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Create a Spiritual Concept of Guest Hospitality and They Will Come
The current concept that hotels focus on is out of date and a woefully pale reflection of what human beings are capable of. Whether you call it "lifestyle" or "boutique", and however you dress it up, the current, pervasive concept of hospitality is still the same old, worn-out, obsolete concept of SOP-Customer Satisfaction that refuses to go away. Most hotels seem to accept this concept as how hospitality should be, and so they copy it.
Now that the playing field amongst the brands has been leveled out by the economic slump, you have to differentiate yourself. Persisting with SOP-Customer Satisfaction is business insanity.
I have found at least 18 ways so far to create these higher levels that represent the future of hospitality, and there are surely many more. Once everyone starts to explore Spiritual Hospitality, hotels will discover many more ways and create levels of guest experience not considered possible. They are like layers that you place over the basic SOP-Customer Satisfaction experience to transform it.
The reality is that because hotels have been copying each other for so long, the concept of hospitality, the spirit, and the way the service is provided by the staff is so dreadfully similar everywhere - strong in SOPs, corporately squeaky clean, but generally lacking in the spiritual values and human spirit that guests want. Because there is so little difference between the brands in the essential areas of hospitality, customers may as well choose the hotel with the best prices and freebies.
Start off the process of change by asking yourselves, "What is missing from the guest experience and our concept of hospitality? Which core values are missing?" A look at the mission/vision statements of hotels and hotel groups makes it as plain as day what is going wrong. Usually you see Integrity, Care, Teamwork, Profit-Oriented, Quality Service, High Standards, Respect, Safety, and suchlike words. To find out what is missing, just greet your grandmother and other loved ones in the spirit of your mission/vision statement and ask them.
Look at your mission/vision. Where is, "Love for every human being that crosses your path"? Why have you left it out? We all need love like flowers need the rain. What is it that people want most? What is it that you silently crave for most? ... Yes, Love! Without it we all wilt and die inside. What would your life be like without love? ... Yes, empty! So why do you create a hotel or hotel group that does not focus on Love? Corporate Care and Love are worlds apart, like "dry" and "wet". Your hotel(s) should be dripping with the spirit of Love, like a cloth that is pulled out of a bucket of water. Creating this intensity is so easy! You just have to do things differently. That's all.
Where is, "Compassion" in your mission/vision statement? Hiding shyly behind politically correct words, perhaps? Most people nowadays are ‘walking wounded' - wounded in their heart by the worries and problems that they face every day, the same ones that weigh you down. Perhaps, "Will I have a job next month?" and "How will I be able to look after my family, if I lose my job?" Then there are the marriage problems, the family and health worries and concerns, money worries, feelings of inadequacy, fears, etc. People need compassion, and oodles of it! I'm sure you do too.
Where is, "Showing Empathy"? We all need others to show empathy towards us because in spite of the many masks we wear each day to cover up our weaknesses and fears, and to make us look happy and secure, we are not that strong. We need others to let us know that they understand what we are going through. Ladies, you will understand this for sure. When people show empathy, it has the healing effect of opening the tap of our emotions, and is one of those experiences that make life so much fun.
The stark contrast between the concept of hospitality that I am referring to and what is currently pervasive in the hotel industry is clear in the following quotation:
"Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone. Let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path." (Abdu'l-Baha)
This quotation should be the minimum level of your hotel's or hotel group's concept of hospitality, and not the squeaky clean version. The experience should be so strong in spiritual energy that the guests do not want to leave, and it is really not hard to create it. Think Energy and Vibrations! That's the key to creating it.
This brings me to "Warmth". By this I mean that the spiritual warmth of every member of staff should be so intense that the guests, "... can breathe in the sweet scents of loving kindness from the garden of (their) heart". It's not impossible at all to develop this intensity of spiritual energy. Indeed, we are wired to do this. It is an essential part of being human, but in the hotel industry corporate-ness stifles this innate quality of human nature.
Hospitality shouldn't be about respectability and correctness. It should be about love, compassion, empathy, and intense spiritual warmth so that "... as from a bed of flowers ... sweet scents be shed." The smile will then bring fragrance to the soul, and not be forced. Where is there a hotel group that has this as its corporate-driven goal? ... Sadly, there isn't one. Why not?
In the future, Spiritual Hospitality will be the norm, and that future is not that far away because people reading this article will start to create it while the conservative hotel chains will no doubt ignore the winds of change. Soon their shareholders will drift off to where the flowers smell more sweetly. Why do hotel groups resist change?
The guest experience should be based on a concept of hospitality that is spiritual in nature, such as in the following quotation, and then infused in practical ways into every SOP.
"Be kind to all peoples; care for every person; do all ye can to purify the hearts and minds of men; strive ye to gladden every soul. To every meadow be a shower of grace, to every tree the water of life; be as sweet musk to the sense of humankind, and to the ailing be a fresh, restoring breeze. Be pleasing waters to all those who thirst, a careful guide to all who have lost their way; be father and mother to the orphan, be loving sons and daughters to the old, be an abundant treasure to the poor." (Baha'i Writings)
The spirit of hospitality should be like smelling the most beautiful perfume in the world. It should create the feelings that an orphan experiences when s/he gets loving parents for the first time. It should be like a refreshing, cool breeze on a hot day. It should leave its footprints in the heart of every guest.
Of course, SOPs are important, but they should not be the focus. Staying in a hotel should be a spiritual and heartwarming experience. This is the pitiful minimum standard. We are spiritual beings, not corporate beings. When the economy recovers, the hotel groups that stick stubbornly to the SOP-Customer Satisfaction concept of hospitality will surely be overtaken by small, daring hotel groups. The same goes for individual hotels as they will become the backwater to hotels that take the spiritual path. I love the icy reply I received from a corporate development lady at a European hotel group, "We have our SOP's in place and are currently not looking at changing them." Please remind me. Didn't something happen to General Motors, Chrysler, Lehman Brothers, Firestone, Texaco, Delta, Pan Am, Worldcom, and Enron?
In short, Spiritual Hospitality is about creating a hotel that is an oasis of love, harmony, and tranquillity; a place where guests say, "I've never experienced such heart-warming care and compassion."; and which fulfills the dreams of all the guests." Why on earth do hotels have a section called the Spa? In Spiritual Hospitality the whole hotel is a spa experience.
Believe me when I say that it is so easy to create this. A medium-sized hotel group could create it in one year, which means that in one year, your hotel group or hotel could become backwater in the hotel industry.
The concept of hospitality of the very near future will be spiritual in nature - Spiritual Hospitality. There is no other direction to go in, but you are free to continue to follow the well-trodden SOP-Customer Satisfaction path, if you wish. For sure, many will deny that they need to change, and soon they will find themselves the object of conversation about former hotels and hotel groups. Going down the spiritual path will be very good for business because people are silently crying out for an experience that is strong in Love, Compassion, Empathy, and Intense Spiritual Warmth. Why not give it a try?
If you build it, they will come.
About the Author
Renaissance Consulting Ltd.,
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