6 Things that I Learned in the first week of my MBA at UET International and personal reflections on them
By Alexia Charoupa, Creator of The Storytelling Hotel
1. It's the value proposition that you offer, not the price.
Hence, the interesting bid is how we are mixing different elements, package them in the price and give value to the customer by satisfying his needs:
A premium priced hospitality offer reflects that it is a product with a high distinction value, a high-end product and this very high price of it communicates and signals a psychological message to the guest: the higher the price, the higher the value (Batra, 1999, p. 258). This price-quality associations ensue from the signaling value of prices theorem; "Price is a signal of value" (Daly, 2002, p.69).
In this vein, vacationers of 5- stars hotels opt for such premium priced products since these products reverberate emotionally with them, reflecting their self-perception/self-understanding, status and self-esteem. Particularly, their high price connotes that "the people who possess the product belong to an exclusive social circle, seeing that the price makes it inaccessible to all but a few."
This is how the luxury brands work (Troilo, 2015, p. 251). And this is also how these luxury brands, in hospitality and out of the industry, make money.
2. Differentiation has to excite the customer. And the intangible factors are the ones that give the differentiation.
Like the rarity/exclusivity of a product (e.g. the monadic art of welcoming at Ka'anapali Beach Hotel in Maui, Hawaii: Upon check-out, the staff members offer the guests kukui-nut leis, that is, necklaces that symbolize their adoption into the hotel family -the "ohana" as it is called in the local island dialect-. At the same time, the staff arranges a memorable farewell for the guests by singing an authentic Hawaiian hymn (lei chant) at the hotel lobby while at their second visit to the hotel, the staff reminds guests to bring their necklaces with them, and, according to the Hawaiian tradition, exchanges them with darker necklaces to honor the passage of time and the bond that they forged during that time), the customer service excellence (e.g. at Ritz-Carlton every employee is empowered with $2000 per day to solve any guest's problem without asking the manager), the myth that a hotel has created (for example, the informal agreement of the House of Dior with Plaza Athénée: after the war, the fashion behemoth gave his models money to sip drinks at the bar of the hotel so as to see and to be seen; a strategy that brought out mutual beneficial results for the hotel and the high fashion brand ), the history (e.g. the concept of the 24-hour room service that Waldorf Astoria invented, changing the hospitality scene forever, the fact that till 2005 Hotel du Cap accepted only cash or the installment of individual toilet facilities in each room - bathroom en suite- for the first time at Hôtel Ritz Paris in 1898), the one of a kind amenities (such as a suite with a private recording studio which includes the music-mixing console that John Lennon used to record the song "Imagine", at Eden Rock-St. Barth's, Caribe), the heritage (for instance, the fact that the Suite Impériale, the imperial and grandest suite at Ritz Carlton Paris has been honored with the title of a national monument, a title granted by the French government), the attention to detail (e.g. the fact that at the 4star Zuku Amsterdam Hotel, a hotel with convertible rooms offering all the amenities of a house in a small space as the hotel emphasizes on extended stay, they measured even the height of the ceiling to check if it is claustrophobic or not), the personalized service (e.g. Burj al Arab Jumeirah boasts the highest staff-to-suite ratio with 8 employees dedicated to each suite) etc.
3. Let your team understand the impact of their work
Like the tactic that Four SeasonsHotels & Resorts followed during recruitment when the GM of the hotel interviewed a dishwasher at the last stage of the procedure. A tactic that illustrates not only how important his job is but how important he himself is too.
4. We live by stories and experiences, not by minutes.
Creating signature guest experience moments requires a certain ingenuity, and in the current competitive market, hoteliers are called upon to choreograph their resources and services in a way that personalizes novelty, engages their guests, and establishes a deep connection to their brand.
Today hotels don't sell rooms. They sell (extraordinary) experiences: The owl that brings the wedding couple their rings during the ceremony at Bovey Castle Hotel, Devon, UK, the legendary Footmen of The Goring, London, UK, who iron the newspapers for their guests, delivering royal hospitality for 105 years now, the "Create your own underwater coral garden in Bora Bora", guided by the resort's expert and culminated in a "toes-in-the-water" celebration with champagne, after the scuba diving, at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, the Pomegranate Wellness Spa Hotel's (Chalkidiki, Greece) water fountain that offers the opportunity for a personalized song written solely for your bespoke private event (birthday, wedding, engagement etc.); an aquatic choreography, an European innovation- signature software & hardware patented technology- with the capacity of video projection on the water and enriched with 3D patterns, holograms as well as a mesmerizing laser show etc.
Moreover, and as I assert in "The Storytelling Hotel": in hotels we sell experiences. Selling an experience means creating a memory, a narratable memory, namely a story.
All in all, Hospitality and Hospitality management is all about creating "wow" stories that the guest would experience all over again in a heartbeat.
5. "Missions are at their best when they are guided by a vision, an almost impossible dream.", Phillip Kotler.
Such a mission Hospitality is.
6. What is Hospitality for? For Love.
Τιme goes by, seasons change, but feelings stay always the same. Those feelings can be succinctly summarized in the feeling of "love" and the way this emotional attachment has evolved over the years of humanity.
From a Biological Anthropology and Neuroscience perspective, love emerged to propel the mating millions of years ago. And that happened to mammals in general. However, 97% of mammals love just for the mating procedure but they do not bond to raise their offspring. In contrast, human beings are the sole mammals who, 4 million years ago, started the pair bonding not only to be reproduced but to evolve their species, to raise their kid; a noble cause.
Hotels till recently were the vast majority of mammals, were the 97% that served a biological activity: sleep and food at another place than home. Hotels now have become the 3%, human beings -and not the rest of the mammals-, having evolved to serve a noble, refined cause: to "bring up" the guest, to emotionalize his experience, to love and to be loved.
From the moment that you realize that, nothing has ever been unchallenging again. And what a beautiful hospitality challenge of love that has been.
Godfrey, S. (2017). "Key pillars of luxury hospitality: The soul." Redefining luxury | EHL Hospitality Insights, www.ehl.edu/en/research/hospitality-insights/key-pillars-luxury-hospitality-soul-0.
 (Godfrey, 2017)
Alexia Charoupa, MBA student (specialization in Global Hospitality and Tourism) at UET International University, Milan.
UET Italia s.r.l., campus in Via Privata della Torre, 18, 20127 Milano MI, Italy