By Mendes O. Cavin, Founder & CEO at Miners Hospitality

After 3+ years of building and running Miners Hospitality, a one-stop hotel development company with offices in Singapore and Thailand, I have had the chance to travel extensively and meet some of Asia’s upcoming businessmen and -women. I consider myself a blessed man therefore, having been able to build something out of little but a vision and a pinch of eagerness. Yet the industry is changing rapidly and acquiring business in our industry is more difficult than ever before. Here’s why…

The 21st century, and with it the information age, brings a lot of exciting new ‘things’ with it. It gave us Google, Facebook, Tesla and Shazam, but it also gave us a generation of young and very wealthy individuals, with riches acquired through the new possibilities of the information age.

At the same time, traveling during the 21st century has become a lot more affordable and convenient, allowing young entrepreneurs to travel more frequently and expend business abroad. Naturally, when traveling, these young and wealthy individuals like staying at famous hotels, flying business class and party, party, and party; and of course post images of it on Instagram. But this aside.

Prior to building my own company, I had the chance to develop a chain of hotels hand-in-hand with an Asian Billionaire, providing me with tremendous experience and insights of what it means to build a successful hotel and business from ground up. It allowed me to see how many parties are involved in the development of a truly successful hotel and what a lengthy process it is to complete a project from a vision to its opening. This experience later allowed me to start my own company.

Throughout our 3+ years in business I cannot recall how often I have heard a prospect client say “I know how to develop and manage a hotel because I travel a lot and stay at many 5* hotels”. Has building a hotel really become that simple? Or has time and money created the 21st century Charlatans of Hospitality?

Reality is, the development of a successful hotel is not as easy as it sounds and cannot quickly be learned by staying at hotels; not even if all of them are luxury hotels as some may argue. A hotel is not simply a building offering accommodation and food anymore, topping it with some extravagant services. Before anything else, a hotel is a business! And business means, it needs to keep positive cash flow to stay in business. But there is more to it…

Over the past couple of years the perception of travelers has changed with “luxury shifting rapidly from ‘having’ to ‘being’” (Boston Consulting Group, 2014). This means the old-fashioned ‘same brand, same experience’ concept is slowly disappearing together with the generation that built it. Today’s travelers seek to be led into a world of extremes, but be brought home for dinner (Ulrich Reinhardt). This means hotels have to adapt to these new expectations and become more innovative, providing unique experiences with every hotel being developed. Thus, creating a hotel based on travel experience may work in the short term, yet I would argue, it won’t have a long-term competitive advantage.

A hotel with a long-term competitive advantage therefore, is one with a complete understanding of the industry and its market place; it is a business with a unique and innovative concept, a clear brand strategy, and a fully transparent sales & marketing plan. It is a business, which over a period of time will continue to stay competitive due to its adaptability and changeability; and finally it is a business built on understanding and expertise of a wide range of jobs required to run and manage a successful hotel, from the steward to the accountant and the engineer to the graphic designer.

To conclude what we have learned over the 15 years in the hospitality industry, there is no such thing as knowing how to do something by having experienced it. You cannot become a Doctor by watching ‘Scrubs’, or become a famous New York lawyer by watching ‘Suits’, nor can you become a hotelier or a hotel developer simply by staying at luxury hotels. It takes effort, patience and time to fully understand how a hotel works. It is a complex and sometimes tiring process to turn a piece of land into a successful hotel with a long-term competitive advantage and involves the expertise of various people, even if it is a budget or mid-tier hotel. A hotel is a big investment and owners’ best interest should be to assure a desirable return on their investment (ROI). This can only be guaranteed if placed in the hands of professionals. Or would you trust a butcher to make a financial investment for you?

Therefore, to assure your money is well spent for the development of a hotel, listen to trusted and well reputed professionals in the industry, even if you travel 365 days a year and stay at the best hotels in the World – it doesn’t mean you know how much BTU the air-conditioning in your room requires, or whether to go for mid-tier or a luxury hotel in your market, or even how to make a Latte Macchiato; but hotel developers and hoteliers do. Listen to them as they have only your best interest at heart.