When asked to name a hotel school, which one immediately comes to mind? Perhaps the prestigious École Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland or the stateside Cornell University School of Hotel Administration (now a part of the S.C. Johnson College of Business). Ranking fourth in the QS 2017 World University Rankings for Hospitality and Leisure Management is Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, with over 3,000 students spread across three campuses, tremendous global diversification in that no single country claims more than 10% of the student population, and a very entrepreneurial outlook.
This is a hotel school advocating that its students learn and embrace everything there is to know about alternate lodging providers and all the ways in which the sharing economy might disrupt the hospitality industry. To elucidate why, and what established hoteliers can glean from this shift in instructional focus, I arranged for a quick confab between myself, Nicolas Graf, chief academic officer at Les Roches, and David Fudge, chief marketing officer for Oasis Collections, a home-meets-hotel, short-term rental company involved with the school.
Larry Mogelonsky: It seems incredible that Les Roches, a school vested in the success of the hotel industry, would be ‘colluding’ with a company like Oasis.
Nicolas Graf: The world of hospitality must push new boundaries. The old bricks-and-mortar model is already broken. Just examine the hotel industry today. The hotel brand is separate from the physical hotel itself. The owner of a property asks a brand to run a business using his or her facility. The ‘real estate play’ is now independent of the ‘guest experience’.
David Fudge: It’s best to think of Oasis as a hospitality brand. To book a room on a branded hotel site, you select the city – perhaps a sub-brand if the primary brand only has a few offerings in that destination – and then select your room. With Oasis, you select the city – we’re currently in 23 different locations worldwide – and then select your home. The difference is that we only have one of each property available but with a much wider selection of home types.
NG: When you look at companies like Oasis, it’s clear that our industry has to adapt quickly. Our industry has been too stable for decades. The first disrupter was the separation of the real estate from the brand and the introduction of management companies. The second was the growth of IT systems and the expansion of electronic channels such as the OTAs. How is this latest ‘threat’ any different than what has already transpired?
LM: But what about the loss of jobs?
NG: The job of revenue manager didn’t exist two decades ago. And 10 years ago, the social media manager role didn’t exist, either. Next, recall the days when hotels had in-house laundries, which rarely exists today.
DF: Our model does not necessarily lead to a reduction in jobs. Rather the employment is more adaptive to the needs of our guests in a more distributed environment. For example, we have housekeeping, but instead of a housekeeper working in one location we may hire a company that can dispatch teams to several different locations.
LM: So, we’re talking about replacing the hotel as we know it?
DF: Hardly. There is a place for the hotel in this new landscape for travel functions including short bookings (the Oasis minimum is three nights) and conventions located on hotel properties. The hotels of the future need to better understand who their guests are and how to serve them.
NG: Building on that, just look at AccorHotels’ new Jo&Joe brand as an example. Here is a product that is low-priced and targeting a younger audience. It is an experience and delivers great customer value with a real formula for success.
LM: Do you see an end to the role of general manager?
NG: The days of the GM are hardly over but the role is evolving at an increase rate. The skill set is changing to reflect the needs and wants of the modern guest. And remarkably, it’s been this way ever since the job title was created!
DF: Well, I’m not so sure. Perhaps the name will remain but in a different capacity. When hotel rooms are distributed across a broader geography and staff is no longer concentrated in a single location, management will be more regionally focused.
LM: What skills should a general manager equip themselves with then?
NG: Be an agile entrepreneur, prepared for and able to accept any change.
LM: To conclude and so hoteliers know what they’re up against, what differentiates Oasis from other operators in the sharing economy, which in and unto itself, is becoming a highly saturated business ecosystem?
DF: Several factors. First is our unique brand guarantee. Oasis curates all offerings to ensure that they meet our standards for comfort, security and quality. Second, we provide a unique brand experience that goes beyond the home, with partnerships that give guests insider access to local gyms, spas and members’ clubs. Third, we generally offer second homes or apartments, rather than rooms in homes or condominiums, and we work in each region to adhere to all local and regional short-term rental regulations.