By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (

Call me old-fashioned. To me, a hotel’s guest list is completely confidential, released only on a need-to-know basis. This protects not only the guest’s privacy but also the hotel from the likes of paparazzi, over-zealous bill collectors and jealous spouses. And as it concerns high status guests, privacy is tantamount to loyalty.

In all of the hotels that I’ve worked with, mentioning anyone on the guest list in a public space where other non-staffers were in earshot was strictly verboten. To do so was grounds for dismissal. There were absolutely no exceptions. Sure, after the guest had passed away, then maybe you can regale a tale or two.

Hence, I was surprised when I read a LinkedIn posting by a GM (name withheld out of respect) that extolled a recent visit by a member of Hollywood’s acting elite via a professional photo of the two together in spiffy suits. I couldn’t help but wonder if the rationale was vanity-driven versus a business opportunity or simply a personalized thank you as the GM’s caption indicated.

Most interesting was that subsequent to my comment on the post inquiring about guest privacy, many LinkedIn users responded with a near-equal mix of yea and nay. Given that this is hardly an isolated incident – with numerous celebrity cameo posts shared by all ranks and seniorities – it would seem as though the cultural paradigm has shifted away from respecting one’s privacy as a duty of care.

In our current world where millennials control the zeitgeist and our lives are measured in terms of Instagrammable moments, I fully understand the temptation to get on the social media bandwagon. But in capitulating, we are destroying yet another core tenet of hospitality.

If you can recall, I liken this to the famous Carnegie Deli in New York where black-and-white photos of every character who graced its tables adorned the walls from chair rail to ceiling. While that approach might work for a somewhat kitschy diner on steroids, hotels are not a lunch counter.

Our properties have the specific purpose of being places where guests trust us to give them safety and security while they rest their heads. Without this trust, we are nothing.

If you can also recall, a landmark case for this was the Erin Andrews peephole incident in 2008. Besides the multi-million-dollar settlement awarded to the plaintiff, this event not only eroded guest trust in the Nashville Marriott but also the entire brand and, to a lesser extent, all hotels, particularly because it was found that an employee had aided the stalker.

It’s now been over a decade since this incident, which is a lifetime for younger hoteliers who were likely just starting their careers around that time. As a hypothetical scenario, would you allow one of your team members to post a picture taken with a celebrity even after said famous person gives them express permission to do so? Even though this is a seemingly innocuous breach of privacy policy, it sets a precedent for future negligence. Now more than ever you must reinforce absolute self-restraint and guest anonymity.

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