David Eisen, the Editor-in-Chief of HOTELS Magazine, took over the position a little more than six months ago, but he’s been embedded in hospitality media for more than 15 years. In this wide-ranging episode with host Robin Trimingham, he discusses the trends—and emerging trends—within the global hospitality industry, how things are changing, what things are staying the same and what it takes to lead a hotel-focused publication.
Highlights from Today’s Episode
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David Eisen: Sometimes if you make a mistake, you own that mistake. But it’s all about the service recovery. So like a guest that stays in hotel, it’s a flawless stay, right? Nothing happens. It’s great. The water temperature is great. The shower pressure was great. It was quiet. The room was clean. Nothing went wrong. Maybe they’ll go on TripAdvisor or whatever it is. Google and leave a review. Maybe not. But then you have the traveler who say Hvac isn’t working and there it’s the middle of summer and they’re boiling and it’s like 2:00 in the morning. They might be angry about it, but somehow the hotel gets the engineer up there at 230 in the morning to fix it, whatever it is. And you have air conditioning, you can sleep through the night. That person is going to be, I think, more loyal to that hotel now because something did went wrong and they went out of their way and fixed it. You’ll get the great review because that’s really what a service recovery is all about. You’re making guests for life going out.
Robin Trimingham: Welcome to the Innovative Hotelier podcast by HOTELS magazine with weekly thought provoking discussions with the world’s leading hotel and hospitality innovators. Welcome to the innovative hotelier brought to you by Hotels magazine. I’m your host, Robin Trimingham. As regular listeners will be aware, this show specializes in having conversations with industry thought leaders regarding cutting edge ideas and trends in the hospitality industry. And there’s perhaps nobody more in touch with what is happening and what will be happening in the hospitality field than HOTELS Magazine’s new editor in chief, David Eisen. With over 15 years experience covering all aspects of the hospitality landscape, David has his own unique perspective regarding the direction the industry is heading, and he’s here today to share his thoughts regarding the trends that have been defined so far this year and what to look out for moving forward. Join me now for my conversation with David. F.O.H. Is a global food service and hospitality company that manufactures smart commercial grade solutions. Headquartered in Miami, the company designs and manufactures all their restaurant and hotel products. They have showrooms and distribution centers located throughout the globe, and their products are always in stock and ready to ship from any of their distribution centers worldwide. Welcome, David. It’s great to chat with you today.
David Eisen: Hey, Robin, good to see you. I’m really excited to be on this show slash podcast with you. I’ve listened to and watched many, so it’s very cool that I get to be kind of a part of it now. So I appreciate you inviting me on.
Robin Trimingham: Well, I guess I should say it’s about time, isn’t it? You took over an enormous job around the beginning of the year, and we didn’t get to you sooner because you needed time to get your feet on the ground. Bigger and more important people to chat with than me. Of course. So let’s play get to know you just a little bit for our audience who really haven’t had a chance to chat with you yet. What first got you interested in the hotel industry in the first place?
David Eisen: Well, we’re going way back. Okay.
Robin Trimingham: So to school.
David Eisen: Yeah, I think like some people or many people, you kind of fall into a profession or a position or a job that you never thought you would be doing. I mean, I’ll take it back to around 2000 and I’m going to date myself because I’m at least I still have most of my hair, but I’m getting up there in age. So I moved to New York in 2000. I didn’t have a job. I was staying at a friend’s, my friend’s small apartment in Alphabet City in Manhattan. He was in India, so I got to take his room over with three other people for a few weeks. So I was in New York. I got a job, paralegal. I was working at a law firm. Right. Doing kind of the menial tasks that a paralegal does. But when you’re in your 20s at that age, working for a white a white collar law firm, one of these big law firms, you can make a lot of money, which was great at the time, right? But I knew that I didn’t think I wanted to be a lawyer like my father. So I did it for like a year or something like that. And I’ll be quick with this. I got a job at the Associated Press and I was working basically on there on what’s called their sports Desk, doing like light editing, hardly anything more of like an internship, a paid internship at that.
