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Opinion: Marius Zürcher on why hotel chains deserve credit

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While open to, sometimes, fair criticism chain hotels also deserve our respect and appreciation and can offer advantages to boutique hotels, says Marius Zürcher

Last months, I wrote about why McDonald’s not only deserves praise, but why the Golden Arches, in many ways, shows the industry how to improve. The article struck a nerve, which is why I have decided to use this month’s article to defend another industry punching bag: hotel chains.

The most convincing reason as to why chain hotels are, in fact, great, is predictability. Sure, a delightful boutique hotel might surprise, but let’s face it: surprises are overrated. During yet another gruelling traveling experience, few things feel quite as good as not having to worry about where you will end up. No matter where you go in the world, if you booked a (major) chain hotel, you know that your hotel room will be clean, that you will have access to all the amenities you need, that the level of service will be satisfactory, and that you will feel safe.

The latter is, for example, guaranteed by the fact that chain hotels often have the lights on and people working the reception all throughout the night, which is a luxury many privately owned hotels are not willing or able to provide. If that sounds superfluous to you, you likely were never a woman looking for a hotel alongside the highway in the middle of the night.

The benefits of standardization

Another, somewhat more vague, but nevertheless convincing reason is the sense of anonymity inherent in chain hotels that is the result of relentless standardization. Although it can lead to service that feels impersonal, the upside is that seemingly everyone somehow fits in or blends in and that different people are more likely to be treated in exactly the same way. Discrimination is subsequently less likely (though, of course, not unheard of). In an industry that still struggles with race- and gender-based discrimination, this is huge plus.

I grew up in small and medium sized hotels owned and/or run by my family. When done the right way, it doesn’t get much better than privately owned hotels. No chain hotel can even come close. They key phrasing being “done the right way” however. Sadly, a lot of privately owned hotels don’t quite live up to that. Much like “proper” restaurants that cannot match McDonald’s consistency, hygiene and friendly, non-discriminatory service and atmosphere, many privately owned hotels cannot compete with corporate hotel chains in these areas. In fact, instead of it being a “cannot” kind of situation, often it is the “will not” kind.

While that may sound bleak, the good news is that it also means that most private owners and operators have it within their capacity to turn things around. They just have to want it. Until then, chain hotels deserve our respect and appreciation.

Marius Zürcher

About the author:

The co-owner & founder of start-up 1520 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Marius Zürcher was a participant at FCSI’s ‘Millennials’ focused roundtable at INTERGASTRA 2018.