Cultural Diversity - A World of Opportunity

By Andrew Freeman President, Andrew Freeman & Company | November 19, 2010

Cultural diversity is no longer a lofty idea for the future and wishful thinking. Nor is it something regional affecting select sections of the country. From vendors to guests, staff to neighbors, cultural diversity is here, it is now, it is universal. Revisiting existing strategies and tactics and implementing new ones to accommodate true cultural diversity and inclusion in your hotel is not only socially responsible, it is just good business.

You may be in a place where cultural diversity is taken for granted or where it hasn't yet become prevalent. Recent statistics should give you some idea of the changing make-up in the United States' population. Based on the 2000 U.S. Census, numbers show that whites made up 69% of the American population, Latinos and African Americans each made up 13%, and Asian Americans accounted for the remaining 4%. By the year 2050, predictions indicate whites will make up only 50% of the population, while Latinos will grow to 24%, African Americans will increase to 15%, and Asian American will double to 8% of the population.

These numbers are made all the more significant when the same predictions indicate that the U.S. population will grow from 280 million in 2000 to 420 million people by 2050, with women continuing to outnumber men. Immigration plays a major factor in this growth, especially in the Latino and Asian American populations, contributing 35% and 60% to their communities' growth respectively.

It has also been long recognized that Americans are getting older. By 2030, it is anticipated that one in five Americans will be 65 or older. This remains about the same as it is today for white/non-Latinos, but the projections show a much lower ratio for African Americans (one in seven), Asian Americans (one in six) and Latinos (one in ten).

The years 2030 and 2050 seem a long way off, so how do these statistics affect your hotel's operations and marketing efforts today? They are already affected: As a point of comparison, the 1950 U.S. Census showed that whites made up almost 89% of the population, African Americans accounted for almost 11% and all other races were less than 1%. The rapid change in the make-up of the American population is clearly a steady trend and looks to continue what is already well underway, which means that the typical "one size fits all" way of operating and marketing a business is no longer an effective way of running a business.

Simultaneous to these rapid population shifts are the equally steady changes in technology and communications. Fortunately, today's increasingly sophisticated technology and the widening spread of Internet use make it easier to research information about potential markets, organize and share information in a way that's useful and effective, and then confidently target a very select group of customers in a much more personal way. You may find you efforts are focused on a select population of customers, but they are much more qualified and loyal, generating greater revenue for you at a lesser cost.

Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.