David Eisen: But I loved sports and I knew I liked to write. So working at the Associated Press was great. It was only a seasonal position. So six months later I needed to find another job. So this is again, this is early 2000. I had my resume on, I think Monster.com. I don’t even know if that still exists. No one uses that, right. Everyone uses LinkedIn. And I got a call from a company that needed someone to write about. They were looking to hire someone to write about the cruise industry. And I was like, Yeah, sure, why not the cruise industry? I thought I might like cruises since I’m writing about cruises and taking cruises, it’s not really my cup of tea. I enjoy hotels much more. Yeah, I went to work for this company. I was writing my cruises that just snowballed and I made my way up through it and then segwayed into transition to writing about the hotel industry. And I kind of just well loved it. I always loved Who Doesn’t Love staying in Hotels? It’s funny, my whole thing with hotels at an early age, I remember taking family vacations.
David Eisen: The coolest thing was that you could have as many towels as you wanted to. There was no limit to the amount of towels you could have. You just ask someone. They gave you more and more fresh towels. This is what I’ve been doing for 17 years now, and just editorial media and hospitality media writing about hotels you meet. Obviously you get to interview great people. You get to talk to great people like you. And I just fell in love with the industry, everything about it, you know, the branding, the marketing, the real estate side of it. Hotels are these living and breathing kind of real estate where it’s operational, but there’s also an investment side to it. There’s so many different hands in it. There’s the owner, there’s the operator, the asset manager, there’s the brand. And it can be some private equity company like Blackstone that owns the hotels or Joe Smith for all my Wyndham people out there, who owns a Howard Johnson on some route or interstate. Right. And it’s part of the American dream, too, operating hotels. There’s such story to it. That’s what struck me about it.
Robin Trimingham: That’s a great introduction. What I always loved about the hotel industry, to me, for my own personal business experience, it’s like theater. Our objective the whole time is to have everything look seamless and perfect and gracious. And you’re right, the never ending supply of hotels and everything else and behind the scenes on a bad day, it’s a complete madhouse. People scurrying left and right, talking on the old days, on walkie talkies of all things, and trying to figure out how they were going to get rooms ready and who was going where and all the minutia of the details. In a good hotel. The guest is never aware. Right? It’s like that old joke about the duck, completely calm on the surface and paddling like crazy underneath the surface of the water. What got you interested in taking over the helm of Hotels magazine? Because, I mean, let’s face it, this is the quintessential definitive hotel magazine for the industry. It’s been around since the 60s.
David Eisen: Yeah. Look over your right shoulder, right? It says it all since 1966. So there’s pedigree. There’s people who obviously come before me. It’s interesting when you go to these magazines and there’s many in our industry, the torch has always been carried on. I’m not the first. I’m not going to be the last. There’s people before me. There’s going to be more people after me. But it just presented a great kind of opportunity to come along and take the helm of such a kind of storied brand. And I love the fact actually, that hotels in in our industry is known to be kind of a global media source. We’re global. So we’re talking to people in Europe, stories about Hotels.
Robin Trimingham: China, Africa.
David Eisen: Exactly. It’s not just focused on the US. There’s so many different stories out there and running. Hotels, buying hotels, transacting hotels in Europe is certainly different from doing it in the US. There’s different sets of rules, whether it’s leases versus ownership and ground leases. There’s all kinds of different models out there and they change from region to region. The way you operate hotels, the types of guests that come to your hotels. There’s so many different stories, and I think hotels has always lent itself to that to tell those stories. Right? So it just presented a great. Opportunity for me to kind of come here and see if I could hopefully add to it in a in a good way. So that was the reasoning. I came over, like you said, it’s been, I guess, seven months now. I’m terrible at math. See, that’s why I write for a living, because I’m horrible at math. I can do short equations, you know, like get some percentages and stuff like that, because you need to know that in hospitality when you’re writing about red or whatever it is a lot of division, but writing is not the arithmetic. But that’s really why I came.
Robin Trimingham: Yeah it’s funny, I was pretty much drawn to this opportunity for very much the same reason. I love the fact that I’m going to say at the moment, close to 75% of the people that I chat with are from countries all around the world. And it’s really interesting to see the differences between what’s really hot in this region or what’s trending in that region over there. And it’s a conversation that never really ends. Talking a little bit more about what’s been going on this year, you get to talk to all the big brands, which I think must be the coolest thing ever. Marriott actually takes your call.
David Eisen: Or my email.
Robin Trimingham: So what are you hearing in the marketplace at the moment?
