The Future of Hospitality and Tourism?

The question I was posed by Leslie for the coffee chat was,

"How full is your cup?"

As usual I am going to answer such a question in my own unusual way.  

One of the great traditions of the program I work at is that we have a capstone class event at the end of term.  During this event, each professor stands up and gives the graduating class a piece of advice for the future.  While some of my colleagues share the same story year in and year out (and they are great pieces of advice); I like to tailor mine to the class.  Here is my talk that I am going to give later this after noon (and you decide if it is cup half full or not).

"There has been a question that has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks.  I thought of the question when preparing a talk for the global tourism class and I think it is valuable thought as you venture out into the workforce.  I want to pose a question to you all.  How much should we trade hospitality for the business?  The origins of the word hospitality comes from the Greek 'philoxenos' which means 'love of strangers.'   The root of 'travel' comes from the French, 'travailler' meaning 'to work.'  Combined the original intent of hospitality was to give comfort to guests because of the hardships it took to travel. Now, the question is, have we gotten away from that original intent?

Today, as you have sat in business school classes, we have taught you about profit margins, cost-benefit analysis and return on investment.  In such, we taught you as a good business school should.  In the current world you will be asked as managers to maximize revenue and minimize costs. Even in the hospitality world we are focused on revenue management and providing streamlined service.  In that vein, we now have businesses in our industry where one can rent a car, check into a hotel or order from a restaurant and not have to interact with a person.  Heck, one hotel has a program that if you do not want maid service, that you stick a sign on your door and that they will give you reward points in exchange.  So one could purchase their room online, check in with their phone and not have maid service meaning that they could stay in a hotel and not have to interact with a single staff person.  While this may be excellent business; is it hospitality?   That is your question for the future. How much humanity are we willing to give up in the face of business? 

On one side, we can argue that is the way of the world.  Heck, when was the last time you actually talked to a bank teller?  We have been automating every industry in America one way or another for decades.  What makes hospitality immune to this?  On the other side, isn't the core of hospitality to create a sense of 'love of strangers' and how do one do that through a smart device?   Over the next ten years, I sense we are going to see the next evolution of our industry.  How that evolution is shaped will be based on your decisions.     How much hospitality are we going to choose relative to the business?   The future of this industry is based upon your shoulders. My advice to you is this day; is to choose wisely."