Homo hotelus

For hobby reading, pop economics books are a popular crutch of mine. They always have a few great observations on life, a few more interesting “Did you know?” factoids and even a couple in-your-face “Look at how stupid we are!” arguments.

One of the “pop” trends that I’ve noticed amongst these scholarly reads is the twisting of our Latin species name homo sapiens towards whatever message the writer is trying to drive home. Three prominent examples that bubble up from the memory banks are homo economicus, homo rationalis and homo politicus. (For a full list of other playful portmanteaus, check out Wikipedia.) 

All of these clever Latin manipulations are geared towards categorizing human behavior in one way or another, and often in reference to various stereotypes. Chicly labeled under the term homo hotelus, there are a few overarching traits shared by all of us passionately working in the hospitality industry. With this as a pretense, how would you define the typical hotelier?

Many of these characteristics I’ve elucidated through a multitude of interviews conducted with senior managers and GMs across the globe. Really, when we talk about a person who is passionate about hospitality — someone with the homo hotelus gene, if you will — we are describing an individual possessing fervor for helping others, an inquisitive nature about people and operations and a duty to serve. I believe the true difference comes from motivation. Is a hotelier motivated by a need to do what’s best, or the comfort of following the rules and only doing as instructed?

Read over your property’s or your brand’s mission statement and see whether there is a place for this passion to fit in. If not, then inquire about a revision or adopt your own mantra. In my mind, if you start with the passion, then you can teach everything else. But the “yearn to learn” has to be intrinsic to the person for this to happen, whether such an individual is a departmental director or a member of the line staff.

Now that you know the necessary traits, how does one go about finding the homo hotelus sorts and getting the right team together to produce the right results? That is something that begins with the interview process — ensuring your candidates want to work for your organization as a career choice and not just a job — and extends all the way up to the top echelon of management. The owners, the GMs and the senior managers all have to lead and inspire all those around them to perform as best they can and to continuously learn how to do better on their own.

We are in the people business, after all. I stress it over and over again: you can use whatever marketing tactics or incorporate whatever new technology you so desire, but if your staff isn’t doing its best to satisfy guests when they are on property, then all is for nothing.

As always, I leave it open to you to chime in with your own words of wisdom in the comments section about what makes for a good homo hotelus.