David Eisen: It’s a good question. There’s so many things and the great thing is we have basically four big conferences every year where people congregate and we talk about these things in person, which is great because as you know, in our industry, everyone still talks about everything post-COVID, which I’m glad we’re kind of moving. You never know what next Black Swan event is down the pike, but it’s good to be moving forward with that. We’re three years past in the throes of it, but the comps are different. Right out of the gate, we saw things like Red car just astronomically have a nice bounce post Covid. Things I think are getting a little bit tighter now, particularly as we move into fall. Kids are back at school, so we can’t rely as much on that great pop of leisure travel that really undergirded the industry. But we’ll see some things kind of moderate when you’re looking at average daily rates. Occupancies might moderate, but it’s more about just getting back to normal, which I think is great. We’re just that’s what we want, right? We want to get back to normal. We want to get corporate business back. We want to get group business back to where it was before talking to the brands. It’s interesting, whenever a new brand was launched, it was like this huge kind of thing for us, right? We were like, What’s the name of it? Blah, blah, blah, because it didn’t happen. Like every week now it seems like brands are launching brands.
David Eisen: It’s incessant, which isn’t a bad thing, so to speak, but it’s just that everything down the pike, it’s a new brand is coming here. I mean, we looked at and looking at IHG just launched a brand called Garner Marriott launched their economy extended stay brand studio res. We have Hilton launching spark in the premium economy space. But it’s interesting, a lot of these hotel companies that usually played in those segments of higher than Midscale, they always had that. But the Hyatt was always known for the upscale hotels and so forth and so on. Everyone’s going down to the lower segment, the lower rate of business right now, getting down with the likes of the ones that have been there before. Your choice, hotels of the world, your Wyndham’s, because everyone’s trying to capture not just the guest but also the developer. Where can you build hotels? And a lot of these new brands are conversion brands. So it’s like there’s a conversion war right now. It’s like, okay, I’m going to go after this guy who’s got this hotel here, but I want him to convert it to my brand because like we were saying before, in this environment right now, it’s tougher to build hotels. It’s just tougher to get financing for it. And if you do, it’s very expensive right now. I mean, we’re looking at prime rates up around, what was it, 8%. You look at it ten years ago, whatever it was, it was it was 3%.
David Eisen: But it’s all cyclical because then if you look back to the 2000, everything was 8%. So it’s very much like a cyclical business. But I mean, that’s what I’m hearing a lot from brands. The thing with brands is they’re great, but brands are the best marketers and people in the world. Everything is great. There’s a little caution. The things are always great with the brands, but you have to have those kind of Pollyannish people out there and they’re very good at that, but they put out great product. They do, but there’s always this push and pull. I like speaking. The brands are great, but if you really want to speak to the people, that really will tell you the unvarnished truth about the hotel industry. You go to a hotel owner because that’s where the buck stops. They’re the ones who are paid out last, right? So they’re the ones that have to hire the brand. They’re the ones who have to hire the third party management company if they’re not running it itself. And like I said before, they’re really focused on profitability. At the end of the day, what’s your bottom line? Because I like this terminology. I didn’t make it up, but RevPAr doesn’t pay the rent. It’s not just about revenue, it’s about expense and how that flows down to the bottom line. So if you really want to know, is it the rubber meets the road, Is that is that the way, Is that the.
Robin Trimingham: Yeah, I think so.
David Eisen: Talk to the hotel owners. They’ll tell you exactly what’s going on.
Robin Trimingham: I think you’re making an excellent point because it’s the owners who ultimately have to deal with capital improvements and the consequences of the advances of ESG initiatives. All of these things are really going to impact profitability in a way that affects owners more than everybody else. Pretty interesting conversation recently with somebody who was pointing out that you’re going to have to actually account for the life cycle of the entire building if you’re a public company and you’re owning hotels because there’s going to have to be an accounting ultimately for the cost of that building going away or being converted to something else in the future. And that was like that kind of blew my mind. I’d never really thought that far down the road before.
Robin Trimingham: Yeah. The other the interesting thing is different. I’m going to say different kinds of players seem to be getting involved in hotel management and also in ownership. I’m thinking about the kind of owner operator that operates hotels on university campuses. Now, I’m not American, as everybody knows, so that might be an idea that’s a dime a dozen in America. I would have no idea. It’s not something that I know of from Canada, where I’m from, and I don’t think much. It exists in places like Europe. It made me realize that if you have a hotel properties on university campuses, then you’re kind of, I’m going to say, raising students to have an impression of what a hotel is like, what it should include. And I’m wondering if people are going to start carrying those expectations forward as they themselves graduate and become the Gen Z travelers that we’re talking about to everybody at the moment.
