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What is the soul of hospitality?

At a time when borders could soon be released all over the world while our sector is waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel, let us take one last look at ourselves.

Covid-19 has given us a new element of language: "social distancing". The term is clumsy, and we are pleased to see that it is now preferred to the use of physical distancing. Frankly, it is not happier, but it is already better. 

Indeed, socialization is the essence of human relationships: we define ourselves as social animals. This socialization is also at the heart of our profession.

Our tourism industry often claims to be a factory of memories and experiences. This goes beyond the function of our facilities or services, i.e. to sleep or to move around when we are "forced" to do so. This is one of the main shortcomings that the modern distribution of our sector has highlighted, sending players back to the "commoditization" of their supply: summarizing them at a given price, at a given date and at a given place. Obviously, given that nature abhors vacuums, this has opened up an opportunity for alternative offers, which sometimes are better adapted and more meaningful for travelers.

With supply being the "Materia prima" of our sector, it is up to the alchemists of our industry to accompany the necessary transmutation of our sector, as their fathers did in their time during the 80-90s, with new industrialized concepts perfectly aligned with the expectations of their contemporaries, and thus transforming the supply that preceded them.

A context characterized by the democratization of transport and a growing globalization then supported it wonderfully. 

With humanity moving more and more from rural to urban milieus, boutique hotels - in all their forms - and Airbnb embodied a necessary mutation, which forced the previous wave of supply to question itself.

Crises, whatever their nature (economic, war or pandemic), often lead to the evolution of societies. We saw this with the mad cow crisis or the 9/11 attacks‘. These traumas mark our collective memory and push us evolve. 

In fact, isn't it said that in any crisis, wise men know how to see opportunities?

The first of these opportunities comes in the possibility to do a work of introspection, and with the confinement that Covid-19 has imposed on us, we can say that we have been served. On a personal level, it has perhaps allowed each of us to reconnect with our fundamentals, to get as close as possible to the messages whispered by our soul. I suggest that we try, with humility, to do this with hospitality industry by going to the deepest roots of this sector of tourism. 

What about the soul of our sector? We would see that it is without a doubt hospitality of the soul. That soul that characterizes and personalizes each individual, one that is sensitive to sincere empathy, to the care taken in the attention to detail. 

This hospitality of the soul, of the individual, makes no distinction between welcoming the traveler or the neighbor. Hotel facilities will change, adapt and be more hybrid, i.e. better balanced between local and traveler  guests.

It had already been identified that consumer expectations are moving towards authenticity, coherence with the local environment, a sense of ecological sustainability, but also commitment at the social level. These are therefore the aspirations of the soul of our contemporaries. 

Our mission must be to satisfy all these aspirations, whether they be those of our local customers, the travelers we welcome, our employees, but also our partners and suppliers, while not forgetting our local community.

This is a great mission, full of meaning, enabling our employees to make an impact in their daily work and to develop passions for this sector, which have all too often been absent in recent years.

For the rest, that is to say what belongs to the material world, we will have to accelerate our changes in terms of digital technology, productivity gains, the desirable evolution of distribution, to name few.

Let us rejoice at the prospect of being able to write new lines of our history on blank pages. This pandemic will allow us to reshuffle the cards in situations that seemed to us immovable and that we sometimes observe with too much fatality.

The prospect can be a joyful one, but it will nonetheless mask the reality of the next few semesters, which will be harder and surely more brutal than what we have experienced so far.

We have been presented with a profound change: here we are served with the necessary level of jolt.

All we can do now is hope that Covid presents us with the catharsis that our sector seems to need.

But the soul of our profession does not change, we are and will remain profoundly social animals in need of sincere interaction and sharing with others.

This is the soul of hospitality.

Vanguélis Panayotis

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