The hospitality industry has lost its way and nobody dares to point this out in articles or at hotel conferences. Hospitality is about unconditional love and the hospitality experience should radiate the energy and spirit of unconditional love, but hotel group Executive Boards continue to be blind to this. This article serves to cast light into the darkness.
The essence of hospitality is unconditional love, metta loving-kindness, compassion, and heart-warming care. The hospitality experience should radiate this essence!
This statement shakes the foundation of the hospitality industry because the industry has strayed far from the essence of hospitality for a long time now, and I believe that hotel group Executive Boards generally are oblivious to this. Now, contactless service is worsening the situation.
The world’s largest hotel chains are looked up to as being the leaders of the hospitality industry, and hotel conference participants listen eagerly to the CEOs. But I think it is doubtful that the CEOs and their Executive Boards know that hospitality has a spiritual essence in unconditional love, metta loving-kindness, compassion, and heart-warming care. Why do I say this? Because there isn’t a single hotel group that includes this essence in their Mission and Vision Statements or core values.
The hospitality experience should exude unconditional love, not sterile, operational manual perfection, but the blind cannot see it. Helen Keller who was blind said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” And herein lies the problem with the Executive Boards.
Why is unconditional love a persona non grata? It features in the teachings of many religions as being a fundamental need of human beings, yet Executive Boards ignore it in favour of efficiency and quality. Is it because it’s not respectable enough, not corporate enough? I wonder what Basil Fawlty would whisper to his wife as they visit a “leading hotel group” corporate office. Perhaps: “Don’t mention unconditional love. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it all right.”
I believe that Executive Boards don’t know what a hospitality experience that radiates unconditional love, metta loving-kindness, compassion, and heart-warming care feels like or even could possibly feel like. I also doubt that they know how to develop these essential core values of hospitality in their employees because their world is about SOP efficiency and SOP quality service and SOP perfection.
In this article, I’d like to help Executive Boards understand what the hospitality experience throughout the hotel industry could become if they would climb out of the deep, dark, and comfortable Rut of Tradition and enter the light. If they discovered the essence and knew how to apply it, they could revolutionise the hospitality experience in months and leave an unimaginably beautiful and long-lasting legacy for mankind.
Let’s start off with unconditional love. What is it? It’s affection without any limitations, it’s love without conditions and true altruism. It has no bounds. Unconditional love refers to a state of mind in which one has the goal of increasing the welfare of another without any wish for personal benefit. Unconditional love can fill us up, make us whole, and give us the happiness we all want. In it, you care about the happiness of others unconditionally. It has the power to heal all wounds, to bind people together, and create relationships beyond what we can imagine. Hotels could develop unconditional love in their employees if they departed from traditional training methods.
Unconditional love isn’t the same as romantic love. Indeed, neurologically, the feeling of love for someone without the need of being rewarded is different from the feeling of romantic love.
Just imagine what the hospitality experience would be like if it was vibrant with unconditional love! Imagine it now. What would you see happening? What would the employees be like? What would you see the employees doing and saying? How would the guests feel? How would the employees feel? How would this affect the occupancy and revenue? I challenge Executive Boards to visualise the above in their next meeting.
Compare this to the pervasive, emotionless norm of SOP-Customer Satisfaction, which Executive Boards proclaim as the best concept possible. Perhaps the thought of returning hospitality to its essence scares the Executive Boards because once you let unconditional love flow like an ever-quickening torrent the hospitality experience is no longer controllable or containable in the sacred SOP manuals.
What is loving-kindness (also called metta loving-kindness)? It’s unconditional love, kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, and concord altogether. It’s an altruistic attitude of love and friendliness. You exhibit friendliness, accommodativeness, and benevolence that seeks the well-being and happiness of others.
Metta makes you a pure font of well-being for others. Metta only gives and never wants anything in return. It evokes a warm-hearted feeling of fellowship and love, which grows boundless with practice and overcomes all social, religious, racial, political, and economic barriers. Metta is universal, unselfish, and all-embracing love. Can you develop it in hotel employees? Absolutely!
Again, imagine what the hospitality experience would be like if all of the employees radiated an ever-increasing level of metta in the hospitality experience. Like unconditional love metta has no ceiling, no limit. Imagine the publicity a hotel chain or hotel would receive if their hospitality experience exuded unconditional love and metta. The rooms would wear out because the hotels would always be fully booked. This actually happened in a large, new, 5-Star resort once. Why? Because human beings need the emotional, energetic, and spiritual healing that such a hospitality experience can provide. In contrast, corporate-style SOP-Customer Satisfaction hotels are ten a penny and the human experience they provide is pretty well the same everywhere; hence the need to attract guests with price cuts and loyalty schemes.
