Tourism and Hospitality: a drug of choice.
March is ‘Me’ Month in our membership community. Focusing on ‘me’ is hard, exposing and sometimes scary. I've noticed how it’s particularly hard for people who spend most of their time focusing on others.
Those who choose to work in tourism and hospitality choose a profession based around service and care of others. This is incredibly beneficial to their guests and also very rewarding for themselves. The downside however is that, with so much care going outwards towards guests, it can be hard to have some care left to look after oneself. Hosting takes a physical toll. Given the psychological effects of seasonality and the general vulnerability of the industry to external conditions, it can also come with a heavy toll on mental health.
A Drug of Choice
I was part of a conversation this week where this reality led one person to ask ‘Well why do it?’ One response came to say ‘It’s a drug of choice!’. It was a reflex response, said half in jest and half in earnest. It was a response that landed with peers in the conversation.
As I listened more carefully, it was clear that the relationship that hosts have with their work and their guests does indeed have similarities to a relationship with a drug. The ‘hit’ comes from the interaction with people, the making of somebody’s day, the creation of a memory, the sharing of a great story, the giving of a sure-thing recommendation, the buzz of the team, the intense busyness of the endeavour. The more you have it, the more you want it. That’s what keeps you going in the intensely busy parts of the year. That’s what’s hard to deal with in the less busy times of the year. Without the hit, life can be dull and even miserable. The ongoing straining right now for the first whiff of a fresh hit is in itself exhausting.
I can say this because I’ve heard people use those very words to describe their first-hand experiences. I’ve heard people use the word ‘ache’ and ‘strain’ when they speak about this prolonged period of non-interaction, others speak about ‘the high’ and of being with other people and ‘the elation’ of making somebody’s day or being part of a memory, and others about the ‘darkness’ of the tunnel they’re in right now with no chink of light breaking through yet.
A Drug with social benefits
People choose this profession because they love it! It’s a choice and it’s intensely rewarding most of the time. It’s a unique person with a unique set of skills that thrives in this industry. They bring nobility and joy to the service of others.
“Tourism and hospitality provide the colour in life. We’ve now seen how dull it really is without them.”
So said a contributor in another session over the past week. How true! How dull it really is without restaurants, eateries, bars, theatres, experiences, places to visit, events to attend, spaces to gather!
Society benefits so much from the tourism and hospitality industry, from this business of happiness, connection, memories, escape, celebration. We miss it so much and have come to value how important the work that the industry and its people provide to society. There’s a new-found respect and appreciation being spoken about.
Serving the Hosts
However, now the industry has had a prolonged down-time, there’s been a sense of exposing what's not so great about being a tourism and hospitality professional. Some speak about having a ‘shudder’ when they think about the summer coming up, about getting back into that intense rollercoaster experience, of hurtling at speed through the summer months, of becoming derailed at times and hopping straight back on. Others speak of the pleasure of having had weekends off for the first time in their careers, of having had time to plan, of the joy of doing yoga, having the time to tend the garden or being able to take a walk at lunchtime.
A key question that is surfacing for hosts as they seek to revitalise their businesses is
‘How has this been serving me? How can I ensure it serves me better in the future?’
Health & Wellbeing for both hosts and guests
In an industry getting really tuned into the rising consumer sentiment and demand for health and wellbeing, there’s a real opportunity to tune it just as much to ensuring the health and wellbeing of the hosts. It’s no longer enough for this industry to serve visitors and turn itself inside out to meet visitor expectations. It must also serve hosts, be they people or host communities. In fact, it strikes me that the whole endeavour should prioritize service to hosts and host communities.
I look forward to a greater discussion now around finding a better balance of emphasis between visitor and host, one that serves hosts at least as much as it serves guests.
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