Resilience is the ability to navigate through adversity–to effectively adapt to a changing environment and thrive. In the COVID-19 economic environment, hospitality has been forced to adapt, to change to a new normal of scaled operations. Showing resilience in this time means we have had to cultivate a sense of calm, clarity, and stability, even when things are stressful or overwhelming. For those of us in hospitality, it has meant going back to the core of hospitality, which is service to others, our team members, guests, and, of course, our communities.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the world and our country, hospitality, without question, is one of the most affected industries. According to statista.com, a staggering 39.3% of those dealing with unemployment in the United States in May were leisure and hospitality industry professionals (see Figure I).
Despite this data, do I believe hospitality is resilient? You better believe I do and allow me to explain why.
Over the course of my career, hospitality has already demonstrated its resilience over many recessions/economic downturns dating back to the Savings and Loan Crisis of the late 80’s, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and finally to the Great Recession of 2008.
Hospitality was on an all-time ride, record growth every year from 2010 until the COVID-19 crash in March of this year. If you know Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and American Psychologist Adam Grant, then you likely know their book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. In our industry we were living our Option A during that period of ten-year growth. Everything was incredible until that day arrived in March when we were forced to find our Option B. Cheryl and Adam delivered a message that describes so well the servant culture of leaders in the hospitality industry, as well as so many team members from our company:
“Family and religion are the greatest sources of meaning for many people. But work can be another source of purpose. The jobs where people find the most meaning are often the ones that serve others.”
The book also cites studies that Grant conducted that demonstrate that meaningful (essential) work buffers against burnout:
“The more people believe their jobs help others, the less emotionally exhausted they feel at work and the less depressed they feel in life. And on days when people think they’ve had a meaningful impact on others at work, they feel more energized at home and more capable of dealing with difficult situations.”
In this time of the pandemic, our hotels and the jobs therein have demonstrated over and over again to be essential. As COVID-19 stopped travel, our hotels gravitated to find ways to serve their communities. We chose to have a paradigm shift and make our hotels be seen as a beacon for their respective communities. Our team members quickly discovered that many of our hotels became essential as we rendered service and hospitality to essential healthcare and government workers. The long hours all our team members and leaders put in were all in the service of their fellow men and on behalf of their communities.
One example of this shift can be found in our SpringHill Suites Gallup property, located in a geographical zone that quickly reached some of the highest per capita COVID-19 cases in the nation. The city moved to curfew and lockdown, and the main roads leading to town were closed. Many of our team members had challenges even getting to work. The hotel has been at capacity the last couple of months housing essential healthcare workers and various military groups. Two of these groups, the Air Nat’l Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers recognized and thanked our team members for their services and efforts in ensuring their safety and comfort. Team members were presented with unit patches and memorial coins to honor their services.
At our core, hospitality is a servant culture. Our team members have drawn inspiration from the diligence they have put behind their efforts to serve and lead. Our industry will continue to “fill the world with the light and warmth of hospitality,” as Conrad Hilton dreamed, and thrive once again as we choose resilience and stick to our values.