By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (

Too often when we refer to the concept of a ‘sense of place’, our thoughts tend to drift towards the physicality of a hotel – mainly its exterior and interior design elements. Yes, these are both insurmountably important towards creating a unique impression on guests and bringing them into your property’s exceptional experience, but they are hardly everything.

While next down the list would be guestroom design, staff uniforms, authentically local additions to F&B, lobby or spa treatments and perhaps the keepsakes you give guests at checkout, one area that you cannot overlook here is in how your staff interact with visitors.

This obviously touches upon a far larger topic pertaining to training, but it is nonetheless vital to bring the gap between guest service and sense of place by addressing the impact that a few words and a simple gesture can make.

Three recent trips convinced me of how powerful your staff’s greeting can be towards setting the pace for an exceptional and locally authentic guest experience. First was my sojourn to Japan where every desk clerk at every hotel welcomed me with a deep, ceremonious bow. Next was on the way back when I stopped over in Hawaii where “Aloha!” was the norm, said with a gracious, wide smile and sometimes even accompanied by an effusive hug. And third was another quick jaunt down to Austin, Texas where the jovial and spirited “Howdy!” reigns supreme.

Such seemingly insignificant acts are all part of the bigger picture. Aloha is unique to Hawaii as is the exemplary flexion of the trunk that they only do in the Far East. So what’s exceptional about how you greet people in your region? What you can say to your arriving guests to invite into your area’s story and make them feel as though they are experiencing something unlike anywhere else in the world?

I bring this up because most other factors that can influence sense of place are quite expensive. Renovating your lobby or guestrooms isn’t something you can do the fly. Uniforms and hotel artwork can’t be purchased without due process. But training is an ongoing part of every hotel, and it is indeed instilling a better sense of place in how your staff address guests is an initiative you can start tomorrow.

While I’m not implying that you go to extremes like retraining your team to speak in a regional accent, using a bit of the local colloquialisms can definitely go a long way. Think of it as the ‘spice’ to the main course of being an overtly positive and attentive staff member. As with most aspects of the guest experience, it’s the little things like the way your staff greet visitors that make all the difference.

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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry directly.