Omnipresent in the media, professional organizations in the hotel and restaurant industry struggle to convince and seduce, because their communication uses arguments that are poorly chosen and too focused on their members.

Tourist tax, accessibility, Airbnb, Booking and other OTAs, VAT which decreases then which goes up, home-made, artisan status of restaurateurs, violence in the kitchen, consumer commentary sites,… phew! These are not the subjects that are lacking to occupy the professional organizations of Café-Hotels-Restaurants (CHR).

They are on all fronts, come and go in the offices of deputies and senators, in ministries, in central administrations, launch press releases on press releases, “lobby” in their own way … And, it must be said , the hotel unions work their files better than a few years ago when it was enough to bitch publicly by showing your biceps and to evoke the subjects like commercial coffee to make believe that one was acting.

Working on files requires tenacity, persuasiveness, hard work, even cunning, to get through. They are also undoubtedly more and more technical.

The first concern of professional organizations? Let us be clear, it is to please their members, to attract new ones, to bring money into the coffers and also to seek to shed light on the opposing union. Since now two camps are fiercely opposed and in competition with each other: the Umih with the GNC (hotel chains) and the GNI (bringing together four professional organizations of independent workers).

And the defense and progress of the profession? Opinions are more divided on this point. As everywhere, we find sincere trade unionists in the militant act and others who have other concerns and more personal horizons …

All-out attacks In
mid-February 2015, the Umih wrote to the Prime Minister in one of his umpteenth demands to fight against unfair competition. A theme like so many others that warms the spirits. His colleagues from the GNI follow the same approach on the same subjects. LCI on the 1 st March 2015, the President of GNI was asked to answer several questions from reporters. Although eloquent, he must wipe the sarcasm from both interviewers about the arguments he presents . We may have found them unpleasant but they were mostly incredulous .

This is just one example, because professional organizations of CHR are omnipresent in the media. Journalists see them as good clients.

Because the hotel industry and especially the catering, we like to hate them or we hate to love them. It depends.

An injustice ? Yes, probably, because the sector has never had to endure so many attacks, controls, challenges, new regulations and almost always expensive laws, incessant changes in taxation (as in other sectors), constraints of all kinds … while at the same time, the economy is not giving it any freebies and its companies are struggling more and more to get by economically. During the last 3 years, 1,900 hotels have closed definitively according to our observations and nearly 6 restaurants every day, against 3 creations.  

Alternating between meetings with the public authorities and communications in the media, the – classic – strategy of hotel unions consists of using the press to put pressure on political decision-makers. Normally this sometimes works when the mayonnaise sets and rises, as in other industries. But for the CHR, it feels like a boomerang effect with a painful return to the head.

Why ? Only because of a serious communication problem . The representatives of the RHCs, however justified their approaches may be, do not manage to convince because they do not use the right angles of communication.

Their arguments are mostly mediocre, poorly chosen, incoherent or even missing the point. To convince you have to choose the right means and the right words. Our representatives of the hotel industry give the impression of going bison hunting with a fishing rod.  

Examples of miscommunication? 
• We will immediately think of the treatment following the drop in VAT in restaurants where all the restaurant owners’ unions have said anything and everything, except the truth, on the benefit of the tax reduction for consumers. It has been seen. Public opinion and the media were not fooled. Since that moment of bewilderment due to blatant lack of preparation, if restaurant owners had made money instantly, they now pay dearly and the bad image due to this slippage persists.

• The war against Airbnb , which took over from the war against guest houses. There are already nearly 40,000 apartments in Paris for rent via this site against 78,000 hotel rooms. The hotel unions demand the taxation of this new phenomenon favored by the Internet in the name of fairness in the treatment of operating conditions. They would obviously dream of its pure and simple disappearance, but it is of course shameful. We can understand them. But that is quite revenge and bad player.

They claim this is causing harm to the profession , which is not doing well, implied by these private apartment rental sites. But, in reality, both in France and in Paris, the rise of these formulas – in this form or another – has not come at the expense of hoteliers. The hotel industry has globally recorded the same volume of overnight stays each year since at least 2008, ie 197 million, and has an occupancy rate of around 60% nationally (sources Insee, the only reliable one). In Paris, it prances at 80% attendance rate and that does not tumble, not to mention the high prices. We understand that it is difficult to convince by saying that this competition would remove customers from hotels. Badly chosen arguments.

In any case, hoteliers have always made sure to get someone in their face. These were successively the chains, then the tourist residences, then the guest houses and now the OTAs and Airbnb. Hell is other people. “The others are our misfortune”. Always the fault of others. But, killing competitors never made customers come back. To achieve this, they must be reduced. That’s all.

