A Wake-Up Call for Convention Hotels

By Steve McKee

I experienced it, again, just the other day. The same thing we’ve all experienced many times in stark hotel meeting rooms:

The rickety, two-foot-by-six-foot tables that leave no space to set up a notepad and coffee cup (to say nothing of a laptop, which is fitting because the one power strip is on the floor across the room and already filled up by the guy in the short-sleeve dress shirt who showed up early).

The chairs set so neatly next to one another, which looked nice and uniform in an empty room but put you knee-to-knee with the stranger (or worse—colleague) sitting next to you.

The shallow cups, lukewarm coffee, hot water that isn’t hot and limited tea selection.

The cloth napkins that have zero absorbency and branded pens that don’t write.

And later in the day, the elfin glasses, watery ice and room-temperature cans of soda that are all products of either the Pepsi-Cola Company or the Coca-Cola Company (corporate contract, you know).

All topped by the snack—fist-sized oatmeal, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies that are irresistible at 3:00 and put you into a coma by 3:15. Good thing the room is freezing or you’d be asleep on the table (or your neighbor’s lap, which is conveniently close by). It would make for an embarrassing Instagram post if only the wifi worked.

Why on earth hasn’t the hotel industry figured this out? I get that, like the airlines, they believe they have a financial incentive in cramming the most people into the smallest space they can and forcing us to pay for the incentives they’re getting from Coke or Pepsi to limit our choices. But that represents such short-term, non-customer-centric thinking. Since when are CFOs in charge of customer experience? They should sit through a week of meetings in their own hotels.

MWC does enough work in the industry to know how hard hotel sales and marketing managers labor to book meetings. If the corporate brass gave as much thought to the quality of the experience as they did to the architecture of the foyer or the layout of the golf course it would make filling the meeting rooms a great deal easier. Even limited-service hotels that host mostly local groups could enhance loyalty (and re-booking rate) if they didn’t blindly follow industry conventions. And oh, what we could do with their marketing messaging.

As Power Branding Principle #25 puts it, “The way it has always been done is not the way it must always be done.” Imagine if a forward-thinking hotel went through every aspect of the meeting experience and considered how it could be improved to make attendees more alert, comfortable and productive. It might actually make meetings something people looked forward to. (OK, that’s a stretch.)

Branding is much more about what you do than what you say. The world’s best brands understand this intuitively. But the hotel industry is, for the most part, still asleep.

Steve McKee

Co-founder and author, Steve specializes in addressing the most meaningful problems. Call Steve when you want to change the world. He’ll have a thought (and some research) on that.

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