How do we go about forging a new path in a world transformed? In the second instalment of our series of talks with IMD Business School Dean of External Relations and Swiss Education Group board member Professor Dominique Turpin Ph.D, we hear why he has endless faith in hospitality’s ability not only to survive, but to thrive and ask: what’s next for this resilient industry?
For a business built on people coming together, there couldn’t have been a more devastating disaster than a pandemic keeping them apart. All of a sudden, hospitality had no choice but to grind to a halt. An international industry, stopped in its tracks. How do you even begin to describe the impact of Covid-19 on hospitality? ‘Unprecedented’ doesn’t quite cover it.
Still, hospitality is nothing if not inventive. It’s also built on solutions. It reliably sprung into action: restauranteurs, managers, hoteliers, a whole host of colleagues from the ground up, all joined forces to keep their beloved businesses going. They moved events online, set up takeaway operations from scratch and renovated spaces in anticipation of guests returning. It’s hard not to be inspired by their efforts.
Now, as restrictions are thankfully easing, travel resumes and people get vaccinated, hospitality has a fighting chance once more. But has the world it belongs to changed forever? Do consumers still want the same things? Will the industry ever be the same again? According to Professor Dominique Turpin, IMD Business School’s Dean of External Relations and trusted Swiss Education Group board member, the best is yet to come.
“I honestly believe that the hospitality industry has a very bright future ahead of it,” he argues. “Before the pandemic, I myself was a frequent traveler, and I used to spend about 50% of my time outside of Switzerland. Many of my friends, too, have been so frustrated by the fact that we’ve not been able to travel in the way we want. I’m convinced that, as soon as the last of the global restrictions are lifted, we’ll see a boom. People will want to travel. I have no doubt that the industry will flourish.”
Nonetheless, Prof. Turpin, who holds a Ph.D in Economics, is under no illusions: there will be new challenges to grapple with. This pandemic, like any other, has a legacy, and we’ll be feeling its effects for some time to come.
I honestly believe that the hospitality industry has a very bright future ahead of it. I’m convinced that, as soon as the last of the global restrictions are lifted, we’ll see a boom. People will want to travel. I have no doubt that the industry will flourish.
“The industry has shifted,” he admits. “It will be increasingly important to be attentive to what the customer wants and probably because of the ongoing Covid-19 situation, their needs are going to be changing. They’ve already changed. We’ll need to be sensitive to that. We’ll probably see a more personalized experience being prioritized going forward – the days of treating people as a collective are long gone.
“And this starts before people have even made a booking or a reservation! Of course, the digital revolution is helping us to make more noise about who we are, and what kind of services we offer, but it works both ways: when a customer arrives, you should know who they are, what they like, what they dislike, and make it easy for them to give you feedback.”
Technology is critical to this increasingly customized, customer-centric approach, he argues.
“It lets you really get to know your customers,” Prof. Turpin stresses. “Of course, you have to do this subtly – not everyone wants to be an open book – but social media does allow you to give your clients a much more enriching experience, tailored to them.
“For instance, I’m a gold member of a large hotel chain and every time, I go to the same hotel and I have to give them another copy of my passport and answer the same question they asked me three months ago. There’s something wrong here. I’m supposed to be a gold member. They should know my passport number. They should know the answer.”
Understanding the relationship between technology and hospitality will be your greatest asset in the working world, Prof. Turpin contends, and key to the industry’s staying power. Fortunately, Swiss Education Group’s digitally-focused curriculums have got you covered there.
“Technology is also enabling us to rethink our business model,” he adds. “There used to be one single, immovable model for the industry and now, after the success of, say, Airbnb, you can see that there are different opportunities, different ways of doing things.
“Students are entering the industry in a period of change and will need to be creative. While you don’t have to change for the sake of change (it’s still valuable to keep a hold of the very best of traditional hospitality principles, as Swiss Education Group does so well), we do need young people to have the freedom to experiment with new ideas, new models.”
What else does the industry have to prepare itself for? Will Covid-19’s after-effects, coupled with the climate emergency, prove to be as calamitous as the past 18 months have been?
Students are entering the industry in a period of change and will need to be creative. While you don’t have to change for the sake of change, we do need young people to have the freedom to experiment with new ideas, new models.
“I really don’t see the hospitality industry suffering from any other truly major issues, like people flying less and less,” he reassures us. “We hear this from the media all the time and, well, I’m not so sure. I think the industry will just adapt. There’s new technology being developed, for example, in the aviation sector, to enable airlines to be much more fuel efficient and sustainable. I’m positive about the future.”
In fact, Prof. Turpin doesn’t just see this as an opportunity for optimism, but as our defining moment, our time to start afresh.
“It’s a chance for the industry to grow, to expand,” he says. “It will be reborn.”
What will it become? You get to decide.