Now let’s add compassion to the mix! Compassion is a deep awareness of and heartfelt sympathy for another’s suffering along with the desire to alleviate it. In addition, you take action to alleviate the person’s suffering. Compassion embodies a tangible expression of love for those who are suffering. Author Fredrick Buechner describes what it means to have compassion in this way:
“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
Like unconditional love and metta, compassion is a long way from appearing on the radar of Executive Boards generally, though in the last year, two or three hotel groups have stumbled across it while a handful has discovered compassion’s distant cousin, empathy. But unless the organizational structure of the group’s hotels is changed to embrace compassion, it will not take root and it simply be another empty word on a corporate mission & vision statement.
Just imagine what the hospitality experience would be like if hotel employees showed compassion to each other and to their guests. When hotel employees look at everyone as being “walking wounded”, wounded in the heart by the problems, worries, tragedies, and sadness that occur often, and show compassion actively in order to alleviate the pain, the hospitality experience will be transformed, indeed revolutionised! Corporate-style SOP-Customer Satisfaction hotels would go out of favour as quickly as meat does when someone becomes a vegan.
Let’s add one last element, namely heart-warming care to the hospitality experience. Heart-warming care involves showing unconditional love towards guests (and colleagues), showing that you really want to make them happy, being kind towards everyone, thinking about what a guest likes and needs, and offering or providing it before the guest asks in order to make the person happy. It involves providing service and hospitality from the heart and with unconditional love. It comes from understanding how people feel, and from wanting to make them happy. It is fueled by unconditional love, metta, and compassion.
Just imagine if the hospitality experience provided by every hotel in your group radiated unconditional love, metta loving-kindness, compassion, and heart-warming care. Some corporate folks have told me that their group’s hotels already do, but this shows that they don’t understand the spiritual essence of hospitality. SOP manual care is a world apart. In any case, the spiritual essence of hospitality isn’t the goal of Executive Boards as hotel group mission and vision statements indicate very clearly.
What Does Heart-Based Hospitality Feel Like?
If you meditate on the following quotation, you may begin to get a faint glimpse of what essential hospitality feels like. The more you meditate on the meaning of each word and phrase and visualize it and the spirit, the more you’ll discover about what hospitality could and should be like.
Close your eyes and imagine that you are smelling the most beautiful perfume known to mankind. How do you feel? How does the guest feel when you create this feeling in the hospitality experience? I ask because every guest interaction should create these feelings … and it can if you develop the spiritual capacity of the employees! That’s the key to creating Heart-Based Hospitality!
Imagine that you are in a desert at midday and feeling thirsty. How do you feel? Now imagine how you feel when you receive some cool water. How do you feel? I ask because every guest needs this experience again and again and much more than perfect SOP manual efficiency.
Imagine that you feel hot and tired and then you feel a restoring cool breeze. How do you feel? Imagine that you are a lonely orphan who experiences love for the first time. How do you feel? My wife, who is an orphan, said she felt so full that she didn’t need to eat for two days. Your hospitality experience could create similar feelings, but it can’t if you continue with current methods.
Imagine that you are experiencing hospitality that includes all of the elements of the quotation. This is what the essence of hospitality feels like. Is it impossible to create these feelings? No. Hotels just have to change to developing spiritual capacity as opposed to teaching how to practise robotic SOP-Customer Satisfaction. They also have to change their organizational systems to support the new hospitality experience, but that’s another matter.
Let’s take the hospitality experience further. Every one of these core values has no ceiling to it. As you develop the capacity of the employees to exude compassion, for example, to begin with, they may show it at the level of about 50 degrees Celsius. But then it can be increased to the comparative levels of 100 degrees, 500 degrees, 1,000 degrees, 5,000 degrees Celsius, and so on. Compare this to the mechanical and emotionless, corporate SOP-Customer Satisfaction experience, which is stuck permanently at probably 25 degrees Celsius. Yet Executive Boards prefer the mediocrity of tradition to what is possible. Why do they prefer mediocrity?
It’s such a shame that Executive Boards won’t dare to venture beyond the status quo. The typical corporate-led guest experience is static and reaches its ceiling as soon as the SOPs have been trained. In contrast, the essence of hospitality has no ceiling. It is limited only by the capacity of the employees, and this capacity can be increased continuously if you change the way you carry out training and development. Executive Board members must get out of their traditional SOP-Customer Satisfaction comfort zone and explore the untrodden paths. It isn’t as frightening as it may seem.
What Will You See?
