RogerBW's Blog

Why chain hotels don't need to try 19 December 2014

Having recently had a truly appalling meal at a hotel that rhymes with Hark Hinn Hottingham, and heard more horror stories from people who were actually staying there, I thought about hotels' incentives to make things pleasant for their customers… and couldn't come up with any.

Well, not for chain hotels, anyway. If your hotel is a destination in itself, i.e. it's more of a resort than a pure hotel, then you need to attract people to it. And the same applies if there's just the one of it. But if you have a chain of generic urban hotels, your customers are mostly:

  • Business people who are staying there because your chain offered their employers a better deal than the other chains; they had no choice in the matter, as they were told to stay there.

  • Non-business people who have gone there because that's where the SF convention, wedding, etc., is happening. They can try to get future events moved, but they still won't have a choice about where to stay.

Nobody is choosing to stay here. So as long as you can reach a bare minimum standard ("a restaurant", "room keys"), it doesn't matter how lousy the actual implementation is (an hour between ordering and any food, cheapest nastiest ingredients, keys that don't actually work reliably). Nobody chose to go there, they won't have any choice about coming back, and if the event doesn't return there are always more suckers out there.

The people you will be trying to attract are the organisers of events, and my experience (having been one a couple of times) has certainly been that one gets treated much better in such a role than as a normal punter, even at a genuinely good hotel.

Obviously this doesn't mean that no chain hotel will ever do more than the bare minimum, but it'll be up to the individual manager, and he probably won't be able to spend any money on it.

If I can't have a hotel that's owned and run by people who actually work there, I'd much rather go with something like the Ibis that I stayed at in Bradford for YSDC Games Day 3: I chose it because it was the closest hotel to the event site, but it set its sights rather lower and achieved a distinctly higher standard.


  1. Posted by Paul Mason at 10:46am on 21 December 2014

    I tend to stay in hotels near airports, which does involve an element of choice. Even then, there was a place we stayed 4 years ago near Heathrow that was very good, and I casually tried the same thing this year without checking it was the same place -- I just assumed that the same star rating in the same place would be comparable -- and it was shit. On the other hand I was perfectly happy with the no frills chain place next to Birmingham airport I stayed at 2 years ago.

    Overall, though, I dislike hotels in general. For WorldCon this year I used AirBnB, staying with a really nice Italian guy called Fabio near Canary Wharf. Although my wife complained, frankly I felt more comfortable staying there than I would have done in any hotel, and it was cheaper than all but the crappiest BnB would have been.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:47am on 21 December 2014

    I probably ought to try that some time.

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