Monday, July 28, 2014

Zipless travel

A piece in the Wall Street Journal today informs us that Hilton has developed apps to let travelers perform many key travel functions on their smartphones:  check-in, check-out, open door, etc.  Sounds pretty cool, and you know it will hold appeal to the jeunesse doree of the corporate world, ever-focused on expediting processes on the road.  I know, I used to be one of them, and sometimes still am.  Automation and process streamlining has done wonders for things like checking in at airports and picking up and dropping off rental cars, etc.

But doing the same thing at hotels would just remove another piece of human contact when traveling to a region, and cut jobs from one of the few sectors that has been experiencing job growth in the post-Great Recession world.  Which could be good or bad.

The canonical argument is that automating lower-value-adding functions frees up productive capacity to things that add more value.  In principle, in down with that.  I believe that anybody who is working in less remunerative positions has the potential within themselves to grow into someone who can do something better and more valuable.

At the same time, we as a society haven't shown a dedication to putting the pieces in place to facilitate that growth.  It's not just public schools.  For-profit companies are not incented to develop talent broadly when labor is treated as an entirely fungible commodity, when labor is plentiful, not scarce.

On the other hand, there is the specific possibility that Hilton will take the money it saves and focus on providing better and more differentiated services.  Hampton Inns usually have halfway decent cookies available at check-in, and the ones at DoubleTree are even better. The guidance we got from the Mexican-American concierge at the DoubleTree in San Antonio was superb. He directed us to the best and cheapest breakfast taco place nearby.  Yum!

We will see if markets help us reallocate the savings gleaned from this level of automation to everyone's ultimate benefit.  In 2014 America, I'm not holding my breath.


Anonymous said...

There is no way you can travel zipless with enhancement cream, your eminence would frighten your fellow travellers. Keep it zipped my friend.

Anonymous said...

Thursday night out on the lake

Barefoot walk to grill up some steak

See an old friend, hello jon hisky

this salted caramel treat makes me feel frisky

nighty night kids pleasant dream

now it's time to slather the cream

so proud so happy so long

Cleric Mikhailovich de Troi said...

Welcome back, my lovely and wise muses