Hotel Online  Special Report

 The Symbol of Hospitality, the Pineapple, Has Morphed
 to That of a Kumquat; Hotel Operators Focus
 on the Guest Becoming Secondary


by John R. Hendrie, CEO Hospitality Performance, Inc., August 2005

“The lights are on, but no one is home!”

That old saw is an apt statement about the state of Hospitality in certain areas of the US today.  Operators are tired, beaten up, spent.  Their energies are internally directed – staffing, budgets, complaints, legislation, etc. – whereas, the external focus on the Visitor and Guest Experience has become quite secondary.  “Just let me make it through the day” or “I can’t be bothered” are the laments.  Our true calling is controlled now by the numbers not by the virtues of a Host. Beans are good and should be counted and then ground, because many have forgotten the aroma of good Hospitality. Technology has been a boon to facilitate our rudimentary systems but has also removed us further from Guest contact.  Even at a high time of mergers, acquisitions, and renovations, a distinct aura of malaise shrouds Management.  Our symbol of Hospitality, the pineapple, has morphed to that of a kumquat.

The Organizations we look to for direction and traffic, the DMO, are in similar straits of disarray and ennui, beset by financial woes, dearth of leadership and ineffective marketing programs.  In regions and even states where Tourism is known to be a if not the major economic driver, we, who should be at the helm to move our businesses and communities forward, are not taken seriously, because we cannot get it together, form the proper coalitions, construct the message, and lead the charge.  Rather than substantive action like a “barn raising”, we settle for the more social “pot luck dinner”.  And, Organized Labor is just salivating, looking at our soft underbelly. We are the Service Sector, and our employees are prime candidates for union organizing attempts.  We are vulnerable, folks! 

You can raise the red flag, some will salute, but many others will head to the hors d’oeuvre table.  Where is the outrage and the surge to action?  We need to see collective Peter Finches (the movie “Network”) proclaim their alarm and distress; however, the Industry is muted.

Some Hospitality businesses get it, as do some Destinations.  However, many do not.  They read, they observe, they fret, titter and make noise, and then sit down.  Someone else will take the lead! We all have seen this “me” emphasis from our colleagues.  What happened to the “them”, the Visitor and the Guest, our raison d’etre. 

Chain operators may casually nod, comforted in the resources and safety net of the Corporate Offices.  Independents cover their eyes and ears, believing they have no voice or recourse.  We look at other industries to see how they have recovered, reinvented and reoriented themselves, and moved forward, profitably.  We shutter because their paths taken were fraught with peril, littered with casualties, and created intense pain.  But, the Consumer became King, again, and the Experience reigned supreme.  Even in other countries around the world, especially Europe, tourism efforts present high standards and minimal “surprises”.  In the US, “surprises” are part of the package, as are lowered expectations.  Goodness gracious, what to do?

We used to be able to blame everything on the Communists – the weather, the economy, events in general. Now,  sadly, the options are even more terrifying.  However, as Al Capp’s Pogo exclaimed, the enemy might just be us.  It is time to do business differently and regain the prominence acquiesced.  That journey is just not that difficult, but it does require an engaged realignment of product, service and resources, and most importantly, mission.  Meeting Planners and our Visitors instinctively evaluate that “balance of expectations”, and you must transcend the merely acceptable to the Remarkable.

Your paradigm shift to this Remarkable Hospitality is a readjustment to Visitor/Guest focus, where it belongs.  If you do not care, they surely will not either. As an operator or DMO, there are several Key ingredients, which drive this shift: 

