I was reading at Hospitality Insights on how citizenM has begun marketing a “new” proposition in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. According to the news, the Netherlands-based hotel chain is pushing corporate subscriptions for remote work accommodations/services. Or, in the shorter version, the boutique hotel group founded by Rattan Chadha and Michael Levie is desperately in need of some stable cash flow. At least, this is what I am reading between the lines of the story.
According to the report by citizenM Chief Commerical Officer Lennert De Jong, the fixed per month price subscription offer for businesses is “for all citizenM locations and is lower than the lowest corporate deal we have in normal situations.” In reality, citizenM is not reinventing the hospitality wheel here, they’re only putting another name on loyalty programs.
In fact, another story by Skift from early this year paved the public relations campaign street for citizenM to present this new “product” – as De Jong terms it. And since Skift does not “just” write about companies, I know there’s a lot riding on this latest news.
But citizenM is not the only entity out there trying to turn hospitality into an all-inclusive delivered lunch. Claudia Scharf, of Loyalty Prime, is telling people this:
“Loyalty is emotive. It’s not really about the money!”
And, of course, anytime a business executive tells you “it” is not about the money, the money is all “it’s” about. Amy Konary, VP at The Subscribed Institute at Zuora in Boston goes so far as to claim “The emphasis is now on creating outcomes and memorable experiences that your subscribers will remember,” and that then she goes off into some digital mumbojumbo I helped create when I was a PR executive. Forgive me for saying, but all this rebranding of loyalty programs is fluff.
Last month, Travel Weekly lead off this article with a circumstantial proof for my argument:
“Hotel, restaurant and travel businesses reliant on a membership-based model have adapted in the wake of the pandemic, going into overdrive to justify their value and offering customers increased flexibility.”
This redux of loyalty programs for hotels is better explained in an article from two years ago which cited Phocuswire and Volaris’ Senior Business Development Manager Juliana Ramirez saying subscription services provide “predictable cash flow” for companies. Back then the problem was about optimizing their yield management strategies, scaling, and being able to provide very diverse offers to consumers.
Today, the latter is the big rub. Come on, I can rent an Airbnb and get better than most hotels offer in terms of freedom, location, service, and economy these days. I cannot imagine a subscription based hospitality offer once the bean counters get hold of the pricing. We’re talking institutionalized guest amenities unless hoteliers turn into philanthropists.
I almost feel guilty jumping on citizenM and a couple of these others, but the reality of COVID-19 for me and many others is a total paradigm shift. When I think positively about travel and hospitality in a post-COVID world, I think about individual value accentuated by sustainable strategies. Or, the old way of doing things is just not going to get it. Sure hotels and other businesses need stable revenue, but transmuting otherwise innovative and pleasurable offerings into crammed tight airplane seating is just not my idea of “tomorrow”. All this PR fluff and buzzword by executives start to sound like America’s nutty president, ringing hollow and Machiavellian-like in the ears of anybody who’s been around.
Millennials trending toward Netflix and Amazon today, will probably end up as New Boomers hating being treated like cattle tomorrow. And selling WIFI as cutting edge for remote business operations is just dumb. Sorry, it had to be said by somebody. Cheap, cheaper, more, more, and more beans counted until they are no longer even recognizable as beans – some of you get my drift, I know. Travel and hospitality will never be the same again. It SHOULD never be the same again. The only thing that should remain the same is hoteliers being hospitaliers instead of data, digital, and PR experts.
I hope the execs at citizenM read this. Or, I know they will. The question is, will they come up with something better?