As part of Corinthia Hotel London’s In Residence programme, The Future Laboratory are hosting a series of debates and round-table discussions about the big ideas of tomorrow. Co-founders of The Future Laboratory, Martin Raymond and Christopher Sanderson share their thoughts on the future of hospitality.
What do you think has been the biggest innovation game-changer for hospitality in recent years?
Airbnb, without a doubt. It’s changed the way we think about where we book when we travel.
Where do you see the focus shifting next?
We think brands will have to rethink the arrival and departure cycle. Increasingly, guests are happy to pay for a one-day room hire, but why should their arrival and departure time be governed by the hotel because it suits them better? Technology will enable hotels to manage their inventory better to cope with all-day arrivals and all-day departures that suit guests.
Hospitality seems to rely so much on person-to-person interaction. Are there any hotel fundamentals that you think will always stay the same?
Empathy, care, attention to detail, humanity and respect will always be important.
Do you think technology will ever be able to replace the customer-facing element (for example, placing orders directly with a kitchen rather than having waiting staff?)
Well, that’s a bit like asking if we would ever consider doing our banking using technology rather than going to the branch. Of course, we will continue to find meaningful ways to streamline the guest experience, and to deliver seamless and luxurious experiences. I don’t always need a waiter to do that. If I can be sitting by the pool and there’s an app that allows me to order a drink, that’s a plus not a minus in the right environment.
There seems to be a disconnection in hospitality between technological innovation and going back to basics (controlling lights with iPads versus selling local food in the restaurants). What are your thoughts on this?
If the technology facilitates and makes things seamless, then it’s appropriate and is doing its job. If it’s faddish, complex and confusing, it’s a waste of time and money – and guests will see through that.
"Empathy, care, attention to detail, humanity and respect will always be important."
Do you think hospitality will adopt any trends from other industries, and if so, which ones?
As with all industries, hospitality must change if it intends to remain relevant. Luxury and retail continue to evolve, as should hospitality. Here we see an increased focus on the individual as well as on provenance and transparency.
What are the main changes you think hospitality will need to make to keep up with global trends and developments?
Remaining relevant to guests’ needs and thinking like a 21st-century business, not a 20th-century one. Realise that your guests are getting younger, not older – both in actual age and attitude.
What trends in the luxury hospitality industry are you most excited about?
The shift towards a consumer who is questioning and challenges the nature of a luxury experience – we call it Uneasy Affluence.
If you take current projections, can you give a picture of a luxury hotel stay in say 50 years’ time?
It will still be very similar to what is delivered now, but what is luxurious will have changed. Precious, luxurious resources will be things like air and light quality – not necessarily wall surfaces, fancy taps and furniture.