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‘Mystery Hotel’ – what’s that about?
‘Mystery’, ‘secret’, ‘hidden’ – call them what you want, but the anonymous reservation system that’s sweeping the hotel industry is here to stay…
Having worked in the hospitality industry myself, I can recall the scanted lengths my manager and I would go to in order to raise the brand of our hotel. Indeed, upon every staff member’s shoulders were the grand weights of our name, our reputation, our legacy – after all, that’s what this business is about (or used to be).
Being one of the better hotels in our area (yes, I am biased!), the prospect of hiding our name while trying to attract patrons would seem utterly insane. Indeed, so too would be the notion of tarnishing that prized brand by selling off rooms at a 40% discount – we’d rather they be empty!
And therein lies the dilemma that makes this new trend so powerful – prestigious hotels can sell off empty rooms without tarnishing their brand. And indeed they are, en mass!
But how does a hotel go about advertising and selling a room without revealing its identity? And having accomplished such Houdini-esk feats, why on earth would a potential guest bet their precious holiday on a nameless establishment?
In lastminute.com We Trust!
lastminute.com’s Top Secret Hotel™ brand is one such example of how the burden of reliability and trust is transferred from one booking entity to another…
Sure, you won’t feel the security that comes with booking a room at ‘The Dorchester’, ‘The Connaught’, or even one of the many Hilton outlets. BUT you will be booking with lastminute.com, you will be protected by their refund policies & fraud safeguards, and you will be informed of the star rating (affirmed by HOTREC), facilities, and rough location of your hotel prior to making your booking.
For the ‘Googlers’ amongst you, there’s also some mileage in searching out the secret hotel facilities (just paste them in to the search box) – I did just that having recently booked a secret hotel in London and was amazed by the amount of additional info I was able to gather (although I was never able to determine the name of the hotel, one for the kids perhaps!)… SecretHotels.eu’s London page for example went into great detail about the booking process, locations, and even highlighted which secret hotels were the most popular within my chosen areas of the city… Sure, it’s not TripAdisor, but it does goes some way in alleviating some of the uncertainty that comes with booking a hotel prior to knowing its name.
All in all, I made a significant saving on my booking as was more than happy with my room.
But is this good for the industry?
Well, it depends who you ask and through what lens you define ‘good’… As a former pastry chef in a fabulous hotel in Devon (UK), it’s a resounding ‘NO!’ – I have spent years building reputations, and anything that diminishes those efforts, or disincentives others from doing similar, can only be a bad thing.
BUT, as an amateur economist, it’s a cautious ‘YES’… The science of (or pseudoscience of) ‘allocating scarce resources to meet unlimited wants’ would quiver at the thought of unsold/empty accommodation while people sleep on the pavements outside. So too would it quiver at the loss in revenue, and the unnecessary compromises made by less affluent travelers!
But regardless of whom you ask, or what you choose to call them, mystery hotels are here to stay. What remains to be seen are the long-term effects the phenomenon will have on the hotel industry, and whether the loss of individuality is worth the short-term economic benefits.