There have been a number of interesting news stories in the hotel industry in the past few weeks you may have missed. They cover issues ranging from security to branding to pool chairs and more:
• It was good to see Onity's swift and seemingly reasonable reaction to the assertions that its guestroom electronic locks are vulnerable to hackers. The story got some play in the press but not as much as I expected, given the years of rumors we've all heard about the supposed security problems with all types of electronic locks and keys.
Onity is offering a two-pronged solution to hotel operators. One, which seems to me should do the trick for most properties, involves installing a cap on the lock that should prevent the intrusion hackers say is possible. The other solution involves software and perhaps hardware upgrades, with much of the cost born by the hotels. If you have the locks in question (Onity's HT series), it's imperative you act immediately to rectify the possible danger. You owe it to your guests to keep them as safe and secure as possible, and you owe it to yourself and your owners to reduce as much of your liability as possible.
• Last week, the press gave a lot of attention to the news that furniture retailer Ikea is going into the budget hotel business in Europe, at least initially. Given the company's cult-like status, many of its followers would be likely candidates to check in to an Ikea-inspired room. Digging deeper into the press accounts, however, produces some puzzling details about the plan. First of all, the hotels won't carry the Ikea name, which seems silly and counterproductive. Second of all, the company said it won't operate the hotels, meaning they may not even carry the look, feel or cachet of an Ikea store. Odd, indeed.
There isn't a great history of other well-known consumer brands entering the hotel business. Several brands, Harrods and Virgin specifically, have announced plans to launch hotel chains using their brand names and marketing power. Neither venture has yet to open a property (although Virgin is supposedly on track to debut its first hotel next year in Chicago). But the biggest failure must be the Golden Arch Hotels, a series of mid-priced properties created by McDonald's Swiss franchisee in 2001. At the time, we sent a writer to Europe to cover the concept and devoted a cover story to it. Only a few years later the entire concept faded away and is out of business.
• If you operate a resort, you'll appreciate this item: Carnival Cruise Lines is attempting to institute a new get-tough policy to prevent guests from rising early in the morning and running out to the pool to save chairs using books, towels or other personal items. On at least one of the company's ships, a cadre of chair police will patrol the pool decks, putting time-stamped stickers on unoccupied chairs. If the chair is still not in use when they return after 40 minutes, they remove the articles and take them to the pool towel station.
It's an interesting idea that's bound to tick off some guests while pleasing others. Would a similar idea work in land-based resorts, or should operators keep out of this fight?