Hotel industry hopes to benefit from recent TV success stories

I have to say I find it curious to see what passes for exciting TV in this day and age. The general public’s insatiable need to get a “behind the scenes” look at just about anything ranging from Las Vegas pawn shops to New York City restaurant kitchens, seems to be increasing by the day. And these industries have most certainly benefitted monetarily from the heightened attention.

So, of course, it stands to reason that the hotel industry would eventually get its day in the sun. Last year, several high profile CEOs, including Steve Joyce of Choice Hotels International, Kim Schaefer of Great Wolf Lodge and Jonathan Tisch of Loews Hotels, were part of the Undercover Bosses series on CBS—and in the case of Tisch, the Now Who’s Boss? Series on TLC—and received quite a bit of attention.

In addition, the Travel Channel recently green-lighted a second season of the Hotel Impossible series with “hotel fixer” Anthony Melchiorri. During the hour-long program, which airs on Monday nights, Melchiorri takes a look at struggling properties and identifies problem areas in an effort to help them turn around their performance.

The good news for the hotel industry is that the show’s premiere season was an indisputable success with solid ratings and positive feedback from viewers. In fact, Melchiorri, who was at the recent HITEC show in Baltimore and has more than 20 years of experience in the hotel industry, told me that he has been amazed at the amount of attention he has received. However, he also told me that his greatest concern in this endeavor is not his new TV career, which has taken off, but ultimately how the show is viewed by the lodging industry.

After all, we in the industry know that running a hotel, whether it’s a 70-room economy property of a 500-room luxury hotel, is not an easy task. We fully realize the training and experience that are required to do it successfully, while to the general public it may seem like no big deal. Much like an umpire in baseball, a really good general manager is rarely even noticed.

So perhaps these programs will allow customers to gain a better understanding and appreciation of what hoteliers go through, particularly when things don’t go right. If they do that’s fine, however, that shouldn’t be the goal because the reality is as an industry we need to continue to raise the bar on service, not lower it.

Hopefully, the success of these shows will ultimately inspire another level of service and a general sharing of best practices. But the benefits can be even more widespread. For an industry often struggling to have a voice on Capitol Hill, the more it becomes part of the public’ consciousness, the better the chances that lawmakers might help fight for our causes.

But perhaps the greatest benefit of the increased exposure can be to encourage young people that this industry can be a worthwhile profession. Skilled labor is the very lifeblood of this business and the more qualified and passionate workers we have the better the industry will be in the long run. And quite frankly, if that is the only impact of these shows than they will still have been a huge success.

At press time, Fox had unveiled plans for a new series called Hotel Hell with the always outspoken chef Gordon Ramsay, and it is set to make its TV debut on Aug. 13. Ready or not, the hotel industry is moving into prime time. It may be all about ratings to the programming executives, but to us, there’s much more at stake—and that is its reputation among future guests.