Even the Bible had an innkeeper.
For as long as people have been traveling, there have been those who have been willing to provide accommodation along the traveler’s route. The tradition of hospitality extends across all times and places.
Whether a traveler set up camp on privately owned land or rented a room in someone’s home, some type of lodging could be had for a negotiated rate. The rate might be calculated in the coin of the realm, bartered for goods or services, or simply waived for the satisfaction of helping out a fellow human being.
The traveler, continuing on his way, would meet others heading in the opposite direction. The travelers would exchange information on the weather, the easiest routes, any possible dangers, and of course on what accommodations could be had down the road. Accommodations were hit or miss depending on war, drought, famine, population shifts, and the character, or lack thereof, of the towns or individuals who might cater to the weary traveler.
Since travel was so rare up until the Middle Ages, no sane businessman would have opened an establishment for the sole purpose of lodging. This changed in the new millennium as sailing ships discovered new worlds. Marco Polo charted a land route into China. Desert caravans connected Asia to the rest of Africa. For the first time, merchants found it profitable to travel and sell their wares. This business travel, of course, required more places to find rest and sustenance along the way.
In the early 1300s, the bigger drinking establishments along well-traveled trade routes began to add rooming structures. These hostels soon became stand-alone businesses dedicated to providing travelers with safe lodging, and the hotel business was born. But the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Lodging still had to be negotiated face-to-face. Word of mouth on the trade routes was still the best way for travelers to find out about the lodging accommodations they faced, for better or worse.
Fast-forward to 2022. There is almost no route untraveled in the world. Travelers now exchange information about the lay of the land on platforms like Trip Advisor, Yelp, online travel agencies, and social media. Rates are now negotiated via email and text. Reservations are confirmed on websites and mobile apps. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The best and most productive sales negotiations still take place one-on-one. The innkeeper shaking the hand of his guest and looking him in the eye still carries more weight than any virtual contact over the phone or on a Zoom call. Person-to-person contact is part of our DNA dating back to the earliest times. Our most trusted hotel recommendations happen through direct conversation rather than an anonymous thumbs-up or thumbs-down icon a social media platform.
Technology has provided too many advancements to count in the hospitality industry. While we embrace these innovations, those of us who are successful in sales must also embrace tradition. To earn business, we must be personable, smile, and shake hands if possible. If not, we must try that much harder to connect virtually, listen, and serve. This should be the basis of every sales call and every sales negotiation. The human connection: this is our contract.
Don’t be afraid to continue to embrace tradition. Across time and place, the tradition of hospitality has never failed to endure
Toni Jacaruso, CEO of Jacaruso Enterprises
December 7, 2022