David Eisen: Yeah, you bring an interesting point about university hotels. Hotels on university campuses, it’s like unfettered demand. Almost 365. Right? When school’s in session, you have visiting professors, you have the families that are coming for homecoming. It’s a great demand generator, so much so that we’ve seen actual brands pop up like graduate hotels. They develop hotels via their ownership company, Capital Partners and Ben Weprin, which is a he’s a great name in our industry, someone you should have on your podcast. I’ll have to introduce you. They built graduate hotels, obviously. It’s called graduate hotels in college markets like Madison, where the University of Wisconsin is Oxford, Mississippi, University of Mississippi. So they really honed in on these locations to develop hotels. And I think it’s a fascinating thing to do. And it’s not just them. There’s other ownership groups out there that are like, oh, I want to target hotels in these college markets because from a cash flow perspective, it makes sense. So it’s a huge demand generator. So to your point, guess about college students. I think that goes to hospitality as a career. And there’s so many different areas that you can work within the hospitality industry. For me, I went back to school in 2000 around 2013 and got my master’s in hospitality. Now, if you have read any of my LinkedIn posts, you’ll see that ten years later. For me, I’m not. So yeah, I’m not so sure it was a great idea for me financially, but that’s another discussion altogether. But getting to the point about hospitality, you can be in operations. The great thing is there’s CEOs out there. I always like to name check Eric Danziger, who was the CEO of Starwood Hotels.
David Eisen: He was the CEO of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. He was the CEO of Trump Hotels. And now he’s back in the third party management side. He started as a bellboy. I don’t even know if it’s preferred nomenclature anymore at a hotel in San Francisco. I don’t even think he had a heist. He might have had he might have graduated high school. And this is no railing against colleges, but this guy worked all the way up to become a CEO of a company. You do that, you can work at a Holiday Inn or whatever hotel it is somewhere. Work the front desk, get some experience there, whatever it is, and work your way through and you can become on the sea level one day without even a college degree. You can that’s on the operational side. And then you have people that work within hospitality or focus on hospitality, that have MBAs that are the guys who know the algorithms and all that stuff and have that right brain left brain, whatever it is. I think it’s the right brain veteran analytical, but they know real estate. I always go to Blackstone because I’ve written about them extensively. Blackstone being the private equity company and their head of real estate, their CEO, John Gray. The guy just seems to have the Midas touch like anything he touches, turns to gold. Everyone talks about real estate now and like, Oh God, if you own real estate, you’re in trouble because of what’s going on. If you own hotels, I think you’re in a good position. If you own warehouses or logistics, you’re in a good position.
David Eisen: Blackstone Smart enough. I think 2% of the portfolio is office Owning offices right now probably sucks for sure because they’re half empty at that. I mean, they’re half full. People are aren’t really going back to the office. We’re living in this kind of new world order where people work remote. They like it because working remote has it’s there’s two sides to it. It’s great because you gain hours. You’re not schlepping to work. You’re not having to take on the subway. You don’t have to drive an hour to your office. So you’re saving time. And time is like, talk to people. Time is is more valuable than money right now. The thing is, is that working remote also, you feel kind of isolated. We talked to all my colleagues. We talked through a video screen. Yeah. So you lose a little of that kind of actual touch and feel camaraderie that you only build within an office space because you may be going to get coffee. Hey, you want to go get a coffee and you’re talking about stuff outside of work. So it there’s good there’s good things and bad things regarding kind of the work from home. But getting back to hotels, we wrote a story about there’s a lot of investors right now on the sidelines who are looking to actually buy hotels maybe and convert them to multifamily residential because that’s in these kind of these mixed use developments. I mean, there’s a lot of things going out there with conversions of real estate. Obviously, office is kind of harder because of the footprint to turn it into something else the way that things are, the plumbing.
David Eisen: That’s right. All that stuff. So it makes it a little more difficult. But yeah, owning office probably not so great, but owning hotels, I think in the long run it’s a good, smart investment.
