A successful start


Navigating the handoff between generations of independent hoteliers

In the current state of the hospitality industry, marked by concerns about brand overreach and economic uncertainties, the younger generation seems increasingly drawn to the independent route. The decision to break away from established brands is fueled by a desire for flexibility, creativity, and a more personalized approach to guest experiences.

It’s a competitive advantage for new entrants to be independent. Every guest interaction can be infused with genuine local charm when hoteliers deviate from rigid rules and protocols. Their flexibility and responsiveness to local events set them apart from chain hotels, enabling them to create a unique, personalized stay. Independent establishments’ emotional connection and authentic experiences become a meaningful part of local heritage.

The decision to break away from a brand isn’t solely driven by a desire for independence but often by economic considerations, as well. The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has led many hotels to face unprecedented financial challenges. De-flagging, or opting for independence, becomes a strategic move to reduce fixed costs associated with brand fees, providing struggling hotels more time and opportunities to cover their expenses. This move also allows hotels to regain control of their assets, avoiding the encumbrances imposed by franchises.

Young hoteliers leverage technology and contemporary trends to make their mark. The year 2020, in particular, catalyzed the reinvention of boutique hotels worldwide. Incorporating technology into day-to-day operations and accommodating evolving customer expectations has become imperative for success, while mobile-friendly experiences, or contactless check-ins, digital menus, and self-service through apps have become integral to providing convenience and flexibility for guests. Technology solutions and distribution channels enable them to compete effectively, offering tailored experiences and creative flair to attract customers.

Understanding why younger counterparts gravitate toward independent ventures is crucial for established hoteliers. AAHOA is a valuable resource for knowledge transfer between generations. Networking events organized by AAHOA provide opportunities for emerging hoteliers to connect with seasoned professionals, fostering a supportive environment for collaboration and shared insights. Established hoteliers can guide their younger counterparts by actively participating in mentorship programs. The power of mentorship lies in the collaborative effort between generations, ensuring a dynamic future for the industry.

Younger hoteliers must grasp the basics of hotel operations – from housekeeping and HR to front desk and general management. Establishing a solid foundation is crucial for future success and ownership. Embracing a proactive learning approach, asking questions, and understanding the required work ethic are essential for integrating younger minds into the industry. This combination of enthusiasm and foundational knowledge sets the stage for their growth and eventual establishment in the dynamic hospitality field.

Conversely, more established hoteliers in the independent space can look to their younger counterparts and to recognize the importance of technology in the evolving hospitality landscape. One challenge older hoteliers sometimes face is a tendency to work in the industry rather than on it, perhaps resulting in a fixed mindset that can hinder growth. It’s better to embrace a more dynamic approach, acknowledging the need to delegate tasks and incorporating the fast pace at which society moves.

A fear of delegation can be common among established independent hoteliers, as many are hesitant to entrust responsibilities to newer generations, often fearing shortages or mismanagement. However, delegation is essential to foster growth and keep pace with the evolving industry. Recognizing the key to expanding their business lies in empowering and trusting the newer generation is vital to sustained success in the independent hotel sector.

Ultimately, the hospitality industry is transforming, driven by economic factors, technological advancements, and changing consumer preferences. Younger hoteliers are choosing independence for flexibility, leveraging technology to create unique guest experiences. Established hoteliers need to understand the reasons behind this shift, actively engage in mentorship, and adapt to changing dynamics. In the evolving hospitality industry, collaboration, networking, community engagement, and sustainable practices are becoming increasingly crucial to success for both new and established hoteliers.

nijal suthar

Nijal Suthar, a dynamic young professional, has actively engaged with AAHOA since age 15, advocating for hoteliers and inspiring fellow young professionals. As a crucial member of the AAHOA Women Hoteliers Committee, she actively contributes to empowering women in the organization. Nijal currently serves as the Director of Operations of Independent Boutique Lodges while simultaneously excelling as a real estate agent.


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