What can the hospitality industry learn from Fawlty Towers?

  • The catastrophic Basil Fawlty hotel may provide the struggling tourism industry with lessons in flexibility, veganism and international cooperation

Fawlty towers didn’t last very long – 12 episodes to be precise (now there’s a nugget of information, to bring to your next pub quiz). His guests, apart from a few senile regulars, were systematically dissatisfied. Much of this was due to the tyrannical owner of the hotel, Basil Fawlty, who was once described by his wife as a ‘big cranky tomato’.

The grueling string of disasters that have taken place in each episode will resonate with the current UK hotel industry which has lost around £ 200million every day in 2020, according to research commissioned by the hospitality UK trade body, and is currently facing immense uncertainty over the government’s list of safe international vacation destinations. To bounce back, perhaps the industry can draw inspiration from Fawlty’s abominable example.

Self-service work

At Fawlty Towers, the quality of service was clearly lacking. Staff have often been distracted from serving customers by drunken chefs and missing rats and a poor customer is still waiting to be served “a gin and an orange, a lemon squash and a scotch and water”. Had the hotel lasted until the Covid era, the chaos induced by social distancing rules and PPE requirements would have been excruciating.

For the hospitality industry, flexibility will be the key to surviving the next phase of the pandemic. Airbnb (NASDAQ: ABNB) seems well positioned to take advantage of this. The company operates an online marketplace for accommodation, from single rooms to luxury accommodations. Most accommodations use a self-service system, which means guests can bring their own gin and orange, lemon squash and scotch, and water. On the day of its IPO last December, Airbnb shares rose more than 112%.

The stock has since adjusted and is currently trading at around $ 135 per share, but its market cap is not far behind the rival travel giant. Reserve assets (NASDAQ: BKNG), and far exceeds Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE), as well as hotel chains such as Marriott (NASDAQ: MAR) and Hilton (NYSE: HLT). While business travel is expected to remain low as we move into the summer months domestic recreational travel will pick up and Airbnb’s flexibility is well suited to the ever-changing rules.

Vegan trends

As a dining experience, Fawlty Towers failed to deliver. Fawlty often lacked basic ingredients, having to admit on one occasion to being “out of Waldorf”, and on the other: “duck off”. However, perhaps the hotel’s insignificant offer would have been better suited to today’s vegan trends. The global market for vegans and vegetarians is now worth more than $ 50 billion and is expected to grow 20-30% per year in the years to come.

Beyond meat (NASDAQ: BYND) is a huge market achievement. In May 2019, stocks climbed 163%, posting the best performance for an IPO in nearly two decades. Beyond Meat sells its products in 28,000 retail stores in the United States and is expanding its presence in Europe. It has also concluded agreements with restaurant chains, in particular Mcdonalds (NYSE: MCD) and restaurateurs such as Yum! Brands (NYSE: MIAM). Perhaps in hindsight, the expression “ducks off” showed a great culinary vision, which was unfortunately a few years ahead of its time.

Foreign customers and employees

Fawlty Towers has shown little tolerance or respect towards its foreign guests. An Australian has been manhandled and a German family is devastated by Fawlty’s dubious decision to impersonate the “fun march” of an unspeakable dictator. Had Fawlty enjoyed a better relationship with his overseas visitors, he might have enjoyed the long-standing success that much of the rest of the UK has enjoyed. In Ireland, investments in international tourism have seen income from abroad increase steadily in recent years. In 2018, it exceeded 5 billion euros for the first time and accounted for 3% of Ireland’s GDP. Much of that growth has come from North American visitors, which helped overseas revenues grow by 30% between 2016 and 2018.

Today, those in Germany and most other countries must self-quarantine for 10 days upon entering the UK. But maybe it allows them to avoid silly hotel owners, to ricochet offensive war references before claiming “I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.” .

The Spanish waiter, Manuel, is abused by Fawlty who seriously underestimates his employee. Although his poor command of the English language is a hindrance, Manuel is a loyal worker and shows a great determination to improve himself: “You see, I speak English well, I am learning it from a booook. “.

As the fallout from Brexit kicks in, the new points-based system will prevent many low-skilled foreign workers from relocating to the UK. Applicants will need to achieve a minimum score of 70 points, so only the “brightest and best” will get a skilled work visa. Low-skilled workers in the EU make up a significant portion of the UK hotel workforce and many establishments are already struggling to fill summer vacancies. The job market has become incredibly competitive due to Covid, and this will only intensify as students realize that they can no longer do that ski season or that European internship they had dreamed of.

The hospitality industry has a long way to go in recovering from the post-Covid era. Travel and tourism supports 1 in 11 jobs in the global economy, and these workers will need the calm, calm and serene approach of Fawlty’s hotel manager, Polly, to cope with the sudden change of pace . The troubling alternative is a shattered industry run by “aged and shiny stick insects” and “big saber-toothed pies”.


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