Like many other business areas, the hospitality industry has undergone deep change in recent times, though more in terms of service organisation rather than service provision.
The hotel itself, as a whole, is still perceived as a closed facility, within which people can sleep, drink, and eat, possibly even utilise the spa and the conference centre: nothing truly innovative compared with the beginning of the last century, when similar services were already on offer, though certainly in an atmosphere of greater formality.
While the service range is perceived as virtually unaltered, it is the organisation of services that changed. As you come to a hotel, the same receptionist who has checked you in will also hand you the electronic key card: you don’t have to collect it from the concierge. There in no longer someone to clean your shoes during the night: that is now replaced by a shoe buff in the room or, sometimes a shoe shine machine on the floor.
Room service for morning coffee is sometimes replaced by an espresso machine available in the suite; in the restaurant, waiters often have overlapping functions, and the same waiters also double as helpers/substitutes for cocktail professionals in the bar.
These are just examples, but I believe they should not be regarded as mere cost-cutting solutions; innovation has also created new types of professionals who have become almost essential. Think of all the needs related to technology, revenue management operations, or social media management.
Not only technology: in the move towards differentiation there are comebacks from the past; now higher-category hotels will often propose the service of a butler, a role which has been retrieved from the past and is still somewhat undefined in the present context. When I think of butlers, the film Viaggio Sola comes to my mind, where an exasperated character resolutely gets rid of an intrusive butler.
In another section of this newspaper, butlers are also discussed by Andrea Luri, manager of the spectacular Casta Diva Resort, who has successfully introduced a butler of a peculiar kind in his establishment.
It is an ancient world, that of hospitality, which renews itself without ever altering the way it is perceived by its users; it has the capability to preserve the special charm of its proposals, in a line of continuity combined with constant revisitation.
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