Robin Trimingham: Established in 2002 is a woman owned global food service and hospitality company that manufactures smart, savvy commercial grade products, including plateware, drinkware, flatware. Hotel amenities and more driven by innovation. F.o.h. Is dedicated to delivering that wow experience that restaurants and hotels crave all while maintaining a competitive price. All products are fully customizable, and many are also created using sustainable eco friendly materials such as straws and plates made from biodegradable paper and wood and PVC free Drinkware F.o.h. Has two established brands front of the house focused on tabletop and Buffet Solutions and Room 360, which offers hotel products. Check out their collections today at f.o.h. Worldwide.com. What do you think of this mixed use development model? Is this here to stay? Because I was fascinated to learn that there are some office tower looking buildings and inside, along with offices, there are up to three different brands of hotel. One brand will be on floor 2 to 10 and then going up at something else and then the top being the highest level brand, if you will. And also the best view. I think that’s a fascinating use of space.
David Eisen: Yeah, it’s an interesting concept. It’s been around I think we talked about for years now, hotel companies. Brands have done dual brands where it’s like you have a residence in an extended stay product mixed with another kind of just a transient hotel, whatever it may be. And it’s great because it’s one footprint. So your expenses actually go down because in terms of operating these hotels or if it’s on its someone footprint, they’re kind of shared expenses between the two, but it gives guests more option in a certain area. I mean, I just moved to an area called well, I think the real estate people call it like they call it North Bethesda, Maryland. But it’s actually Rockville, Maryland, and it’s about 20 minutes outside of downtown Washington, D.C. But I live in this development now where there’s an anchor canopy hotel by Hilton right in the development called Pike and Rose. So it’s like I can see it from my window. So it’s a hotel. But then beyond that, you have all this like retail. You have like an H&M, you have a Uniqlo, you have Starbucks, you have all these restaurants all around it. So when you talk about mixed use, I think it goes beyond just the hotel. But what’s anchoring those projects, too?
Robin Trimingham: Like, you’re right. Hudson Yards.
David Eisen: Yeah, Hudson Yards is another one. All these developments that are kind of sprouting up, whether they’re in the suburbs or the suburbs or downtown in Manhattan, right? I mean, Manhattan’s a different beast altogether. You have so many different neighborhoods and there’s only finite amount of space to build on. And most of it is claimed as it is. So a lot of it is like, okay, let’s buy something, let’s raise it and let’s rebuild or something, whatever that may be. But you have to go to where the trends are, right? And I think, again, getting back to work from home, if people aren’t in the office all day, they might be working out of a coffee shop. There’s more options available to you from a working standpoint. You think places like the works of the world’s the industrial cities of the world, they’re still around working from these communal, shared working areas. But I think that’s another opportunity for hotels. And you’ve seen a little bit of it where like brands like Citizenm sell memberships so you can work out of their lobby. They have great lobbies too, which makes sense. You know, the hotel industry is great. They’re a little slow to adapt on technology, on kind of these they’re just a little bit slower out of the gate to get to these things, these kind of these ideas of like, Hey, we sell hotel rooms. Why not the hotel that’s owned by NCR in New York, JFK, You can rent it. You can get a room for a day, right? You can do like daily rent. You can get a pass to the pool. There’s so many ways to monetize a hotel and obviously you have to take into the expense side to that. The operational and the labor perspective, which we haven’t talked about. But so there’s so many different ways to monetize. And I think the hotel industry sometimes does a poor job of doing that, and I think they’re trying to get there. But, you know, they have a ways to go.
Robin Trimingham: I think they have managed to put off having to transform or innovate for a very long time. And it’s interesting, though, I think there’s a tidal wave coming all because of I have had chats with a more than one company based out of Germany. And it’s fascinating the direction the hotel industry is going in Europe and full speed ahead. There are apps now where the app will scan your face, scan your passport, and that is now a preferred way of identifying a person with banks and insurance companies. And it’s being embraced by the hotel industry. You can now have contactless keyless check in and it’s an app that you’re uploading your video of your face to, and that’s what’s being used to verify who you are, check you in, and then you get a QR code sent to your phone. And that’s how you’re getting into your hotel room. I mean, I realize America is going to be ahead of my own very small country, but that kind of stuff, that’s revolutionary. I mean, that just changes.