• OTAs and traveler review sites are also hot spots in the profession. Normal, it’s unsettling to see how Booking and the company have gained so much commercial hegemony in a few years. But here too, professional organizations choose the wrong arguments to sensitize the media and the public: talk about falling profitability, intolerable practices, domination, unpaid taxes and duties in France, etc. There too, journalists can’t really support them with these criticisms, as online travel agencies are popular with the public, are generally reliable and offer guarantees to their customers.

However, the media roll for their viewers, readers, listeners, in short the public, and never go in a corporate direction if it goes against consumer interest. The same goes for review sites: it was what was lacking before it existed to properly orient and guide consumers. There is therefore no question of being moved by the emotion of hoteliers when faced with satisfactory services and considered useful.

• Regarding the tourist tax , as it was necessary to find ammunition to explain that its increase is not good, professional organizations initially followed the attempt of Alliance 46.2 – assembly of large tourism groups -, which commissioned a study of convenience to combat the project. His argument out of the hat can be summed up in a few words: raising the tax by € 2 on average (at the time of the study) in the Paris region would kill 1,300 jobs , scare tourists away and induce more than 82 million euros. of unconsumed spending by tourists.

Besides that, thanks to the famous yield management, increasing the prices of hotels from one night to the next by 20, 50, 150 and even by 200 € (doubling and even tripling of prices in Paris) would strangely not scare anyone away. , or even sacrifice jobs. Yet another shocking argument that shatters and discredits all that could follow.

And examples of bogus, false, exaggerated and above all badly chosen arguments by professional organizations to seek to defend their cases, we no longer count them. If some journalists still buy into them, so many others are much more professional and especially the public authorities no longer take them into account.

The profession, craftsman of its own misfortune
There would however be many other demonstrations to find and to advance, credible, serious and convincing, on each subject.

How then can we be surprised that hotel and restaurant operators are not listened to, taken into consideration and helped in the best case, or more simply respected in the other? The image of the profession with everyone is almost detestable: journalists, bankers, political staff and by extension, the general public, are ugh .

Because if we like good restaurants and pleasant hotels, we are wary of their professionals. We see the CHR sector with Poujadist reflections and a corporatist going like vulgar taxis. We find him selfish like a mosquito, not united with the national cause, protesting like a vulgar union member of the SNCF, and despite everything, rightly or wrongly, favored by the State (once again, because of the episode on VAT).

It must be said that the regular scandals or mediatized drifts which fall on the restoration do not help matters, such the mad cow, the fraud, the industrial kitchen bag-scissors and now the violence in the kitchen … Not to mention the significant number of smicards (the second most “smicardizing” sector in France).  

In summary, if they deal as best they can with issues that fall and can control nothing in the CHR, professional organizations are once again first and foremost faced with a furious communication problem , which cuts the rug out from under them.

It should be remembered that it is dangerous to criticize what pleases the public and that one will not find support on this register with the media. It is also not good to talk about your problems and expose them to everyone. What would one say of an actor who on stage would complain about his theater director, the costume designer, the taxes he pays without forgetting his knee which hurts?

Safeguarding the image, above all
The problems of hoteliers and restaurateurs do not concern the public. He should never be taken as a witness, asked for arbitration, questioned and disavowed his choices, expect him to take a position to defend the sector or to have a sense of citizenship or solidarity. Also, inviting him to boycott OTAs and fight against fictitious opinions, asking him to accept that the reduction in VAT not be returned to him, making him feel guilty for not rejecting industrial cooking,… are counterproductive.

The customer doesn’t care about it and has their own issues to deal with. Especially since he usually goes to a restaurant and a hotel to have a good time. Not to hear whining, neither there, nor in the media, about the job and its difficulties.

All these subjects which occupy the profession must be regulated away from the media. This must happen between professionals and the public authorities with their competent administrations. Nowhere else and especially not in the public square. By starting there, the CHR could hope to start to restore their image, which is very tarnished today.

Finally, always in the register of communication, when will our hoteliers and restaurateurs take charge and stop complaining about everything, victimizing themselves and blaming others for their mistakes, which are now starting to last?

The misfortune of professionals, for those who have it, nevertheless comes mainly from themselves and their representation.

It must be possible to carry out upgrading work as the outdoor hotel industry had succeeded in doing, taking customers into account and modernizing the sector. But, there will still be a long way to go before we get there, given where we are today.

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