The day Mr. Happy stopped smiling :(

Michael O’Leary, of Ryan Air fame, was quoted recently singing the praises of the recession. “The deeper the recession gets, the better it will be for Ryanair’s business,” Mr O’Leary said.

In some ways recessions are beneficial. Apart from anything else, they clear out all the opportunistic rogue traders which sail through the boom times on optimism and unfeasibly low profit margins. But they’re also the times when the predators flourish, sniffing out the lame and mauling them whilst they’re hearts are still beating.

I know this all sounds more David Attenborough than Alan Sugar but it’s how I see business at the sharp end. The father of one of my school friends was an enormously powerful industry leader and I often overheard snippets of his furious telephone conversations whilst Rob and I played Risk in the front room. Once Rob showed me a letter from his dad speaking of soldiers, skirmishes, battles and bloodbaths. It kind of stuck.

If you’re not convinced, take a listen to this tirade of abuse I was subjected to last Friday by Mr. Happy Walia (his real name, I believe). Happy is the G.M. of 4 hotels in Prague, a city which has fared very poorly during the recession. He shot me a couple of excited emails before launching into this largely unintelligible diatribe.

Mr Happy spits blood

We can only imagine what Booking.com had threatened Happy with to elicit this kind of response. Prague has had a dismal couple of year’s sales in the hotel business and Booking.com seem to have convinced a number of stray hoteliers that it’s in their interest to ensure that no other companies should be allowed to undercut Booking.com’s selling price. Any contracted hotel which falls foul of this agreement will have God knows what done to them.

Remarkably, a few hoteliers have bought into the concept, but that’s the nature of recessions. I guess when you’ve been running around in circles for long enough with a 600lb lion on your tail you might feel the need to make some sacrifices of your own.

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