Founded in 2006, the Committee for the Modernization of French Hotels and Tourism is therefore celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016.
A militant association, especially at its beginnings, we presented and published a good number of reports, analyzes, conferences and studies that were sometimes deemed provocative (for example, L’Hôtellerie française est-elle en peril? Or the White Book of Hotel and Tourist Modernization ). Since then, everyone has become accustomed to our biting and frank style, which is no longer surprising, and which was nevertheless necessary to convey messages intelligibly . So much the better.
To advance our ideas and proposals for modernizing the French hotel and tourism industry, we approached national and regional elected officials, we were received by several ministers and carried out an impressive volume of press relations.
This experience as president and founder of the Committee – a position that I enjoyed occupying – makes me today take stock and take stock of what I have learned in the co-animation of the association and in observing the tourism industry and those who do it.
1. I have understood the extent of the dramatic situation of the hotel offer in France. With an estimated 1/4 of hotels that are lagging behind in modernity and 1/3 at the end of their rope, the French hotel industry is in dire straits. Even chain hotels, unexpectedly, are not modernizing enough. Knowing that modernization does not only affect the physical product, but also professional practices and management. Ten years later, almost nothing has changed, except that more than 3,000 addresses have disappeared. This results in dissatisfied customers, who sometimes turn away from hotels, and establishments in great economic difficulty (1 independent hotel in 2 is in deficit or in fair balance in its accounts).
2. I have seen how hoteliers do not develop enough marketing for their establishment and therefore do little (or too badly) to find clients and improve their turnover. Only 1 in 5 farmers engage in active marketing. The others are in the wait, passivity or get lost in ineffective action. This largely explains the lack of support in the sector and its misfortune.
3. I have seen how desperate and lost professionals are. Too many costly and unproductive new regulations, too many new taxes, too many imposed and often unjustified constraints, difficulties in making profit and obtaining funding, the inability to find and keep staff … have made life extremely difficult to hoteliers, with meager earnings. When we add to this the influence of the Internet and its OTAs, which ultimately did them more harm than good, we understand the state of despair that has taken root deeply.
4. I discovered poverty in the economic and corporate culture of tourism professionals. Many do not know much about the means to market, promote their business, manage, manage teams and the regulations in force. Many do not even know how to calculate an occupancy rate. We meet amateurism on all levels, which surprises when we know what it costs to finance and operate a tourist or hotel business. In addition, the profession often does not feel responsible for what happens to it, accusing (wrongly) others (para-competitors, public authorities, OTAs, Airbnb, etc.) and the conjuncture of its misfortunes.
5. I was sorry to see how the hotel branch is atomized , little defended and poorly represented, easily influenced, with parochialism and corporate chauvinism. It thus meets all the conditions to be indefensible, even inexcusable.
6. I was stunned by the lack of interest that the public authorities have in tourism in general and in the hotel industry in particular, despite the painful and victorious speeches they give us year after year.
7. I was appalled by the general lack of expertise in tourism and understanding of the sector by political staff and elected officials in our country. Including parliamentarians responsible for producing reports on the sector. With cynicism or naivety, everyone seems to think that tourism works by itself and is not serious enough to be taken into consideration. It is even impossible – I am now convinced – to make politicians aware of the challenges of tourism. Do not be fooled by demagogic announcements presenting the opposite …
8. I remain amazed that so much prejudice and candor exist in tourism and that so few people seek to reduce or correct them.
9. I am appalled at the overwhelming number of misguided ” moral fathers “ and hucksters plaguing the industry. Of course, their existence is only possible because they address themselves to candid people, who listen to them and on whose backs they do business.
10. I was amused to see that the big hotel groups had not, but then not at all seen the coming of OTAs and their incredible market power, which overshadow them and furiously discredit them commercially. Hotel chains are now trying – clumsily, without significant resources and without certainty of success – to catch up with their delay in e-marketing.
11. I was stunned by the absolutely phenomenal mass of bogus or bogus studies , files of convenience, false statistics, disinformation, lies circulating about tourism and the hotel industry. The worst is that they are taken at face value and that a large majority of them are published by the public authorities and the institutions themselves, including the famous “France, the world’s leading tourist destination” , which has however (finally) the varnish that cracks. It is all the same to wonder if there would be fair, honest and sincere studies on tourism …
12. I was struck by the fact that all, it seems, of parliamentary reports or reportscommissioned by ministries, white papers (including two from the Committee ) and tourism assize files end up in cupboards. They are forgotten as soon as they have been presented and published.
13. I was sorry for the lack of ethics that operate among journalists when they deal with tourism. They take the official press releases without verifying the information and without asking questions about the veracity and accuracy of the announcements, studies and statistics given to them. They thus help to convey untruths and inaccuracies, harmful to the necessary good understanding of the sector.
14. I was shot and then ultimately blasé by the mass of new regulations that the last governments have introduced (hotel classification, fire safety, protection of swimming pools, etc.). Often hypocritical, defined without questioning those it concerns and exaggeratedly expensive, most of the time they do not improve the situations they are supposed to deal with. By their costs, they prevent professionals from modernizing their offer to customers for good.
15. I was entertained by the ever increasing number of labels, trophies and awards that tourism, catering and hospitality like to give themselves. Chocolate medals, worthless. Especially since they are never known to the public (no budget and no know-how to make them known) and therefore serve no purpose as recognition of professionals, or even commercial spinoffs.
16. I have often been annoyed by the self-congratulation and self-satisfaction sessionsthat political and union leaders regularly serve us with their hands on their hearts. They explain to us everything that tourism owes them – generally little or nothing – and much less what they should do for tourism …
17. I learned that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to mobilize professionals on a lasting basis around a cause , including those which concern them. Everyone sees only their own microcosm and personal interests. All mission movements and associations – including ours – are doomed to fail and to disappear.
18. I realized how much our ideas, our analyzes and our subjects of reflection had been “borrowed”, not to say plundered by the politicians, the observers and the leaders of employers’ unions without ever attributing the paternity to us. It shows how lacking in ideas, thinking and relevance they are. And, that is not reassuring.
19. I realized (once again) how complicated it is to animate and direct an association , especially with an activist vocation, where the “must we” and “there is only” are currency current. Not to mention the members who take the association for a service club or the suppliers as a pool of potential customers in exchange for a meager membership fee.
20. I have been exposed to censorship and attempted intimidation to silence us and take away our most basic freedom of speech.
I was however proud to see that our articles are very read and that the files which we put on line for free are very downloaded. We have also never talked so much about the modernization needs of the hotel industry… since we have been talking about it. Finally, we had a lot of support here and there, despite everything.
But supporting is easy, taking action is rarer. In short, everything remains to be done and almost nothing has been done.