  • Product/Service:  What did you present to the Guest/Visitor?  Hospitality Businesses should start out with the most fundamental building block — Quality.  Is your operation clean, safe, secure, comfortable, and in good condition?  You construct from there, establishing your distinction.  Hospitality “legos”.  As a DMO, the picture you frame must be descriptive and enticing, but also honest, emphasizing Brand Value.
  • Delivery on Customer Service:  Hire for attitude.  Everything else is trainable.
  • Technology:  Support systems allow you great efficiencies and reporting capabilities; front of the house amenities, such as WiFi, create your competitive stance in the marketplace.  For DMO’s, easy Web Site translation and navigation are the keys. 
  • Reward and Recognition:  Staff members, your messengers, who provide performance excellence, demand a suitable response from Management.   Enough with the pat on the back.
  • Communication:  Information empowers those who represent your interests.  And, it is a two way street.
  • Marketing/Promotion/Advertising:  Review your mix and the means you have selected.  Be consistent, fresh and passionate with your message.
  • Visitor/Guest Satisfaction:  If you do not know what your Visitor/Guest desires, how can you possibly exceed those needs?  How well did you then deliver?  Capturing information by comment cards or at the Visitor’s Booth is passé and irrelevant in today’s wired world.
  • Collaboration:  Unity; a forum for exchange of ideas and challenges to the status quo; understanding that the sum is more dynamic and powerful than the parts; talk, prod, question and commend – dialogue is essential for change!
To be a Hospitality player, whether it be with your own business or in your community, requires responsibility and accountability.  Your response to events and history will be either reactive or thoughtful and planned in nature.  If you wait, falsely comforted, you are already behind the “eight ball”, attempting catch-up, and that bus may have already left.  Only you can make the choices!  I would prefer to be at home, at the door with a hearty, warm welcome. Where are you? 

This article is meant to be provocative and challenging.  Let me know what you think at:

John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.
Also See: Ready for Pluckin'; Hospitality Represents that Fat Roaster, Just Sitting there, Plump and Contented / John R. Hendrie / July 2005

Literally Every Destination Marketing Organization Is Under Duress; The Challenge to CVB's / John R. Hendrie / July 2005

A Smile is Really a Simple Thing – an Expression of Welcome, No Cost Involved / John R. Hendrie / July 2005

Lead the Trend to Becoming Guest-Centric; Demonstrating Behavior Not Normally Experienced by the Guest / John R. Hendrie / June 2005

Hospitality QED, That's Latin to Me! / John Hendrie / June 2005

Unless You Operate a Business in a Very Remote Location, You Belong to the Amorphous “Brand-Scape” /  John R. Hendrie / June 2005 

Maximize the Performance of Your Greatest Asset - Your Employees / John R. Hendrie / May 2005

Preparing for the Assault by Organized Labor on Hospitality / John R. Hendrie / May 2005

Customer Service - Panacea or Placebo / John R. Hendrie / May 2005

How to Even the Playing Field, As Independents Suspiciously Eye the Chain Hotels / John R. Hendrie / April 2005

Oh, What a Web We Weave! Pitfalls with Descriptive Language / John R. Hendrie / April 2005

Woe is We! We in Hospitality Have Lost Touch and Share the Responsibility for Consumer Cynicism, Angst and Ennui / March 2005

Moving the Guest Comment Card from Paper to Paperless / John Hendrie / March 2005

Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association Launches 'Total Quality Destination' and Presents 'Gold Star of Excellence Awards' / March 2005

The Evolution of Guest Room Amenities / John Hendrie / February 2005

Advertising Integrity; Framing the Visitor's Expectation Through Print, Signage & Internet / John Hendrie / February 2005

Hospitality Trade Associations:  What Have You Done for Me Lately? / February 2005

I Would Like to See your Hospitality Standards. Where Are They? Anybody Seen Them? / John Hendrie / January 2005

Remarkable Hospitality - the Road Map to Excellence; Exceeding the Expectations of our Guests / John Hendrie / January 2005

Are Your Guests Expecting Mediocrity with Your Hospitality Services? Move Your Level of Excellence to the Remarkable / John Hendrie / December 2004

Guest Services - A Tradition Diminished / John Hendrie / December 2004

Rescue from Mediocrity; The Decline of Service Etiquette - A Sequel / John Hendrie / November 2004

Offering Crushed Pepper Before Tasting the Entrée; The Decline of Restaurant Service Etiquette / John Hendrie / October 2004

Destination Marketing – How to rebuild your Reputation and the upcoming Season after the Hurricanes / John Hendrie / September 2004

Six Factors Which Dictate Success in Performing Destination Marketing / John Hendrie / September 2004

Influencing the Consumer to Book Business through Your Commitment to Quality / Aug 2004

Major Hotel Operators Have Rediscovered Hospitality Fundamentals by Revisiting the Guest Room / John R. Hendrie / July 2004

Destination Marketing 101: Take Care of Mom / John R. Hendrie / June 2004

Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge Challenge to Hospitality Industry / John R. Hendrie / March 2004

What Value Quality? Most Hospitality Operators Use the Term “Quality” In their Advertising. What Exactly Does that Mean? / John R. Hendrie / April 2004

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