Dateline: 12th-century Europe. The Latin word hospit, meaning guest, gives us the origins of the word “hospitality,”…the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers; the quality of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
So what happened in the last 800 years to redefine the word and the treatment of guests and strangers? We work in this business of hospitality, and perhaps I’ve just answered the question—does business get in the way of hospitality.
After more than 25 years in this industry, I’m keenly aware of how I and others are treated when we encounter hospitality. Granted, I’m often treated in a warm, friendly, generous way. But is that because of my title, my position, my potential business, my reputation? Or is it because I’m a fellow human being with value and personality, worthy of fair treatment as an honored guest?
I struggle with this issue and wonder how my attendees are treated as strangers in an unfamiliar hotel or city. While most of my experiences have been positive, even great, there are occasions when I wonder how the person behind the front desk got the job and keeps it.
Believe it or not, the world of hospitality often lacks hospitable people! I find this remarkable and unacceptable. Those of us who serve in the event world must understand human needs, that at some point kindness prevails – above status, financial ability, or title.
In an effort to produce a profit, which I’m certainly not against, we often encounter cost-saving measures, procedures, or poor employee performance that get in the way of common sense. Just ask Spirit Airlines about the public relations nightmare that resulted when the airline refused to refund a dying veteran’s airfare after he was advised by his doctor not to fly. This was one of those teachable moments that illustrates the frustration of hospitality vs. business.
On the other hand, I read of a different airline’s stand on policy. “We will not let our rules stand in the way of common sense.” If they can live by that motto, they will become the airline of choice. But all too often, we find ridiculous, unexplainable outcomes because business gets in the way.
My faith in hospitality was restored (at least temporarily) during a recent exploratory trip to the Bahamas. Upon arrival my party was greeted with enthusiasm and genuine concern, and I felt like an honored guest. Sure, I was a bit skeptical, because I was there to potentially bring business to the islands, and I’m often greeted with similar responses at other destinations. I wondered if it was a façade.
However, after meeting others in the process of my visit—hotel employees, restaurant servers, airline personnel, and total strangers—I realized this was a life-style and cultural issue. It’s their way of life. They really cared about me – not because I was a piece of business or carried an influential title, but because I was a valued stranger and ultimately a guest.
Whether planner or supplier, I hope you’ll review your attitudes, policies, and purpose and commit to restore hospitality to the hospitality world. There’s no downside to treating people with respect – it’s common sense.
Be careful out there!