As you develop the spiritual capacity of the employees, unconditional love, metta loving-kindness, compassion, and heart-warming care will radiate throughout the hospitality experience at ever-increasing levels and the hospitality experience will be transformed into an almost magical experience of energetic softness and beauty.
The spirit of the hotel will be transformed. The employees will soften. Their body language will slow down and become graceful and gracious. The eyes of the employees will reflect the beautiful change that their hearts are undergoing. The employees will discover that they find it much easier to smile from the heart. Their guiding thought will become, “How can I make this person feel happier?” I’ve been telling Executive Boards this for 16 years, but they all seem to prefer the mechanical, emotionless, soulless, and robotic SOP-Customer Satisfaction experience instead.
Why can’t the members of Executive Boards understand that guests want to feel unconditional love? People need it because life is becoming so stressful and worrisome. They need compassion because they are hurting inside. They need the care of a metta-filled, loving, and compassionate heart, but the so-called leaders of the hospitality industry continue to serve up the obsolete operational manuals-oriented concept of SOP-Customer Satisfaction. Can’t they see the mismatch? Or are they so far down in the bottomless Rut of Tradition that they can’t see the light?
I think that Executive Boards create more and more new brands because they know that the emotionless, cookie-cutter, corporate-led guest experience doesn’t meet people’s (emotional, spiritual, energetic, and healing) needs. But changing layouts, colours, and furniture will not solve the problem. Surely the light has gone on in the Board Rooms that this brand stuff isn’t changing the nature of the hospitality experience.
I think that many Executive Board members around the world’s hotel groups know that something is wrong. Perhaps they are afraid to speak up. Perhaps they simply don’t know how to solve the problem. But as long as they are thinking at the level of SOP-Customer Satisfaction they will not be able to solve it. As Albert Einstein said:
The irony is that the solution is closer to the Executive Board members than they realise. It lies in the centre of their chest. That’s why I call the future of hospitality Heart-Based Hospitality. But it will probably take another generation or more before Heart-Based Hospitality will be investigated by Executive Boards. In the meantime, I expect that they will carry on creating more and more brands as they desperately look for a solution to the problem.
“We’ll change the colours, the furniture, the uniforms, and the layout again. We’ll change the company motto to “Hospitality with Heart’. People will love to see the word ‘heart’. We’ll add ‘Spirit of Conquest’ to our core values. We’ll call the brand ‘From the Heart”, and we’ll call our employees ‘Heart People’! Yes, this new brand will solve the problem!” (Accor calls them Heartists.) … I despair! The hospitality industry is being led by the blind.
Hopefully, in the next 25 years we will start to see Executive Boards realize that they have come to a dead-end with SOP-Customer Satisfaction and that whatever they do in the material realm with technology and other physical things, it won’t change the nature of the hospitality experience. Only embracing its essence and creating the hospitality experience around it can do that.
Why can’t the Executive Boards see that the essence of hospitality is unconditional love? No religion or culture says that the path to happiness is found in emotionless, efficiency-oriented SOP manuals, but the hospitality industry leaders have decided that hospitality should be determined by them and every hotel group, it seems, is copying them.
Just think of the limitless, financial benefits of creating a hotel group whose hospitality experience is based in unconditional love! Do you not dream about leaving an incomparable legacy to mankind? Or has that part of you died? You would be providing hospitality that touches people’s hearts to the core. The whole hotel industry would follow suit in order not to be left behind, except the “Don’t you know who we are?” Executive Boards, of course, but their hotel groups won’t last long after the process of change has started.
The hotel industry needs an infusion of rebels, dissenters, and “cracked ones” because they let in the light; or else the situation won’t change and the speakers in the corridors of power will continue to sound forth, “SOP-Customer Satisfaction Rules! OK!”, and international hotel conferences will continue to provide the “wisdom” of the Executive Boards of the biggest hotel groups.
The hospitality experience needs to be reimagined and returned to its essence in unconditional love, metta loving-kindness, compassion, and heart-warming care. This should be the theme of every hotel industry conference until it happens so that the hospitality industry can serve the essential needs of mankind.
Peter McAlpine has 33 years of experience in the hospitality industry in 14 countries, opening many luxury properties and transforming the hospitality experience. He creates a unique Heart-Based Hospitality experience, which is very different to the unemotional and mechanical norm of SOP-Customer Satisfaction. Owing to Covid-19 he now provides his expertise in creating Heart-Based Hospitality through online courses. His goal is to shift the consciousness of the hotel industry over the next 25 years so that it abandons corporate-style SOP-Customer Satisfaction and embraces the spiritual essence and energetic nature of hospitality. He refers to himself as being one of the rebels and “cracked ones” mentioned in the article.