The Golden Art of Hospitality

By Ashish Modak General Manager, LUX* Belle Mare | March 27, 2016

A few days ago while talking to an acquaintance, the conversation took us to discuss the roles and responsibilities of a hotel manager. The young man was very eager to understand the role of a General Manager of a hotel and the qualities required to be successful.

Years ago, I remember in one of my internship interviews for a leading hotel chain, the interviewer asked me a very simple question – ‘Do you think hospitality is an art or science?’ While I had answered what I thought sounded most appropriate on that occasion; the question has always remained with me. That I cleared the interview means I must have said something which resonated with the interviewer, it seems! What exactly is managing hotels like? For an onlooker it is a simple mathematical equation. Selling rooms and meals to achieve the bottom-line objectives of the business. While absolutely true, as all shall agree with me, it is not that simple.

Ensuring that maximum rooms are sold at the optimum price through the correct channels realising a desired mix of clientele willing to spend at least the budgeted spend at the hotel and getting the clients to really enjoy their stay and doing all of the above through a large team of individuals working with you - makes hotel management sound like a complicated mix of several algorithms. And indeed it is complicated. In today’s times, where customer has plenty of choices, where supply tends to exceed demand and where economic conditions are affecting general spend for the consumer – leisure travel business has become more complex than ever before. Add to it the reach of social media, which can propel your property to great heights or bring the hotel down in no time!

How do you work in such a scenario and ensure you come out on the top? I remember reading a very interesting quote from John Wooden, the basketball legend somewhere – ‘Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do?’

What am I exactly implying? Simply put, a hotel manager needs to focus first on things directly under his control and set them right rather than worrying about things outside his / her direct control. Let me elaborate. Amongst the very many things that a hotel manager does, lies a very easy sounding difficult task – The General Manager of a hotel ought to shape the culture of the place he manages. The Cambridge dictionary defines culture as ‘the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time’. And this, the general manager ought to do in a comparatively short span of time. Developing a particular style in the team is extremely important for this then displays the style the manager wants his hotel to portray. It is then only natural that the manager establishes a culture in his resort that he relates with and wants his hotel to reflect. How does he do it? By simply living it himself and displaying the values he stands for 24*7.

Every hotel has its own set of organisational values and guiding principles. These need to be followed but in addition to these, the manager needs to bring in his element of style to the place. I have seen a few different styles of management culture in different hotels over the years. One can walk in to a hotel, feel the vibes in the place, interact with the staff in various areas of the hotel, make his / her observations in a few hours and later upon meeting the manager – very often the assumptions of what kind of a person the manager might be come through very clearly. Of course every hotel manager is supposed to be hospitable, courteous and well versed in his role – this goes without saying! But it is the unspoken virtues, which come to the fore in a few minutes of interactions.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.