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People today expect to be connected always and everywhere; sometimes it’s hard to believe that there was a world before smartphones and Wi-Fi. In the time since Wi-Fi became ubiquitous in hotels, apartments, and public spaces, it has fueled the evolution of connectivity in a lot of ways. Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic needs start at the bottom, and you can’t get to the next level without a strong foundation. 

By now, everyone is aware that hotel giant Marriott International announced on Friday a massive data breach that goes back more than four years and may have affected up to 500 million customers worldwide. 

After two years of preparation, the FlyZoo Hotel — a futuristic property that uses interactive technologies to do everything from greet guests to deliver room service — is ready for business. 

Mobile technology is fast becoming central to the entire travel experience. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to research trips, book accommodation, check in at the airport, and access their hotel room. But one of the next big roles mobile has to play in the travel process is mobile payment. The idea of an entirely cashless society might still seem some way off, but mobile payment is gaining popularity. As it becomes more widely used, its fast and frictionless nature will bring benefits before, during and after a trip. 

Digital marketing, also known as internet marketing, plays a significant role to boost hotel website traffic and online bookings. Recently, many big announcements were made in the digital industry, for example when Facebook introduced a new video format for marketers, or when Google announced a board core algorithm. If you are a new hotelier and want to stay ahead in the industry, then you should know what’s going on in the hotel digital marketing industry. 

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Super Size Me?


In case you didn’t see it, on May 19 Hotel-Online published the press release for Abraj Kudai, the structure that will become, on its scheduled opening in 2017, the largest hotel in the world at 10,000 rooms. AK, if you will, is being constructed in Mecca (here I use the traditional spelling), Saudi Arabia, approximately one mile from the Grand Mosque, the holiest shrine in Islam. By definition, it’s aimed at the religiously observant; non-Muslims are not permitted in Makkah (and here I use the transliteration). Beyond the observant, the hotel is obviously targeting a well-heeled clientele:  twelve towers, ten of which will be designed with four-star accommodations and the remaining two will offer five-star rooms and amenities. Oh, and by the way, five floors are reserved exclusively for the Saudi royal family.

At this point, I have a big basic question. Are 12 different towers and a mini-palace all one hotel, or are they 12 hotels sharing a parking lot, heliport pads and a common restaurant, or in this case, 70 restaurants? The fact that two of the twelve towers are begin designed for an entirely different level of accommodation and service makes me wonder if the AK would be rated a 4.167-star hotel, based on 10 fours and 2 fives?  If they are different self-contained units with different ratings, aren’t they different hotels?

I’m not completely oblivious to the idea that there can be different levels of service within one organization. Let’s borrow history’s most famous example of multiple class structures in transportation and tourism:  RMS Titanic.  Titanic offered four basic classes of service: Nice, Nicer, Nicest and No Frills. As a result of Titanic’s less-than-stellar maiden voyage, we no longer classify life jackets and lifeboats as “frills,” but that was then and this is now. The AK has somewhat managed the problem by simply eliminating "No Frills" and "Nice." The only choice for AK guests who are not members of the Saudi royal family will be between "Nicer" and "Nicest," but I still wonder if those choices don’t mean different hotels joined by a common lobby.
Speaking of different hotels with a common lobby, I am also familiar with that model. Las Vegas has several examples of the good hotel inside the ho-hum hotel. (Now there’s a snappy name for a "No Frills" chain. I dibs it, which is just one step below a registered trademark.) I stayed in one Las Vegas hybrid high-rise hideaway and asked a clerk on duty about the good hotel. In this case, the good hotel was several floors sandwiched in the midst of the remaining ho-hummery. My question was straightforward: “Since they’re the same rooms built on the same floor plan in the same building, what makes them so much better than what I’m staying in?” His answer was equally straightforward:  “Better shampoo.”

But let’s talk about those hotels throughout the world, AK included, where upscale is in a separate tower or building.  If we follow the doctrine of “separate but not equal,” then it would seem that they are clearly different, right down to their identity, rate and associated star power. Perhaps I’m splitting hairs but clearly different hotels shouldn’t use a combination room count to brag about their size. 

Collaterally, I wonder about the worldwide trend toward super-sized accommodations, both on land and sea. One can certainly argue that bigger is better for both provider and recipient.  The provider makes more money on a greatly expanded inventory made more profitable by a common staff and an efficient common platform of delivery. The recipient also benefits (supposedly) by that same expanded inventory, insofar as the egalitarian laws of supply and demand drive the price down as availability increases. Clearly those laws haven’t been passed in Saudi Arabia, or the AK has been exempted. And finally, there is the benefit of unintended consequences, where new demand arises for the antithesis of super sizing – the boutique hotel and the intimate river cruise. I’ve gone big and I’ve gone small and each has definite benefits.  What say you? Is the AK the world’s largest hotel or just its newest accommodation complex? And what’s your preference? Small and intimate or large and luxurious?

About The Author
Michael Schubach

Michael Schubach is a regular contributor to Hospitality Upgrade.

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