Industry Update
Opinion Article 1 February 2021

Is Netflix a window on the future for Travel and Hospitality?

By Terence Ronson, Hospitality Professional, Technology Consultant, Public Speaker and Inventor

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Raise your hands... those who yearn to get on a plane and fly to some exotic destination. In fact, at this point, anywhere outside the confines of our homes, in any form of transport will do nicely, thank you. But this privilege which some of us have taken for granted in the past, now comes with the threat of catching a virus that seems to have taken a life of its own, mutating and wreaking havoc in its path.

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But the good news is - to those who miss travel and the best that hospitality has to offer, Netflix and other streaming services, have happily provided us a form of escape. With its over 200,000,000 subscribers, Netflix has helped make those dark COVID days livable, re-kindling memories of forgotten times, transporting us to the imaginary world of the old normal across many time zones, and historical periods.

Take for example the hit TV show Bridgerton which portrays an era where The ton as Wikipedia describes "The ton" was Britain's high society during the late Regency and the reign of George IV, and later. The French word ton means, in this context, "manners" or "style" and is pronounced as in French (tonne). The full phrase is le bon ton meaning etiquette, "good manners" or "good form" - characteristics held as ideal by the British beau monde." Bridgerton like so many of these period shows reflect hospitality at its finest with for example, wonderful costumes, flowing champagne, and macarons.

Another such TV show was Downton Abbey (2010) where the stately manor of the same name was used as backdrop to portray a life of luxury with all the formal trimmings to include dressing for dinner and retiring to the Drawing Room for Cigars and Brandy or Port.

Upstairs, Downstairs (1971) was a precursor to Downton Abbey and clearly showed the separation between life below stairs and upstairs, how the atmosphere changed once you passed through the door to the main house - much like today's Hotel when you move from Back to Front of House, passing through a mirror where you can often catch yourself checking you are good to face the guests and with a smile on your face that's ready to go. A key figure in this drama was the Cook - Mrs. Bridges, who must have been an avid follower of Mrs. Beaton the author of the very famous book "The Book of Household Management" which once upon a time and many moons ago served as a primer for those entering the hospitality industry.

Inside Claridge's (2012) took us through, in three episodes, a one-year experience of life inside this famous luxury Hotel in London. It was filmed through the lens of the General Manager, Thomas Kochs, and was perhaps the first time for so many to understand the inner workings of a hotel - albeit a super luxury one, and the idiosyncrasies of many of their rich and famous guests. Personally, I very much enjoyed this show. It was a walk down memory lane career-wise, and it also got me thinking about how much I miss the tradition of taking Afternoon Tea complete with rindless cucumber sandwiches and fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam in elegant surroundings.

Inside the Ritz Hotel (2019) was another documentary series offering behind-the-scenes glimpse inside one of the most famous luxury hotels in the world. Sometimes described as an "advertorial" rather than documentary, because it showed off the massive renovation works that had recently taken place that doesn't fail to impress. Nevertheless, it did portray hospitality at its finest and illustrated why the saying "putting on the Ritz" was the epitome of glamour and glitz.

Hotel Babylon (2006) on the other hand, was far more down-to-earth, and featured the shenanigans in this London boutique Hotel (geographically it reminds me of one I once worked in the early 80's) in both Front and Back of House, and how management succeeded in working their way through often difficult and awkward times. The show was loosely based on a book by Imogen Edwards-Jones (2004) and is by my standards, a good read.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) was without doubt the great escape to a mysterious establishment where staff would go out of their way to meet the demands of their guests. A magical time, perhaps no longer seen, or only in extremely special circumstances.

The computer-animated comedy film Ratatouille (2007) tells the fantasy story of a kitchen where Rats are the Chefs, and how through a stroke of culinary genius, they can remind a mystery food guide inspector through taste, one of the most powerful senses we possess, of happy times he once had with his mother. How many time have you had that experience?

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) was a hugely popular and romantic view of the hotel industry and often brought about a warm and fuzzy feeling, happily, with a happy ending.

And for the sci-fi geeks out there, the dystopian TV series Snowpiercer (2020/2021) is the modern day equivalent of Noah's Ark with its 900+ train carriages circumnavigating the world after the apocalypse as though it were not just a Hotel-on-wheels but an entire world's ecosystem - helping sustain life all the way from just surviving, to super luxury.

As we walk through this valley of darkness - let's continue to dream about the delights that the hospitality industry offers - its staff anxiously waiting for guests to walk through their portals once again, taking us to a fantasy world of - a five star hotel accommodation, a resort by the beach, an elegant retreat on a snow covered mountain top or anywhere far flung for that matter, where Zoom calls are non-existent and wearing masks and face shields are a thing of the past. Let us hope that someday soon it will be a reality we can all re-live, not just through our TVs and gadget screens, but through our own life's lens - beyond Netflix.

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