What are your hotels doing to be standout corporate citizens?

The hospitality industry is perceived by many as being both exciting and dynamic.  Over our careers, how many times have we been told “that’s amazing” or “that’s fascinating” when speaking with friends and colleagues about our chosen field of work?  However, because we work as hard as we do, and because it is so easy to take for granted how truly special our industry is, we sometimes lose sight of the true impact of so many of those things that we encounter on an almost daily basis.

Because there is such a natural fascination with “the hotel business,” an opportunity exists for us to do a better job of maximizing our relationship with our customers and our neighbors by playing off of this fascination. We have an opportunity, some would say an outright obligation, to do far more to give back to our communities.

Think about this; when is the last time that your property/properties brought a group of local school students into the hotel to let them have an up-close look at the kitchen, at the laundry, at the pastry shop?  When is the last time that your property/properties sought out local community non-profits to offer sponsorship of some sort, not during their annual 5k run, not during their gala fund-raising drive, not once-per-year on ‘Take Your Child To Work Day,’ but on a regularly-scheduled basis? 

Whether in a major market, a resort destination, or somewhere in the suburbs, your hotels stimulate a genuine curiosity from the community.  What exactly are you doing to cultivate this, and to use it to create more awareness about all of the exciting things that you do every day?

Many years ago, a well-respected industry professional created tremendous awareness for his hotel when it was announced that his conference center had “adopted” a local high school.  This wasn’t just lip service; the “adoption” included a formalized plan to let interested students gain hands-on experience working in that hotel on a mini-internship basis, and it required those students to document their experiences, ultimately presenting their findings to an assembly of their fellow students.  The plan contemplated students returning for multiple years of their internships while still in school, and was incredibly effective not only in drawing the hotel closer to the school and the community, but also in adding to the property’s future manpower pipeline.

Today, opportunities like these are boundless.  Sponsorships of community events are important, but if not part of a greater community service plan, are basically the equivalent of taking the easy way out.  We can always write a check; while this may be very well-intentioned, it is not going far enough in our efforts to truly support our neighborhood.  It is incumbent upon us to spend the time and effort to create a comprehensive program that inserts our properties and our colleagues into activities that share the goals of the community. 

Bringing the young or perhaps those less fortunate into our properties, going to them in their homes or schools to demonstrate first-hand how we do what we do; all of these things are second nature to us, yet they don’t happen with the type of frequency that they should.  Being a good corporate citizen does not mean simply “supporting” good causes, it means taking an active and leading role in making our communities better.  As hoteliers, we need to better understand the position that our industry holds in our communities, and then aggressively and proactively work this position for the mutual benefit. 

We can do it, we already know how; we simply need to extend the hospitality culture that we have all worked so hard to instill in our properties and in our colleagues to our surrounding communities.  I promise you, with just a little bit of planning, it’s not difficult to accomplish this.