Let’s Keep The Humanity In Hospitality

Hospitality-Noun:

The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

In the days of old, hospitality was described as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity. Perhaps this is why I have such an affinity for the industry and a vested interest to keep the humanity in the hospitality business intact. When I was 10 years old I fell in love with travel and everything to do with the hospitality business. Our family went on a vacation to Hawaii, when we stepped off the plane we were greeted by beautiful women in long flowing dresses who draped tropical leis around our necks and offered us coconut drinks.  After seeing the white sandy beaches, volcanic landscapes and listening to Don Ho perform Tiny Bubbles, I was hooked on travel.

My love of adventure and experiencing new cultures blossomed over the years.  Upon graduation from high school, I pursued a degree in Hospitality Management.  I embarked on a four year program and after college, landed a job in the hotel industry in Miami and I was off and running and the pace was fast, just the way I liked it. Over the span of my career, I ran global marketing for an international hotel company, opened some awesome golf courses for some of the biggest names in golf and worked in branding for the restaurant industry. 

This afforded me the opportunity to travel and see the world.

The trip to Hawaii was the catalyst for discovering my passion for travel and hospitality. Thinking back, it was fairly obvious, I always loved entertaining. There were endless calls for play-dates and parties for all occasions. I am pretty sure I drove my mother crazy with my requests for visitors to come for dinner and occasionally stay longer. Mom always seemed a little more hospitable when guests were around too.

When friends come to visit our home, there is a turn down amenity on the bed and usually a special surprise for them during their stay. We love to break bread together with friends and family on a regular basis. Whenever we would visit foreign countries inevitably strangers became our new friends.

Hospitality means inclusion, sharing cultural nuances and treating people with civility and a welcoming smile. These are the hallmarks of the industry. I can’t imagine what would happen to our industry if we compromised these important values. When I heard the story about the Red Hen Restaurant I was appalled.  This type of behavior hearkens back to the 60’s a time none of us wish to relive. To quote Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.” I truly hope politics isn’t the new flash point for our industry and we haven’t created a backwards slide. I love the hospitality industry and preserving the civility and humanity is worth fighting for.  

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Being Human in an Information Age

I woke at 7 AM with a text from Delta saying my flight had been changed. Before I could even focus my eyes on the message I marveled at how efficient the airlines had become, or had they? After my sleepiness ebbed thanks to a cup of steaming coffee, I realized my now four hour flight had turned into a fourteen hour ordeal. Between outsourcing and robotic algorithms I started to wonder if humans were even necessary anymore.

We all enjoy the benefits of having Siri as our personal assistant or Pandora picking our favorite songs. We have self-checkout kiosks and the next great wave of technology will include self-driving cars and advances in artificial intelligence. So where is the human element to this information age? Machines outperforming humans is a tale as old as the industrial revolution. However, the one thing computers don’t have is a brain or common sense.

That’s where Linda comes in. When I realized I would be sitting in New York for seven hours on a layover and getting into Rochester at midnight instead of 4:30 PM, I picked up the phone and called the airlines. Hoping to get a human, I was grateful to hear “Thanks for calling Delta, this is Linda, how may I assist you today Ms. Cross.”  I had already done some research and found three other options for flights getting in within 15-30 minutes of my original time. I offered up the information and flight numbers and within a few minutes I was rebooked and all set to go with little to no inconvenience. I asked Linda why they re-routed me with a seven hour layover and she told me that algorithms pick the options and their automated system rebooks customers and notify them. What the computer didn’t know is that my elderly parents would be unable to drive to the airport at midnight to pick me up, nor was I willing to sit around all day.

This is where humans are essential, algorithms use statistical patterns in data while computers learn to improve the efficiency of many different work processes such as customer care, flight rebooking’s or toll collection on the highways for example. But do we want them babysitting our kids, making life decisions or assessing our medical condition? As this type of machine learning and technology continues to advance many employees will struggle to keep their jobs. While I understand efficiencies and bringing more dollars to the bottom line we should all be cautious that we don’t let technology remove our humanity all together.

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.

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