch now!

Hannah x