When I started with HFTP in 2007, I barely understood the need for an association of hospitality finance and technology professionals. I didn’t know much about the industry beyond my personal traveling experiences. But boy has this industry taught me a lot.
Today is my last day with HFTP.
Unfortunately, I’m not only leaving a wonderful job with amazing coworkers and members, I’m also leaving a city I’ve grown to love the past nine years – Austin, Texas.
As I’ve been preparing to leave, there are a few things I’ve realized that the hospitality industry has taught me. And I thought I’d share them with you in one last post.
5 Things the Hospitality Industry Has Taught Me
1. Be (extra) courteous
As a southern girl, I was taught to be courteous. But the hospitality industry takes courtesy and service to a whole new level. Showing true hospitality to guests is obviously a major part of this industry. And I find myself becoming more sensitive to customer service and appreciation. Making sure I say hello more, thanking people for a job well done and filling out surveys even when I only have good things to say (not just when there are bad experiences).
I think with great service comes great people…because the hospitality industry is a fun group of people! Not only is this a tight-knit industry, it’s also a friendly one. HFTP members, conference attendees and hospitality vendors have been some of the nicest people I’ve met. I’m going to truly miss all the friendly smiles at HFTP conferences and events.
2. Credit card security is scary
I’ve had the pleasure of working with the PCI compliance initiatives at HFTP. When I agreed to take on this task, I had no clue what I was getting in to. I quickly studied the issue by talking to industry experts, reading articles and attending conferences. And it was an eye-opener, to say the least.
Now I find myself educating others – like family members – on how to keep their credit card data safe. I can’t even count how many people I’ve known that have recently had their credit card information stolen. And I might have told a restaurant or two that they were doing something that was NOT compliant.
Now (because of the hospitality industry) every time I use my credit card, I think about who I’m giving my information to. I’ve even refused to give my credit card information to a major service provider (not in hospitality) because I was worried about how they were handling my personal information.
So I think that awareness is the biggest lesson learned here. Don’t be afraid to tell others about the importance of credit card (and identity) security because the more we all know about the issue, the less likely we are to have our lives turned upside down from credit card/identity theft.
3. There are some complicated issues that the industry deals with that most don’t even realize
Of course you know that there’s more to hospitality than the type of television in your hotel room and the GPS in the golf cart at your country club. You know how important a uniform system is to reporting your finances, why Wi-Fi isn’t always free and how your hotel comes up with pricing for various days of the week.
But do your customers?
Do they know why they’re being charged for Wi-Fi? Do they know what you’re doing to keep their credit card data safe?
Some issues we deal with in this industry are not important to guests, but others (that we might not even realize) could be useful tools to informing guests. I think just keeping an eye open to how guests’ views might change if they understood more about “why” something is the way it is could create a great opportunity to communicate with loyal customers and gain their support.
4. This industry is adaptable
During my time at HFTP, we’ve all gone through a horrible recession. And what I’ve learned from the pros in this industry is that this isn’t the first — and likely isn’t the last time — the hospitality industry will be hit bad. But an even bigger lesson learned is how the industry is able to adapt to these situations. Difficult times often call for creative thinking – which can even lead to the next big idea.
I know we’re all sick of hearing “staycation,” but simply adapting who a hotel’s market audience is, helped fill beds during rough times.
I’ve also seen this industry adapt to social media and in turn find a new form of brand loyalty. And how do I know this? Because I’ve totally become loyal to certain brands because of social media. I know some parts of the hospitality industry are slower to pick up this adaption, but the swing is going in the right direction.
But being adaptable as a property isn’t all to this industry. I’ve also seen it on personal levels. Through education themes, I’ve learned that professionals are now taking on more roles than ever in their job responsibilities. At HFTP conferences over the past several years, I’ve witnessed attendees learning to adapt and finding resources to do a better job at something new to them.
5. I’m a geek at heart
I may be a writer/communicator/social media nerd — but the geek in me is way bigger than I ever knew. My parents have been in the computer industry since the 70s and growing up I shunned it as much as possible. I mean, what 10 year old wants to hear their parents talk about computers during every dinner? But something obviously sunk in during all those family dinners…or maybe it’s in the blood.
Either way, I’m a geek deep down inside and because of this industry, the geekness has come up more often and now proudly waves its freak flag.
Even though I may not be a hotelier or supplier, I definitely appreciate the innovation that I see in the industry. And as a future hotel guest, I can’t wait to see what the next big thing will be in the hospitality industry.
Katy Walterscheidt is (was) the PR & social media manager for HFTP and editor of HFTP Connect, the hospitality professionals’ blog. You can reach her on Twitter @katyw03.