Little disruptions

Seasoned travellers learned long ago to treat the phone in their hotel room with caution, as massive mark-ups on call charges were a nice profit centre for most establishments.

With the arrival of the mobile phone, that revenue stream started to shrink and now one hotel in Vancouver has decided to replace their room phones with iPhones.

The Vancouver Opus hotel already supplies iPads in their rooms and the phones seem a natural extension to that, particularly given the chain has a “virtual concierge” app to guide guests.

Increasingly it’s only the older hotel chains that rely on excessive charges for things like telephone calls and internet access. Those establishments rely on the more senior business traveller who is locked into a 1970s way of travelling.

When you stay at cheaper accommodation or newer boutique establishments, you find many of the expensive extras in the major chains are available cheaply or free. It’s a quandary of travel that a backpackers’ hostel will offer free Wi-Fi while the Sheraton up the road will charge $60 for an often inferior service.

The opportunity for the Sheratons, or the Hiltons, or the Four Seasons to charge those sorts of rates is dying at the same rate their older clientele is retiring. It’s a dead model.

Fortunately for those hotel chains, slamming guests with fat phone charges was just icing on a very rich cake, the loss of those revenues over the last two decades has been unfortunate but not fatal.

Other businesses though might not be so lucky – if your business relies on big, unreasonable mark-ups then right now you are in a sector very ripe for disruption.

Paul Wallbank is one of Australia’s leading experts on how industries and societies are changing in this connected, globalised era. When he isn’t explaining technology issues, he helps businesses and community organisations find opportunities in the new economy.

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