Stop taking the guest for granted

The Chief Executive of ASAP explains why it is imperative that the hospitality industry needs to rethink its offering and put the guest’s experience and care first.

Stop taking the guest for granted ASAP
Relocate Magazine January 2020
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I’ve been calling on the whole hospitality industry rather a lot lately, to step up and take responsibility for the experience and safety of guests in their care – especially after recent scandals and tragedies in the sharing economy.It’s one thing for the Airbnbs of this world to try their charm on business travellers, describing ‘a hotel-quality experience with the flexibility of home’, but quite another to leave the guest struggling alone with no support should anything go wrong.

Why are consumers losing trust?

The reason for my outbursts is that I fear the consumer losing trust in all of us, because of those bad actors. The Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) with their habit of overbooking rooms and then ditching the guests that cost them the most in commission. The sharing economy, happily taking money for listings they don’t know exist. The super-small print that ‘images of rooms are for illustrative purposes only’, such as when you book a penthouse, but turn up to find a basement. Yes, that happened to me.I fear that those consumers, feeling they’re being taken for granted and not being seen as the most important part of this transaction, might just act with their feet and turn on the whole industry. But we’re not all the same – honestly.During my long career in hospitality, I used to be a hotel inspector and was involved in the world of star ratings. As a system, it wasn’t perfect, but it offered some kind of guidance at the very least. If by some fluke you found something akin to five-star service or four-star amenities in a two-star hotel, you might be delighted and become a brand advocate for life. But you’d at least be expecting the two-star you’d booked. In contrast, right now over and over, we’re being promised one thing and getting another. And it’s wrong.

Regulated hospitality organisations

As an association, ASAP represents hundreds of organisations offering millions of bed nights each year in serviced apartments and aparthotels. We are immensely proud that our members have, at the very minimum, complied with regulation, transparency in what their listings offer, and duty of care for the guest. They have all signed up to our code of practice, so the guest can be utterly confident that what they book is what they will get.

Read more about the serviced apartments industry

We have recently highlighted how at a late stage in the booking process, Airbnb suggests that the guest might like to consider taking their own fire alarm and carbon monoxide monitor. Not easy to squeeze into your hand luggage! But the point is that many guests may rightly assume that just because you’ve booked on a professional website and money has exchanged hands, you can be sure of some kind of duty of care. But in many cases, there is none. Often, your host is just someone looking to make some cash from his or her property, or in 30% of cases in the sharing economy, their investment. One they may never even have visited.Our call to action is for the wider industry to stop taking the guest for granted. The more this kind of thing happens, the more guests find they’re abandoned or at the mercy of algorithms and that listings are being auctioned to the highest bidder. Should it all go wrong, they’re the smallest cog in this wheel and the less trust they’ll have in the industry – in every direction. We think it’s the least we should do as an industry to put the customer, the guest, first. This is hospitality, after all.

About the author

James Foice is the chief executive of the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP); the trade body for the serviced apartment industry. Mr Foice has more than 34 years’ experience in the hospitality and travel sector and spent the first 14 of these in the airline industry enjoying employments with blue chip global brands including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and latterly with VisitEngland. For more information on ASAP, visit:

Read more articles in the Winter Issue of Relocate Magazine. 

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