Nourish your culture

Call me a hotel romanticizer and a sucker for tradition. But as I consider what will make me comfortable checking into a hotel during the COVID era, I look mostly for reassurances of honest care.

Promises about exemplary hygiene practices are nice, but the cynic in me and many first movers returning to travel will not automatically trust those who boast about cleanliness standards that can be onerous to execute on a consistent basis. Instead, we’ll take matters into our own hands and remain more personally vigilant to stay virus free.

I’ll have more faith in hoteliers who focus on service excellence as the best way forward, which is why a just-drafted piece from Kolkata, India-based ITC Ltd. Executive Director Nakul Anand struck a chord with me and is worth sharing.

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Getty Images

Anand, who has been in various leadership roles at ITC for some four decades and was our Corporate Hotelier of the World honoree in 2019, began his “Ode to Service” by quoting Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is lose yourself in the service of others.” This is an ethos that will speak to experienced travelers and your next set of guests much more focused on conscienceness, Gen Z.

Yes, Anand’s renewed definition of service excellence talks about contact-light approaches, but also how it need not limit warmth. This is hard to teach, so when re-hiring it is the trait I would prioritize.

Anand wrote:

“Seldom heard; seldom seen

Never touched; yet always felt

With heart felt compassion and empathy”

It is a reference to namaste, a contactless gesture which he calls “silent yet powerful, distant yet connected… Service can and must always touch the heart.”

This feels right to me at this pivotal moment in history that one can only hope leads to change for the better. It also reminds me of a recent, thoughtful dialogue I had with Jannes Soerensen, GM of London’s luxury Beaumont hotel. He told me, “Travelers are starting to connect more often to what feels right, and how a hotel feels and thrives through its culture needs nourishing.”

By all means institute your new operational protocols. But please spend as much time trying to teach and reinforce the need for greater compassion and empathy. Your guests will notice that more and it is more likely to win you some loyalty.