The illusion of brand value in hospitality

In the old days, when travelling to foreign lands, with languages one did not speak and food one could not eat, transportation systems one could not navigate and people one could not trust, it was generally safer to stay at a hotel chain property. A name one knew and a brand one could trust.

Unsurprisingly, it was the Americans who invented the concept. Their salespeople and executives now could go anywhere in the vast United States, even the world, and trust the hotel they stayed in would offer the same facilities and quality they already knew.

How times have changed.

Staying at a hotel is no longer about minimum standards and basic expectations, but about one word: experience.

The Internet in particular has changed what is possible. We now have hundreds of pictures and opinions available to guide us. In a world of increasingly differentiated hotel concepts and the tyranny of customer reviews, we can safely select a different property and take the risk of being disappointed. Because we now have a voice: one review on Tripadvisor and the property may be tarnished, even ruined.

Why I Never Use TripAdvisor – Or: The Curse of Reviews

It was the cursed millennials who have created these new rules, booking.com and ubiquitous smartphones which enabled them, Instagram and Tripadvisor which enforced them

Influencers are now more important than brand value. A good brand must be able to influence, inspire, innovate, and tell a story; it should be charismatic and absolutely unique.

Hotel chains began to snap up iconic properties and integrate them into their offering while fully preserving their unique character. All which, as a designer of luxury hotels and designation F&B suits us just fine.

The erosion of brand value also means a redefinition of what a brand is. A motley collection of luxury properties can now be a “brand”. A bar, a restaurant, a spa can now be the reason why someone chooses a particular property.

That is why unique luxurious interiors are now more important than ever. Customers crave novelty, and overall, uniqueness, and only good architecture and design can offer that.

Read more: My Journey Into Interior Design

The author is director of global business development for luxury interior design house AB Concept in Hong Kong, Milan and Taipei. Follow the author on LinkedIn