#TBT: Predicting the future in 2000

In HOTELS’ January 2000 issue, an architect predicted that in the distant future – the year 2017 – we’d be awakening in our rocket ship hotels, unstrapping ourselves from inflatable beds nestled in pods and eating a breakfast of hydroponic vegetables to fortify us for a walk in zero gravity space. (Richard Branson is still working on that.)

Back here on Earth, 21 industry leaders weighed in on what the 21st century would look like. HOTELS asked, “What forces will have the greatest influence on the development of the hotel industry in the next 10 to 25 years?” Here’s what a few of them said (with their former titles at the time of the interview):

Chip Conley, chairman and CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality

“Hotel marketing will move from demographics – what we look like on the outside – to psychographics – what we look like on the inside. Psychographics – our values, feelings and interests – is the new way to connect with guests. Your hotel will charge a premium versus your competitor across the street because the consumer will pay extra for a unique experience that reinforces their identity.”

Henry Maksoud, president and CEO, Maksoud Plaza, São Paulo

“The pervasiveness of new technologies will require innovation in the operation of the business and in the design of physical assets, including reconfiguration of traditional guestrooms to include advanced business-related technology… Even in a technology-intensive era, human resources remains the most critical asset of the industry, and its effective management toward necessarily greater improvement is a major challenge over the years to come.”

Mike Leven, chairman, president and CEO, U.S. Franchise Systems

“The distribution of wealth and a peaceful world will have the greatest influence on emerging tourism capabilities for the average person. What I foresee is the ability for millions more to have the financial wherewithal to travel peacefully, and with ease and understanding… However, if the world is not at peace 25 years from now, we won’t look much different in terms of our industry than we do today.”

Michael Federmann, chairman, Dan Hotels

“The most important development will be the exploitation of information. Very few businesses are able to gather so much information about so many people with so much buying power. Hotels may become one of the main meetings points between the virtual and physical world. Hotel companies may become marketing organizations with a huge and solid client base.”

Onno Poortier, president, The Peninsula Group, Hong Kong

“Another consideration is the impact of the many hotel group mergers. Because of the resulting and perceived economies of scale and market penetration, they may seem to threaten the existence of small niche groups or independent hotels. However, theses will likely survive and flourish as long as they are adaptable. Apart from their appeal to a discerning audience which would rather have individuality, recognition and personal service over being swallowed into a crowd of big hotel chains, the Internet, used cleverly, will level the market playing field in terms of audience reach.”

Paul McManus, president and CEO, Leading Hotels of the World

“Clearly, the Internet will have a significant impact on the booking process. This channel of distribution will affect both the travel agency business and the Global Distribution System… If the Internet changes these two vehicles, the cost of goods sold changes as well. If the break-even point of successful hotel operations drops, increased building and competition will result. These factors will influence the dynamics of the supply/demand balance in most marketplaces.”

Jonathan Tisch, president and CEO, Loews Hotels New York

“While there has been considerable consolidation over the past several years, the impact may not be fully realized for another five to 10 years… To that end, I believe there may actually be more opportunity for smaller companies to establish a significant presence in the marketing by offering more unique and fulfilling products.”

Isadore Sharp, chairman, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

“Ultimately, our greatest asset is our people. In a business where careers are built from entry-level positions, we believe having an environment which attracts and retains good people will become even more of a competitive advantage in future.”

Reto Wittwer, president and CEO, Kempinski Hotels & Resorts

“The individual who will drive the hospitality business will be the customer, and hoteliers will have to adapt to their needs and wishes. The customer will gain more lodging experience and no longer accept mediocrity. They will be able to choose their ‘hosts’ according to their wishes, and I anticipate the resurrection of old values. The customer will look for creative product offers, well-trained staff and a private concierge offering seamless services that are not restricted by the walls of a hotel. I believe the quality of a hotel will be in its expression of style and efficiency, its ability to create a constant delight while keeping a subtle form of details and simplicity.” 

Peter Malone, managing director, Jurys Doyle Hotel Group

“I am going to stick my neck out by forecasting the country with the greatest potential to become the world’s number one travel and hospitality destination in 25 years’ time is China.”