Of hotels and hospitality

Of hotels and hospitality

What do we take with us when we check in to a hotel?

I don’t mean your luggage, which is probably far too extensive to enumerate, even in cyberprint.

I mean your baggage, the internal accumulation of experience and expectation of the existential sort, not the physical underpinnings you have chosen to accompany you on your foray into the unknown future.

Thing is, when we check in, we have checked out of our own space, no longer the king or queen of our realm. We submit ourselves to the transformations about to occur on an unfamiliar stage, no longer director, actor and audience to our own monologue, but auditioning actor in a role that is not known, with lines not memorized, or even not written.

Those of us in supporting roles, the hospitality professionals, may have tired of the dramas relived each night and may not see the universe in the diurnal cycle unfolding within each set of four walls. And our guests, too, may not sense the possibilities of the unknown, perhaps too ensconced in a possibly futile attempt to set the challenging bedside alarm needed to prompt them to appear on time for that early morning interview.

But checking in is a physical manifestation of a re-enacted return to our childhood home, where we are no longer masters of our own destiny, but subject to the rules and rituals of a larger entity beyond our control, where we must establish an identity and write a role for ourselves.

At the reception, are we sweet and appreciative, or petulant and demanding? To tip, or not to tip… the bellman, the porter, the concierge, the maid… how much per day, per bag, per favor…? How will they feel about us, and how will we feel about ourselves.

Though Freud, or Jung, or Camille Paglia may expound on our nightly expedition into the unknown, and perhaps unknowable, the supporting cast may measure the journey in pounds of laundry.

So how do we preserve the fragile psychological construct of the guest experience? How do we nurture it, for the technologically unsophisticated elderly couple buffeted by unpredictable responses from a multiplicity of remote controls, for the hardened business exec with blinders on and operating by rote and by the clock, and for the romantic pair in need of continuous perfect moments? How do we perform the ordinary in a way that it is perceived as both ordinary and extraordinary?

And what shall our guest take with her or him when they check out? How shall they have changed, and how shall they be (thankfully) unchanged, thanks to a supportive experience? What shall we check, to see if each unknown drama, played out differently in each and every of hundreds of similar rooms on each and every night, has had a successful denouement.

In the columns of the future, I will check out aspects of hotels and hospitality, that is, check into their underlying meaning and the mundane manifestations that preserve and enhance that meaning, and try to stitch a quilt of future experience between the two.