My Dad, a Treehouse, and the Perils of Technology

“It will never take off!” — profound words from my Dad about the birth of the internet. How wrong could one be? I think his premise was based on a theory that no piece of technology could ever replace the need for human contact and a face to face communication.

Step forward 30 years and I’m just coming to the end of an ongoing ‘neighbours at war’ planning dispute regarding a tree house. How can the two be linked? Well, they are. My Dad never saw the day when two decent people could possibly allow a relationship to degenerate to such an extent where a dispute about the height of a tree house would require planning consultants and a professional plan to reach a sensible conclusion. I say this ‘touching wood’ as I’m not even sure we are there yet. I blame email. Sadly, in our rushed world, the tree house war was played out over email rather than an old-fashioned chat in the street, a pint in the pub or a holler over the hedge.

Our industry is no different. Technology, in its various guises, will drive commercial success, enhance the booking journey and improve the guest experience, but it will never take the place of the human touch. It amazes me that I read more about ‘straight to room’ technology than I do about team engagement.

When we formed Valor Europe less than two years ago, we adopted a strategy of driving high levels of employee engagement. We tried to create an environment where the emotional connection between the employee and the business is king and the resultant connection with the guest is personal. Our aim was to create a customer experience second to none. Wrap this approach in top class commercial processes and all will be well.

Wind the clock forward and we have just won a prestigious UK industry award, a Catey, recognising us as one of the best employers in the industry. Commercially, we have also done very well indeed and outperformed our competitive set.

So what does this prove? It probably proves my Dad was no Einstein, it possibly proves that he had a point, but it definitely proves, in my mind, that technology has a role to play in our industry but, as a result, ignores the most important resource — your people — at your peril.

As an aside, we have just launched the first two AC by Marriott hotels in the UK – not one review mentions the nice, new, shiny, high-tech door locks.