Hotel Innovation? You be the Judge.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ SHY Ventures
Thursday, 11th May 2006
Being one of the judges for the DEPA Middle East Hotel Awards last week was an eye-opening experience for YSH.

It opened my eyes to a few things that are going on in the hotel industry.

1. There's not much new going on.
Everyone seems to be doing the same thing. Most five star hotel rooms look the same – flat screen TV, big shower stalls, kingsize beds with white linen, flat-top working desk, ergonomic chair. You can't even tell one hotel from another if they are part of the same group. I think it's because everyone is using the same designer.

2. There's also not much new going on in food & beverage either.
In are open, interactive restaurants with show kitchens. In are multi-cuisine. I guess mezza9 at Grand Hyatt Singapore started the trend in 1994 and everyone's just adapted it to their own style.

The hotel that won the F&B award, the Hotel Inter-Continental Mzaar in Lebanon at least tried to do something different – the restaurant is a tent that serves local Lebanese fare in the mountains. It cost US$10,000 to build and took two months to make a profit.

At the other end of the spectrum, I visited Spectrum on One, the hottest new restaurant in Dubai, at The Fairmont Hotel. Its Sunday brunch offers the best quality and value in town but again, it's a similar concept to mezza9 except bigger and newer.

3. There are some hotel companies that are totally geared to winning awards.
They have staff who are trained just to do award submissions because winning awards is part of their culture. It's part of how they achieve brand recognition and instill pride in staff.

Some companies which submitted entries would have been better off not submitting for the attention they paid to the rules of competition.

The DEPA Middle East Hotel Awards, in its fifth year, is an awards programme that is judged by peers. Each year, an independent panel of judges is put together by an independent chairman who then runs the process independent of the organiser. Entries are submitted, rules of engagement spelt out and judging is based on the quality of submissions.

4. There are too many hotel awards programmes out there, so choose the ones you want to win and go for them.
If I were paid a dollar for every release I receive on hotels winning awards, I'd be a millionaire by now. Some hotels do themselves a dis-service by trumpeting about awards that are not worth trumpeting about.

Your customers are suffering from Awards-Nauseum. They can't tell the difference anymore between one award and another. Help them make the differentiation.

5. Hotels spend more time trumpeting about their rooms and facilities than their staff.
I am constantly amazed by the vast amounts of money owners, developers and hoteliers spend on fancy chandeliers, expensive marble and high-tech gadgets and not enough on their people. Yet they keep saying it's a people's business.

The number of entries for Young Hotelier of the Year was disappointing. Most hotels spent more time trying to win Hotel Manager of the Year and Food & Beverage Award of the Year than this category which protects the industry's future.

One general manager spent more time talking about himself than his hotel.

I think it's high time someone put their money where their mouth is to organise a Talent Award that recognises the people who work in hotels and allow them to be benchmarked against their counterparts across the region and the world. Overall, it took our seven-member panel two full days to go through the entries for 14 categories.

For me, and I speak on behalf of my fellow judges, it was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences

Siew Hoon writes the weekly column, "The SHY Report" focussing on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com. 

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".

She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'.

Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460

Check out Siew Hoon's new website, www.shy-connection.com, which features a newly-launched e-zine with a difference.

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