Skift Take

We don't need supersonic travel, robot butlers, or Alexa in every hotel room. Just a few upgrades to improve the experience overall.

Colin Nagy, head of strategy at Fred & Farid, a global advertising agency, writes this opinion column for Skift on hospitality, innovation, and business travel. “On Experience” dissects customer-centric experiences and innovation across hospitality, aviation, and beyond. 

To kick off the year, I’ve already outlined some of the best performers in the space. Now, naturally, a wish-list of things that need to be improved or just need to exist in the world:

An end to the awkward digital adolescence of hotels: Real, actual mobile and digital integration with hotels is needed. The Virgin Hotel Chicago gets it right with their deeply integrated mobile app, and the Icon in Hong Kong gets it right with their pre-checkin on-boarding. But a surprising amount of top-tier hotels have strained digital and mobile strategies, and it is odd how long it has taken them to fix this.

Print, if you want it: Lest I seem to be focusing too much on digital, let’s talk about print. A recent stay at the Grand Hyatt Singapore was loudly touting the fact they’ve done away with all print media. When I asked for a copy of the FT in the morning, I was directed toward a Pressreader app, and told they got rid of print subscriptions. Misguided thinking. If I wanted to read on an app, I could open my phone. There’s something nice about reading a print paper over your coffee, and hotels are very misguided if they think there’s no desire for this from their consumers. Even though it seems like everyone is locked to a screen all the time, reading a great newspaper in its natural state is a joy that shouldn’t be cost-cut.

More innovation in in-flight entertainment: On a 15-hour flight, why can’t I dial up some of the world’s best podcasts, listen to free Stanford lectures or The Great Courses, or even just see the first episode in a season of a TV series? The ability to “taste-stalk” and see an public figure’s curated picks on movies, TV, etc. would also be amazing. I’m willing to pay for a premium option, since opening the laptop in-flight means inevitable work ensues. If I’m in the mood to relax, the in-flight entertainment can be a safe, inspiring haven if done well.

Niche retail, flung worldwide : Would love to see more of Mark Cho’s eye for retail and menswear with his store The Armoury, ported to more cities around the world. It is simply exceptional. Same goes for Isetan Men’s, but ideally with a wider range of sizes.

Sampling product delights: This year, I’m eager to sample other products and get outside my comfort zone with what I know. This will mean a spin on Jet Blue’s Mint Class for the transcon (to see what it could look like to finally break ranks with my current loyalties). Also on the list are Garuda First and Cathay First. And another go at JAL’s First product, which was the best service I’ve ever experienced in-flight.

A strong, well prepared eye-opener: I write this after having been served a nice, strong espresso on the flight from Jakarta to Hong Kong. A dream would be more carriers, especially American carriers, pulling espresso shots to help travellers slough off the red-eye. It’s coffee, not cold fusion.

The end to ongoing collision toward mediocrity of American carriers: It is clear Delta, United, and American all huddle and make sure what they cut is not out of step with the others. The recent evisceration of top-tier loyalty has been done across the board, and is a short-term game. Who among you that flies these carriers 100k miles a year actually loves (or even likes) their airline anymore? Or even would rate it a B-?

A reminder of decorum: In 2016, I observed a lot of bad flight attendant cabin behavior. Sitting around, bitching about their jobs, in full view of customers. Obnoxiously using mobile phones, etc. A lot of flight attendants do an amazing job, and I am unfailingly polite in all of my interactions with all of them. But when paying good money for a seat, being burned with toxic nonsense and complaining is unacceptable.

New waypoints for 2017: Upon reflection of the past few years of travel, I’ve had a lot of recurring waypoints: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and London: a lot of business and urban hubs. This year, I’m firing up Gillian Morris’s excellent Hitlist app to keep me posted on flights to places like Chile, Botswana, New Zealand, Finland (for longer than a simple transfer), and also aiming to spend more time in Portugal, Oman, and Morocco.

As always, drop me a note at [email protected] with experiences and places you find inspiring.


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Tags: guest experience, in-flight, On Experience, paxex

Photo credit: Business-class seats on SAS, which feature 15" HD in-flight entertainment screens. SAS

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