The allure of independence for younger hoteliers
For a young hotelier, the notion of operating an independent property can be immensely attractive because the only limits exist within one’s imagination. Plus, at its core, the independent segment of the market is very welcoming and allows us to add as many bells and whistles to our properties as we desire and pushes us out of our comfort zones. And, we can create a property’s design, its structure, or its culture with meanings as unique as we are. Creating a unique identity and the freedom of structuring innovations without the limits that might come from operating under the umbrella of a brand can generate positive feedback – from those employed by the hotel and from those staying there. Put another way, employees often are happier and guests are more satisfied.
As a young hotelier, however, it can be quite tough without proper guidance in place. You’re on your own, but the positive is that you learn from your own experiences and aren’t dependent on other individuals or brands for improvements, compliances, and expansions. Creating the guidelines, building a unique guest experience, and pursuing your passion without feeling restricted by a flag is something many in the independent segment look forward on a daily basis.
For the young hotelier still working through college, playing the owner-operator role while working toward a degree can lead to seemingly endless months of multitasking and time-management hurdles. However, making all the necessary sacrifices and seeing the future that’s being built ahead helps ease the burden and can allow passion to lead the journey. As any younger individuals in the industry likely can attest, it’s quite intimidating when older, more established leaders express a belief that the younger generation is lacking knowledge and real-world experience.
Unfortunately, the industry is lacking in its support of younger hoteliers, including brokerage, loan acquisitions, and operational assistance, and that doubt and lack of support are key reasons why young hoteliers aren’t more involved. To allow for more growth, it’s crucial that the industry steps up to provide tools, as well as advice and mentorship to the current/next generation of hoteliers still early in their careers.
But, it’s still possible to establish a foothold in the industry, regardless of experience level, by focusing on building relationships with industry experts. This, alone, can help build a portfolio, acquire indispensable know-how, and build powerful connections, leading to exponential growth. After all, who you know is often more important that what you know.
LEVERAGE YOUR SKILLS
One major advantage younger hoteliers have is their understanding, and embrace, of new and emerging technologies and trends. For example, in a typical 9-to-5 office scenario, it’s frequently the younger employees who staff the marketing department, because they often have the most familiarity with the tools of the day and best know how to leverage them for maximum impact. Similarly, younger hoteliers can utilize these skills to help their properties compete with those that have deeper pockets but might not be as able – or willing – to capitalize on newer trends.
For independent operators, marketing resources and know-how can provide a major advantage over the larger players, especially in markets oversaturated with branded properties. Among other positives, a creative and well-implemented marketing strategy can help a hotel create and share, a unique culture, which allows the property to better communicate with its guests.
LEAN ON ME
Many young hoteliers – and this is especially true of AAHOA Members – followed older family members into the industry and have the automatic advantage of being able to regularly access that built-in knowledge base. To maximize the opportunities for success, the second/third/etc. generation of hoteliers need to take advantage of the experiences of those who have gone before them, especially when it comes to handling rejection and treating that experience as a redirection moment. Chances are, there’s no situation you’ll encounter that someone else hasn’t already faced or isn’t facing at the same time.
But, while it’s true that the influence of family and friends can play an invaluable role in shaping the growth of those newest to the industry, independence is ultimately up to the hotelier – young or not-so-young – and it’s vital that every operator in this industry have their own vision for the future.
After all, without a vision, you won’t have a plan; without a plan, you won’t have a business.