Hospitality is much more than a simple welcome or an offer of food or drink. It is a guest-centric philosophy that has been part of many religions and cultures. According to Henri Nouwen, hospitality is a move from hostility to friendship: the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guests to find their own.
The Real Hospitality
Truth is, a thing cannot be mastered if it is not understood. None can claim to be a professional of hotel management without first understanding what the business of hotels is all about. People like to go on and on about the industry aspect of it but the actual fact is: hospitality is an adjective not an industry.
Today, it is viewed as an experience that goes beyond just service to make guests feel valued, cared for, and “at home”. It encompasses a wide range of industries, including hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, and other food and beverage establishments, as well as event planning, travel, and tourism. Hospitality has evolved to be about trust, empowering staff, understanding technology’s place, building genuine relationships, and creating something greater than the sum of its parts.
The opposite of hospitality is frostiness, unfriendliness, ungraciousness, coldness, abruptness, and detachment. It really shouldn’t be about service alone. Now, while service is an important aspect of running a hotel, it is not the same as hospitality. Service refers to the technical delivery of a product, while hospitality is how that delivery makes guests feel. Service is transactional, while hospitality is genuine, and it takes both great service and great hospitality to deliver exceptional experiences. Unfortunately, the commodification of the hotel industry, driven by a price-based mentality and online comparison shopping tools can lead to guests being seen as mere currency symbols. This results in a detachment from the hospitality mindset and a failure to truly connect with guests on a human level. To avoid this, it is important for hotels to prioritise genuine hospitality (as an adjective, not an industry) and to value their guests as individuals with unique needs and experiences. Ergo, guests should be communicated with not tolerated.
Overall, hospitality is a complex and multi-faceted concept that involves creating a welcoming and enjoyable experience for guests or customers, while also meeting their needs and preferences. It requires a combination of personal qualities such as warmth, empathy, and good communication skills — as well as technical skills and knowledge of the industry. It is about touchpoints and micro-experiences that make each guest feel valued and at “home”. By prioritising genuine hospitality and valuing guests as individuals, hotels can curate exceptional experiences that will leave lasting impressions and lead to repeat business.