Don't Worry, Be happy.
John R. Hendrie, Hospitality Performance
Monday, 3rd April 2006
This Anthem for the Nineties seems flat for this decade but we hear Hospitality folks humming the tune, a little like Nero fiddling, while Rome burns. 

The elephant is in the room, but we tend to avoid any acknowledgement that events and issues, many in our control, are swirling about which will affect our trade and livelihood.  Easier to echo Annie with "Tomorrow, tomorrow…" rather than pay the piper today. Manana is bueno! We should be rocking with Jim Morrison of the Doors, but no one can "light our fire", so we end up looking like the "Emperor's New Clothes", resplendently naked in our benign complacency.

The Consumer will ultimately force us to change the way we operate.  It may be at the hands of Convention and Meeting Planners, who hold huge sway over visits to our properties and Destinations.  They are becoming increasingly a force to reckon, tasking us to have Emergency Preparedness Plans in place, a clear record of successful gatherings, community businesses which benefit the Visitor experience, and lodging product, service and delivery which meet reasonable expectations.

Or there might be outside determinants at work, which through pressure or even legislation, require us to modify our performance.  Three examples on the world stage come to mind.  ISO (International Organization for Standardization), just a week ago at a meeting in Tunis, gathered, some would say conspired, to bring some standards to the Hospitality Industry, globally. 

The United Nations WTO (World Tourism Organization) has similar goals.  For 2006, the British Travel Industry has established Ratings for Accommodations, a scheme to clarify product standards, which mean the same thing to everyone – the provider, the Visitor and Guest, and the DMO (Destination Marketing Organization).   Thailand, through its Hotel Association, Travel Agents and Tourism Authority, on the other hand, is trying the voluntary approach to define and elevate the Hospitality Experience.  Do you feel the walls closing in on you?  Interestingly, you would expect "clean" to have universal definition and application!

Build it, and they will come.  This almost sounds like scripture, but we are in that boom – construction, renovation, and conversion.  But, can we staff this growth, much less the Hospitality businesses already in place?  Southern Florida is concerned as are resorts in Colorado.  This lament is closely intertwined with a bigger global issue – Immigration.  People transition to other countries to pursue their dreams, their freedoms and economic opportunity, often willing to perform work which Nationals dismiss.  Bringing a wonderful rainbow of cultures, religions and languages to the new workplace, immigrants perform entry level, subsistence wage jobs, and the Hospitality/Retail Industry is the beneficiary.  They clean our rooms, work our kitchens, stock our shelves, and maintain our public spaces.  They, in many cases,  are the very face of Hospitality, our Service Personnel, and, often our Ambassadors. 

We depend upon them, but our level of respect and understanding is reflected in an over 50% turnover rate, primarily at the entry level.  Huge disconnect, where slogans such as "We've got the Spirit" (Guest Service Awareness) ring hollow.  And, just think what would happen to some businesses if existing Immigration Law language were enforced and sanctions meted out?  Chaos!    

Who wants to represent these folks, the disenfranchised in many communities?  Naturally, Organized Labor!  Their message resonates.  Unions, such as UNITE HERE in the United States, effectively speak to wages, benefits, working conditions, and respect.  The current climate becomes a very attractive medium for the message.

Folks, as renowned Professor and Magician, Harold Hill, opined, "We got Trouble in River City".  It is time to take inventory, plan strategy and execute, and clearly there are actions which can be taken.  The above issues will not go away.  Your daily travails, dealing with energy costs, marketing, the "numbers", the Health Inspector, variable weather – the gamut of Monday through Sunday trials - simply pale in comparison.

On the property level, your audit starts with personnel.  Do your people know the job to be performed, have you created fair and consistent policies and practices, have you hired for talent and attitude and listened to your people.  Just as we solicit response from our Guests/Customers about their experience (still quite rudimentary), a similar exercise from your staff will give you the "pulse" of the business.  It goes without saying that your people want to be recognized, respected, and developed.

On the Standards front, it comes down to what we have framed for our Visitors and Guests and what we delivered.  This starts out with how you have marketed yourself and presented your business.  And, we know the web based travel forums are less than accurate, so the Consumer has become even more clever and determined to make a solid Hospitality decision.  As mentioned earlier, "clean" should be just that anywhere, whether you are a world class hotel or a rustic country inn.  Reasonable service is another precept and expectation.  You and other like minded business owners can establish this credo, either collectively or through your business, marketing and trade organizations, which rather than "chasing dues" should be placing a higher emphasis on membership accountabilities and "raising the bar".

Immigration issues have become a highly flammable social, economic and cultural divide.  In the United States it is reaching a crescendo, while in other nations, such as France, it is "cloaked" in recently enacted legislation.  This situation arises elsewhere in other than the large, industrialized, sophisticated nations:  "Tensions Rise in Costa Rica with the Influx of Nicaraguans" (Boston Globe, 4/2/06).  

Sadly, these issues are in the hands of politicians who will soothe, perhaps outrage, but always mollify their constituents, seeking some means of compromise without losing their power or position.  We all vote and our organizations mentioned above will represent our interests, but Immigration will continue to roil the very fabric of our communities.  And, Organized Labor is there to enjoy and enlist the "fallout".  But, as always, if we have our "house in order", the repercussions are minimized.

You are welcome to hum that catchy tune, "Don't Worry, be Happy" only if you are on top of your game.  I would submit, you should be whistling "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work We Go". O, It's Off to Work We.

The Author believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the Portal to a memorable Visitor Experience.  Consider their Resources on:  www.hospitalityperformance.com 
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