With a global research undertaken on the art of welcoming, I studied the societal, psychological and semantic dimensions of welcome, and discovered that it is the basis of all human interaction, including that of us with the world.
“Welcome is the origin of life!” Pierre Gouirand
Welcome therefore should hold an essential place in our current society, and its role has vital dimension. First, because most of our material needs are now satisfied, so the need for a better quality of life has shifted the focus from the objective (the material) to the subjective (the human relationship). Then, of course, because of our digital world. Our whole life has become a whirlwind of emergency and performance, with a cruel lack of true communication. People are searching for sense and harmony and find out their real identity, through authentic experiences that lead an inner journey that reconnect us to our senses and to the others.
Here are some of the basics of the art of welcoming. They bring openness, receptivity and joy, with a posture of humility and intention, and the result is a dynamic of interchange when we realize the needs of others and offer our care and our gifts to enhance the beauty of the world.
Welcome is not innate, it is a practice
The concept of hospitality is very old, even prior to hospitality, although the two words are still used as synonyms. While the rituals of hospitality seem to us to be evident in the private life, there are many practices and a learning of welcoming in the professional sphere.
“Welcome is an alchemy. It is like a good wine. It is all at once the means and the result; namely the grape variety, the terroir, the know-how and the drunkenness. And it is also exceeding all these conditions to become a journey into an experience.” Jean-Luc Frusetta
Every human relationship is based on welcome and acceptance. This is why the welcome can only be human. Welcoming ourselves, our feelings, our thoughts; Welcoming our sensations and stimulations; welcoming the others, their words, their emotions; welcoming our environment and the world. This opens the field over very broad areas such as human interactions, behavioral psychology and multicultural diversity.
Welcome means etymologically “moving towards someone” whereas usually we think at the contrary, with figures of hosts waiting for their guests in front of the door. We can also imagine the one that is welcoming motionless, behind a desk or a reception counter, and the one seeking to be welcomed going towards him. Here lies the difference between reception and welcome. The one who welcomes accept to get rid of the benefit to receive in his own territory, protected by its fortifications. It is when we remove our protections then the authentic welcome happens. Because when we agree to get unarmed, we trust the newcomer and accept him as a brother, as someone who does not want to hurt us, like someone we can go to with bare hands. Authentic welcome needs confidence, and practicing true hospitality involves recognizing our own vulnerability and being open to transformation.
It is therefore necessary to work on oneself to acquire the ability to host, because it is not natural to use and mobilize the two dynamics: to give and to receive. So we get mutual enrichment in every encounter. This is why welcome can never become a habit or be standardized. In the end, welcome is not a function, but a mission that relies on tangible and intangible aspects, while remaining essentially unpredictable.
“Authenticity is a key value that is growing up. We have to overcome the formal standards in welcoming to provide a unique welcome experience for each guest, which could not be found anywhere else than in this place.” Clement Hernandez
The myth of the traveler
There is a twofold expectation when one is travelling. On the one hand, he who is moving is constantly on guard, consciously or not.
“The one who needs to be hosted is a fragile human being. He has the feeling of being a stranger, even if he is known by the one who is going to welcome him. He needs to be comforted, reassured and taken care of.” Pierre Gouirand
On the other hand, he who travels carries within himself “the complex of Ulysses”. He is haloed.
“He who travels is the one who is free, who has the means to go where others do not go, it is almost a god”. Pierre Gouirand
We should therefore welcome the guests with opposite expectations. On the one hand, they want to be reassured, protected and supported. And on the other hand, they want to receive the honors they feel due to their privileged position as a traveler. The authentic welcome therefore implies an effort, the will to please, to provide a genuine service and to serve with open-heartedness.
“He who welcomes must show that the presence of the host is always a joy, and like a mother with her child, that he cannot do without it.” Pierre Gouirand
Welcome is the essence of hospitality
When the psychological needs of the welcome are taken into account, it is then possible to move from a “courteous relationship” to an “authentic relationship”, that touches the heart and will leave a positive memory trace. This human dimension underlies the gift that is found in the welcome, with the creation of an experience that allows the guest to “feel like at home”.
“Offering hospitality is a gift given to someone, a present and an offering of oneself.” Alain Montandon
Therefore, welcome is a process of three logical sequences:
1-Recognition of the guest by concrete gestures; 2- hospitality, when meeting his expectations, exceeding them and solving his problems and finally, 3- mothering to take care of him in various degrees.
That’s why the tourist should be normally in touch only with the good side of life, since the hotel, the site or the destination plays a permeable partition, kind of family cocoon, soft, reassuring and safe. This is why luxury hotels should provide exclusive and unique experience, with a hyper personalization, a great attention to details and a high discretion to preserve privacy.
Technology for more authenticity
Since the origin of luxury hotels, enthusiasts have invested in beautiful and human places to offer their guests moments of exception. Therefore, it is in this sector that the welcome experience provides what is best, and has to offer the authentic luxury. In addition, hotels have an unmistakable link with conviviality, and luxury hotels with gastronomy.
“Taking a meal is a huge trust given to the host, because the guest welcomes in his body an external food; it is the most intimate social and personal act that it is given to make and it is played in the hotels.” Jean-Luc Frusetta
The growth of new technologies and the customers’ needs for “wow” experiences have become so important that it is essential today to work on the new practices that improve the quality of welcome in the luxury hotels. These new approaches challenge many issues like the guest experience, the innovative check-in and check-out systems, rethinking customer interaction, digital concierge services, big data and customer databases, the layout of the lobby, the arrival and departure of the client, the customer path building a personalized relationship before / during / after the stay, customer loyalty, new services with home automation, sensorial marketing, local advices and real added value in tourism destination.
They bring significant benefits with improved customer insight to anticipate their needs, more time to allow the employees (concierges, reception advisors) to refocus on customer experience and human exchanges and new genuine services with the check-in tools. Technology is therefore a real opportunity, if the primary objective is to satisfy the customer and not to reduce the costs. Unanimously, the experts speak of a reversal that will allow the advent of the authentic luxury. It is to go back to the very essence of the welcome, leaving the current standards to get new skills and modes of management. In the end, the luxury hotel must remain human, communicating and friendly, with a staff that is happy to welcome the guests, with time left to fully invest in its mission and offer a tailor-made service for each customer. And with innovative managers who are ready to support their team, embodying the values of the institution to build the loyalty of both guests and employees. This is the heart of the mission of welcome and hospitality.
Welcome tourists in destinations
At the end, the art of welcoming brings the openness to the local environment with the Tourism of destination. The hotel becomes not only the place where they have chosen you to be accommodated, but also the gateway to discover the local treasures: historical, human, natural and cultural heritage and create an authentic experience that triggers their five senses. Luxury hotels must take this into account in their overall approach to the client: making guests feel at ease, creating links, and being a gateway to local actors and exceptional craftsmen and artists.