David Eisen: Everything it does. I always like to play like the devil’s advocate or the kind of the contrarian. I haven’t seen it really. And maybe because I don’t travel as extensively as I as I like to, that’s the one thing, just as a sidebar about writing or writing about hotels, people always come up to me and they’re like, Oh, can you get me a hotel? Stay here or a hotel stay. They’re like, Don’t even travel that much. I write about the industry, but I’m not staying at the Shangri-La of the world. Every other thing. But what? I think to your point, yeah, there are these when we talk about AI, we talk about machine learning, but I don’t think we’ve still gotten the simple things correct. Have you ever used your phone to open your door at a hotel? I haven’t.
David Eisen: And maybe yet. If you remember, there were things like the kiosks in the lobby area to bypass the front desk. And nobody ever liked them.
David Eisen: No one used them, and now they’re coming back. Maybe. I don’t know what the tech it has to be easy to use. And what you just went through sounds really cool. But there’s a lot of steps to it’s like a QR code and download this app and it’s like, okay, I can do that if I’m a little, let’s say, particularly if it’s part of one of these loyalty programs like Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy that makes it easy for you. But not all hotels are the same to your point, which is great. That’s why I love this industry. There’s so many different varying types of hotels. You have boutique, you have lifestyle, you have full service, you have whatever it is Alexa is. So it’s different across the ecosystem. I like technology when it’s simple to use and it’s and it frees yourself from a time perspective. The worst thing ever is getting to a hotel, particularly if you’re tired, getting up a flight and there’s like a long line and there’s one person there and they’re just checking people in. And by the way, I think hotels need to stop with the pulling out the map. No one ever uses that. They pull out the map. You don’t even know what directory you are or where you are. They’re circling things. You go this way, you go that way. We’ve got to get rid of the paper maps.
Robin Trimingham: When you talk about hotel lobby lineups, very first hotel job I ever had worked for the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. It was the largest hotel in North America at the time, 1100 rooms. Friday night was a madhouse. We would have checking lines, 17 people deep. And by the way, we’re bilingual. We’re doing this in two languages.
David Eisen: French and.
Robin Trimingham: French and English. So at this point in time is when Japanese travelers were starting to travel the whole world. People who had been nowhere were suddenly going absolutely everywhere. And they all came to this hotel in really large tour groups. Yeah, this is so long ago. They had brass keys for all the rooms. No key cards. Yeah. And they’d all been told there was a mail slot in a pillar in the lobby and they had been instructed, if you leave the hotel, you’ve got to put your brass key through the mail slot and leave it with the front desk. Well, they all wanted to do what they’ve been told and they would come and stand around the pillar in groups of 6 or 8 people and everybody talking in Japanese and looking very confused. And you could tell what was they were saying. Are you sure that’s what we’re supposed to do? Why would we do this?
David Eisen: Why can’t you take the key with you? Is it a security thing? You couldn’t. Take them out back.
Robin Trimingham: Then. They would always tell people at every hotel, Don’t take your key out of the hotel.
David Eisen: Will you see that in old movies like you look a black and white movies at hotel, They, like, leave their key there. It was all very different back in the day, right? It was a different kind of relationship with staff, too. Yeah. I get..
Robin Trimingham: Always losing keys. People would take them home as souvenirs. They’d take them home in pocket, they’d forget. It was really expensive. Believe it or not. Big hotels like this, they had to employ a full time locksmith who lived in the basement in a little room somewhere and did nothing but make more room keys. You’d have room, too.
Robin Trimingham: Oh, that could be the 20 copies of that key.
David Eisen: That sounds like the plot of a horror movie. We should write the locksmith living in the basement. Yeah. I remember one time going to a conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and literally, it took 40 minutes to check in. I mean, the line was around the bend. You got the lot at these resorts you go to, like the Bellagio or these Vegas. I think they’re probably doing better now. I’ve been to Vegas in a while. It’s not really my cup of tea, but the lines are just astronomical. So anything you can do to cut down on that I think is great. But we have to also remember, I think and I agree with that that hostile hostelry is a it should be a people to people business. And I think the great thing about technology is that it can take away some of the the more mundane or quotidian tasks that someone at a hotel has works on on a daily basis. Take those away so that they can be more guests facing. Right. Because I think that’s what really matters still in hotels. I mean, obviously design, if we’re talking about design F and B, but the real experience I think comes together when you have great customer service, personal attention. Yeah, yeah, I think so. I don’t like for myself, here’s one of my biggest pet peeves, right? You get out of your Uber or your taxi, whatever it is, and you have one small rolling case and you’re swarmed by some guy who’s like, Oh, can I get that for you? I’m like, No, man, I can handle this. Right? I got it. Yeah, You pull it into the lobby and that’s why I got it. And invariably, if they do take it, you don’t get your luggage for, like, another hour, and you’re like.
