Hospitality: Present, Past, Future
Things are about to look very different
In my native Venezuela, our culture takes pride in its showing of hospitality. When you enter a Venezuelan home or hotel as a guest, you are immediately made to feel welcome. Every host feels an obligation to cater to the needs and wishes of their guest(s). As a visitor to Venezuela, you can expect the “royal treatment” — whether it is several dishes of our fine local cuisine, live music for entertainment, or the Venezuelan custom of offering every guest coffee (a national symbol of hospitality) during his or her visit.
If you look at history, all cultures have developed customs to demonstrate good will toward strangers. In ancient Greece, the Greeks exhibited xenia (which the classicist and translator Emily Wilson has defined as “guest friendship”) to create bonds between people from different lands. Xenia enabled travelers to rely on the hospitality of foreign hosts to find food, wine, housing and needed support when they ventured far from home. Indeed, one of the titles given to the Greek god Zeus was Xenios, the god of strangers.
But we need not travel back to ancient Greece to understand the importance of hospitality today. During the past year, when we were forced to cancel flights, reservations, and vacations, the hospitality industry was among the most severely impacted. In 2020, occupancy rates and annual revenues for hotels and airlines plummeted, and furloughs and unemployment rose significantly.
Fortunately, as vaccine distribution increases, better days lay ahead. Most market analysts project a gradual increase in airline and hotel bookings by the end of this year, with a fuller recovery expected in 2022. Any return to pre-pandemic levels of business, however, may take years.
In the interim, those in hospitality should recognize that guest expectations likely have changed. For the foreseeable future, guests will demand more contactless methods for securing services from arrival through departure. Think not only keyless entry to hotel rooms but also ways of ordering room service or booking spa treatments that do not require picking up a hotel room telephone or speaking face-to-face with a concierge or receptionist.
Likewise, most hotel gyms and recreational spaces will need an overhaul and technology will have to improve across-the-board. With many having worked at home full-time, guests have grown accustomed to high-speed online connections and will expect the same speeds when they travel.
But challenges also present opportunities. The new “digital guest journey” will open up new positions for those who are both customer-friendly and tech-savvy in the hospitality industry. From marketing to monitoring and ensuring client satisfaction, those employed to provide hospitality to guests will need to create a new “technology stack” (i.e., cloud applications, mobile assistants, streaming media, 6G WiFi) to engage customers and retain loyalty. And for those of us eagerly supporting and helping to train the next generation of service providers, the future of the hospitality industry holds tremendous promise.
So, as the plague lifts and we venture forth into foreign lands (regardless of one’s personal beliefs), may Zeus continue to bless and protect us — the weary traveler and the gracious host.
Danilo Diazgranados is an investor, collector, and lover of fine wines and a member of the prestigious Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a fraternity of Burgundy wine enthusiasts.