The Hotelier of the Past Should Be the Hotelier of the Future

By Michael Koethner Wellness & Healing Consultant, Spa Transition | February 23, 2014

An excellent guest service is not about the big, bright smile, it is about the knowledge and the experience of the person providing the guest service. It is also about knowing how and where to draw help from, when in need of assistance from another colleague. This knowledge and experience is not written in any of the university books, but it is passed-on, and given to each of us by professional and experienced mentors, who in turn have been students previously. In order to preserve and/or to enhance the reputation and future growth of the industry it is also of utmost importance to preserve the knowledge and experience of service by heart, not by numbers.

When looking up dictionaries and online research media for the word hospitality, is most often used to describe a person being cordial with a generous reception towards guests, generous treatments of guests, kindness in welcoming strangers, being receptive and friendly, amongst many other similar terms used. In most countries this behavior is part-of and ingrained into a culture and passed on through each family. Generally speaking, people think of other people as good people. However, professional hospitality also means being knowledgeable of products and services offered, providing good quality and adequate quantity, overlooking and managing the finances required to operate a hotel/resort/spa, as well as ensuring consistency and sustainability for future generations to come. Knowing what and how to do counts.

The professional hospitality & wellness industry distinguishes between two key components - hardware and software. The hardware usually represents the land, the building with its outlets, the furniture and operating equipment. Sometimes people are also considered to fall into the hardware component, simply because without people there are no products and services offered. The software, in comparison, is the non-visible component, that usually consists of knowledge, experience, training, education, ethics, company culture to name a few. Knowing where to draw the experience from counts.

Only a few decades or centuries ago, a hotel/resort was seen as a long-term, sustainable investment providing a consistent income for its owners and operators. It was build and established with an image and a reputation of high value that could be passed on to the next generation without a concern or fear of loss. For a good and solid building or business the value usually increase with time. The expenses of the investments were calculated and placed in such manner as to create a valuable product for its owners, operators, employees and guests alike, and to make sure that it outlived generations to come. People who invested their time, money and expertise building such an enterprise were proud of their ideas, skills and the result of the product, because they knew if they give away something of good value, then even better value will be returned to them. They knew that every detail was a part of the whole and could not be seen as separate entity. The generations of that time created hotels, resorts and spas that were build on solid foundations with beauty, grace and unity. Reflections of professional and personal character were found not only in the architectural foundations but also in all the details of each item, such as the gardens, the entrance, the lobby, the back of house, the furniture, all the way down to the selection of the cutlery or the hand-crafted tissue box. Some of these buildings are still around and in operation in various country sides and key metropolitan cities. For example, the century old Turkish bathing houses are still in operation today, and being taken care of by its owners, family members and/or the public, because the people are still very proud of their product.

Such places provide a feeling of true hospitality, simply through its aligned unseen universal energy called FengShui. When everything in the building is in alignment with the foundations and support frame then balance is achieved. It then feels and looks complete. A building can also be seen as a mirror image of the human body. The skeletal and muscular system of the human body together with the skin represent the core. The other body systems represent the inner support frame and the necessary software to operate. The invisible part of the human body, also called the driving force that holds everything together, can be described as the soul. If the core of the body and its support frame is in balance then the soul will inhabit the body and bring it to life. If the soul leaves the body, the body dies. More than often we have heard about the term – this building has no soul, or the soul has just left the department. That is because the true force that holds everything together has departed. Every department, every spa, every hotel needs a soul to operate. If a virus of any sort, or ill soul, has entered the operation and eats away the foundation, the ethics and the moral, the end will not be far.

If the balance however is intact and all parts are working well together and supporting each other, they will automatically attract its software required to bring a soul into the place. Operational life of the hotel, resort or wellness center will flourish autonomous if the adequate work spirit is given. A spirit of acceptance, trust, loyalty, guidance and support. This balance however must be maintained, just like looking after a car or the human body in order to make the most of this lifetime, a manager needs to look into the issues of any operation and know how to fix it if required. If one part is out of alignment the rest will suffer. The manager must know what to do to bring it back to life. Just like a therapist must know how to eliminate pain and suffering by working on the right body parts, a hotel manager must know the individual departments and act accordingly. This maintenance requires the investment of time, money, knowledge and expertise. Observe, evaluate and adjust the given situation, then bring it back to Homeostasis through the application and implementation of the correct mixture of training, communication, behavior standards and enhanced knowledge of business ethics. Providing intuitive service to guests gives the associate an instant positive feedback. Providing service through forceful orders or working to achieve a financial target for the company also has an instant feedback from the guests and customers, but more likely a negative one. The guests might not come back, because they know intuitively what true hospitality means.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.