In the late 1950s, Sullivan County in Upstate New York had the most hotel rooms of any county in the entire United States.
By the late 1970s, nearly all the hotel rooms had disappeared. What happened?
Alongside some broader cultural shifts, there were two big technology-driven disruptions.
The first was the rise of cheap flights. Working and middle class vacation seekers on the East Coast suddenly had many more choices within their budget.
The second was less obvious. One product became sufficiently affordable and effective for vast numbers of hotels to purchase them - and having them installed was a game-changer.
Air conditioning units transformed roasting hot resorts into far more palatable spaces for vacationing families.
Did the engineers fine-tuning AC compressors and coils think their work would decimate the hospitality business in Upstate New York? Did the Sullivan County hotel and restaurant owners see turmoil coming via clunky metal boxes?
It’s easy to miss the second order effects of certain shifts and trends - but they’re often the ones most worth paying attention to.
And as for Sullivan County? After a difficult couple of decades, it’s experiencing something of a renaissance.
For a deep dive into entrepreneurship, hospitality, and the importance of local, check out my Under the Current podcast with the founder of Foster Supply Hospitality, Sims Foster