Robin Trimingham: No, Yeah, that’s the worst.
David Eisen: I can’t stand that. That’s just a. Again, there are another ten, but customer service still matters. One of the things we talk about operationally, one of the things you learn is that even if a hotel screws up, I think the great hotels are the ones that and this is how you create loyal guests is like sometimes if you make a mistake, you own that mistake. But it’s all about the service recovery. So like if you see someone so like a guest that stays in a hotel, it’s a flawless stay, right? Nothing happens. It’s great. The water temperature was great. The shower pressure was great. It was quiet. The room was clean. There was nothing that went wrong, right? Great. Maybe they’ll go on TripAdvisor or whatever it is. Google and leave a review. Maybe not. But then you have the traveler who say, let’s say the Hvac isn’t working and there it’s the middle of summer and they’re boiling and it’s like 2:00 in the morning. They might be angry about it, but somehow the hotel gets the engineer up there at 230 in the morning to fix it, whatever it is. And you have air conditioning, you can sleep through the night. That person is going to be, I think, more loyal to that hotel now because something did went wrong and they went out of their way and fixed it. You’ll get the great review because that’s really what a service recovery is all about. You’re making guests for life, and that just goes to the management of that hotel. So yeah, things like that are really what makes a hotel shine in this day and age beyond the technology.
Robin Trimingham: I totally agree. It’s not so much being perfect as just listening and then simply saying, What can I do for you? What would help make your day better? The answer to that could be All I really need is a sandwich.
David Eisen: Yeah. Whatever your situation is and you’re starving. And the restaurant’s nothing right there. Someone hears that and runs out to, like, McDonald’s and gets you a burger. It’s small stuff like that that you have to be anticipatory. And then just to make things right, like Ritz Carlton. Maybe this is urban legend, but I think it’s true. Here’s the thing. At the higher end, at the luxury end of things, clients expect more. They will go out of their way to make a point and be salty with staff if something doesn’t go to their liking. And I think like Ritz Carlton had carte blanche for someone to basically make something good up to like $1,000, whatever it was, it was like they had the carte blanche an employee to say something was wrong with this guest. We’re going to don’t know some kind of credit, whatever it is, money wise, whatever. But I think at the luxury end, a lot of people, they have expectations.
Robin Trimingham: You know I can’t prove this, but I’d be willing to bet on a per capita basis you’d actually get more impact in the age of social media by doing something small for somebody who isn’t anybody in particular, because it would be far more likely to be blown away by that and to tell everybody.
David Eisen: And that’s the best marketing you can have is word of mouth. The best kind of marketing is the free marketing, the one you have to pay a company.
Robin Trimingham: You can’t pay for.
David Eisen: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s stuff like that that goes viral however you want to say it, but word of mouth like someone goes home and says, I just had the greatest day at this resort in the Caribbean. Why? Because they did something extraordinary. Maybe it was such a small thing that was so extraordinary that just caught their attention. Whatever it is, maybe it was the way they treated their kids or did something for them. But that’s the best kind of marketing is the word of mouth.
Robin Trimingham: We got a couple of minutes left here. Yeah, Let’s talk about two key things. Number one, probably more importantly, where are you heading with the magazine? And number two, where would you say the world is heading? I mean, we’re hearing about the reopening of China, for example. Do you see as being like the hotspots or the big trends as we head into 2024?
David Eisen: Yeah, it’s a good question. I’m looking forward to hearing what people are going to say at the logic conference like I teed up when we started talking. But for the magazine itself, there are a lot of so-called trade publications that are focused on hospitality that cater to hotel owners operators. Any stakeholders within the hotel industry that that read us. I think there’s different types of stories out there. There are the stories that are like tips for running a great fab service or those listicle type of things or like you talked us. Those are always good. I tend to think, particularly for hotels, that people really want to read about people and their stories, the history of a certain company. For instance, I just wrote a story about Peninsula Hotels, which is nearing 100 years in existence now. You talk about other companies out there like Marriott that have thousands of hotel. They have 14 hotels now. They just opened one in London. They’re not huge by any stroke, but they have such a legendary kind of history to them. And obviously, these are very expensive hotels. They have such a such a pedigree. And that goes back to Shanghai in the 20s and opening hotels there and making its way through. And they’ve become such a kind of a leader in the luxury space. There are many others out there, but that’s one story.
