Learning Hospitality The Old Way in The Modern Environment
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While the world is now learning how to open doors of their homes to guests and travellers and how to be hospitable through ventures; Hospitality in Indians has been ingrained since times immemorial. We grow up on stories epitomizing Atithya or Supreme Hospitality. Our mythological literature is full of anecdotes where only the best is for the guest.
There would nary be an Indian who hasn’t heard of a Shabri first tasting ber (Indian jujubes) herself and ensuring that she served only the sweetest (doesn’t matter that they were half bitten) ones to Lord Ram or a poor Sudama feeding the last bowl of his rice to his friend and honoured guest Krishna. We are honour bound to host guests and welcome with open hearts, whoever enters our homes.
So, while our hearts and homes are indeed open, something that people are even monetizing now, hospitality and its meaning has undergone a sea-change and therefore most of it needs to be re-learnt.
Shifting Paradigms in Travel & Hospitality
Travel and hospitality industries are witnessing shifts in the basic foundational paradigms of these twin segments. Firstly, from travels being undertaken only as per necessity till a decade back, the world and its family now love to travel. People are travelling frequently, and household budgets are being accordingly apportioned to accommodate travel expenditures.
The millennials view travel as a necessity and not as an option. There are all kinds of travellers requiring a vast spectrum of hospitality services - from budget stays to mid-priced ones to premium services and the ultra-luxury demands. The hospitality industry needs to necessarily cater to this entire spectrum of demands and not expect the traveller to adjust.
Secondly, hospitality needs to identify what expectations are at the centre of the demand conundrum and cater to those expectations for a fulfilling experience on the part of the traveller and receiving a positively glowing review on part of the service provider. Expectations can centre around learning about the place, experiencing the destination, meeting the locals, taking in the sights for some.
For others, it might be the basics of cleanliness and comfort – wanting clean sheets and not thread-counts really, desiring homely or local cuisine for food or extravagant buffets for others. Thirdly, there is a huge thrust on the exploratory – seeing offbeat and newer places. And lastly, the power and reach of social media are increasing by the day – whether it is for posting unique experiences or feedback or for looking up reviews. Social media is an integral part of the curriculum for relearning hospitality.
Rewarding Thumb Rules
With an understanding of these basic changes, the industry is seeing massive changes – new business models, new accommodation types, new offerings and packages etc. And for those willing to learn, following thumb rules will prove to be rewarding.
The first thumb rule of hospitality is to understand cultures – as a way of thinking and being. This results in broadening one’s mind. Hospitality professionals need to learn to deal with people from many different backgrounds – be they be guests or industry colleagues.
The second thumb rule is to understand the economics – the underlying principles behind standardized qualities – of cleaning, of portions and of service. Any line of work within the spectrum of hospitality entails management of numbers and better management of same leads to customer appreciation.
The third rule is to understand sustainability – see how you can rely on local resources for all requirements – recruitment, procurement and entrepreneurship. Building a circular economy by training local talent, buying local foods, building local activities and ensuring that local income rises go a long way in rising footfalls and continuance of a sustainable venture.
The industry is changing at a dizzying pace - making way for newer ways of hospitality. Formal programs are still to catch up and on-the-job learning is crucial. So, whether you aspire to run your own homestay or build a chain of hotels, consumer preferences remain central. The one thing that remains same down the ages and hospitality industry must always remember - Atithi Devo Bhava!