Addressing Hotel Guest Discrimination Claims

By John Welty Practice Leader, SUITELIFE, Venture Insurance Programs | April 02, 2017

Discrimination has been a hot topic in the news lately. The “Hate Has No Home Here” campaign, women’s marches, LGBTQ issues and Black Lives Matter protests are just a few examples of how Americans have been turning up the heat on what some view as existing but emerging threats to their race, gender, age, religion, or lifestyle.

On the corporate side, the discrimination issue has left virtually no industry untouched. In this article, we will examine the impact of the topic of discrimination as it continues to gain steam in the hospitality industry, in particular. We will also discuss examples, insurance coverages available as well as risk management tips.

With so many homeowners providing room rentals across the globe, it is not hard to imagine the variety of issues that can arise daily. A recent article in the New York Times, stated that Airbnb, the well-known home-sharing and short-term rental website, had seen numerous claims of discrimination by those renting out their homes – discrimination claims involving age, race, gender, and more. A Harvard University study found that the accusations stemmed from reports that those with “African-American sounding names” had a more difficult time securing rentals on the site.

Whether it may relate to gender identity, race, or even physical attributes, hairstyle, tattoos or political affiliation – it’s fair to say the repercussions related to accusations of discrimination are more prevalent today. Discrimination may be an age-old global problem, but people are fighting it more vocally now than ever before thanks to social progress and technology. Consider the power of the civil rights marches in the 1960s and multiply that by technical advancements that help people share information, and the result is a quickly growing movement with much less time and expense than in years past.

Discrimination: The Facts

Gender identity alone encompasses self-image, appearance, behavior or expression, which is far different from what has traditionally been recognized more simply as one’s legal sex documented on his or her birth certificate. When one considers this along with discrimination claims related to race, religion, age, and gender, there is no doubt discrimination is taking on a broader prevalence almost on a daily basis.

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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.