David Eisen: So it’s like digging into these stories within hospitality, and it’s not just about where we are now, but where we’ve come from profiling great individuals, whether it’s a general manager in the hospitality industry, it’s hard to get people to talk very candidly about the industry, where they will go out there and say actually what’s on their mind as opposed to what Wall Street wants to hear or something like that. So for someone in media to talk to someone who’s as candid and frank as a guy like Tyler Morse, who will, you know, tell you how much he hates online travel agencies and why we shouldn’t be giving them any business, whereas you’ll talk to us, the CEO of a C corporation, and they’ll be like, Oh, yeah, well, we partner with Expedia or so forth and so on because it’s a give and take relationship. Just to your point, you’ll see more stories like that rich kind of profile pieces about companies, about people. We write about the hotel design, which we haven’t really talked about, and how those trends kind of evolved. There’s such great architects and designers out there, and I think there’s a segment of the people out there that when they travel, they really want to stay somewhere where they’re like, Oh, this is different from my home. It’s an enviroment.
David Eisen: Yeah, exactly. So and the trends to talk about, it’s going to be, I guarantee ad nauseum to be talking about artificial intelligence and AI generative AI. I’m writing a story about that right now for our our October issue. I’m still trying to get my head around it all because it seems like AI is not so much like at the hotel, but it’s all about search and kind of like the pre-booking and how you basically get your name out there or your hotel, then persuade people or cajole people to come to your hotel. There’s so many different nuance to it that it’s still so exploratory, but it’s like you ask people about AI and they don’t think they’re still within the industry. Even CTOs. I’m not so sure they understand what’s going on with it either. So that’s going to be a huge topic. Just looking at transactions, interest rates and the impact on the buying and selling of hotels and where that’s going, what the spreads are like there. So it’s going to be a lot more of the same. I’m sure a lot of people are going to be like, again, it’s always we’re cautiously optimistic. I’ll leave you with that. Everyone’s always cautiously optimistic. And the hospitality industry.
Robin Trimingham: Well, I think you’re right. You talked about the OTAs. I think we could have a whole podcast discussion just about that.
David Eisen: Oh yeah, that’s a whole other kind of subject matter. Again, it goes back to history. Go back to 911. The floodgates were open. They needed to fill hotels and these guys stepped in and they’ve never looked back. And it’s about educating the consumer. A lot of consumers think when they book and I have to be disinterested party about this when writing and stuff. But they think that when they make a booking on Hotwire or Booking.com that they’re actually like booking with the hotel. But they’re not they’re not directly booking. I might do research on OTAs. I do a lot of research. I always book direct because I’ll get my points, I’ll get my points. I know if something goes wrong at the hotel, they’ll have my booking. I was at a hotel in Boston where someone booked their room through an OTA and something went wrong. I don’t know what it was, but an hour back and forth like, Oh, well, you have to call this number because you didn’t book directly with us. This totally could have been bypassed if they just booked direct and I guarantee they’re going to get the same price. So I don’t it doesn’t make any sense to me, you know what I mean? And believe me, the hotel that’s going to pay commission to the OTA is going to be less inclined to help someone who booked directly where they’re getting that entire rate. So yeah, OTAs we can that’s another topic for another time I guess.
Robin Trimingham: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And just like there are hotel brands and hotel brands, there’s OTAs and OTAs.
Robin Trimingham: But we’ll have to save that one for next time. David, I want to thank you so much for finding time to chat with me. This has been great and I’m hoping we’re going to do this again soon.
David Eisen: Absolutely. Robin, appreciate you having me on and I certainly hope you’ll invite me back if I haven’t embarrassed myself too much.
Robin Trimingham: Not at all. Looking forward to it. You’ve been watching the innovative hotelier. Join us again soon for more up to the minute information and insights specifically for the hotel and hospitality industry. You’ve been listening to the Innovative Hotelier podcast by HOTELS Magazine. Join us again soon for more conversations with hospitality industry thought leaders.