Watching Cricket (the sport) over the Memorial Day weekend took me to the Trinidad outpost of a major international hotel chain. The property would readily qualify for a top rating in “hotels from hell” with the full gamut of service and quality screamers. While the details are best posted on sites such as Tripadvisor.com, the chasm in quality prompts a musing on maintaining hotel standards internationally.
While most US chains do an admirable job of setting and hewing to their brand standards, the outcome is surprisingly different internationally. On the plus side are two somewhat unexpected mid-market names, Best Western and Ramada. An international example of the former is the Best Western Kaiserhof in Vienna, Austria while the Ramada Hotel in Kidderminster, UK exemplifies the very best in hospitality within its class and arguably for the industry as a whole.
The growing economic importance of China and India has resulted in chains tripping over themselves for a presence in those two countries. While their presence in India is barely beginning to take off, China has offered a base for many brands for well over a decade. And the results their are less than stellar both from a bottom line perspective and service quality. A visit to some economy (US) lodging brands last year in Beijing showed even sloppier adherence to quality with most being conversions from independents.
While many US companies outside the lodging sphere have done admirably well internationally, the empirical evidence for hotel companies is less encouraging with notable exceptions such as Marriott and Hyatt. However, the best internationally known and recognized US brands such as Disney, Coke and IBM lie outside the industry. There may well be a reason for that – hospitality transported across cultures is far more difficult to “can” and reproduce. Not only is it difficult to do so with enduring consistency, hotels that fail to take on a local flavor run the risk of being labeled cookie-cutter. If hotel chains are not to see a dilution of their brand quality due to the global customer, they have to strive measurably harder than the Cokes of the world