The recent opening of a Homewood Suites property in a small Mexican city serves as a reminder of the striking humanity in the hotel industry.
Just a week ago, I had a weeklong trip in Mexico that included stops in Mexico City and the considerably smaller, lesser-known destination of Silao in the state of Guanajuato.
Silao is an industrial and agricultural town with about 150,000 people (strikingly similar at least in that way to my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, but I digress), so the grand opening of the new Homewood Suites by Hilton property there was a bit of an event.
That grand opening was the reason for my visit, and I have to admit that I approached the event with the typical, jaded U.S. perspective of something like that being a rote ritual, a business formality largely designed to grab what attention it can for the interested parties.
What I was greeted with was something entirely different. At that property, Mexican media from all around the region and country gathered to mark the occasion and discuss what this property—meant to be the launching point for Hilton’s Latin American prototype for the Homewood brand—could mean on a larger scale and what that hotel in particular will mean for the city and its residence.
In addition to that, friends and family of the owners gathered at the hotel not just for a 15-minute ribbon cutting and photo op, but for an hours-long celebration of the achievement of opening this hotel. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that the event, which started with emotional and heartfelt thanks and commentary from owners, brand representatives and even local political officials before progressing to hours of music and merriment, was much more akin to a wedding reception than an opening event for a business.
Throughout the night, the GM and other representatives spoke glowingly about their time working at the property, the ownership group and the small but loyal group of repeat customers they’d been able to establish in the couple of months they were operating before the official grand opening event.
All of this served as a reminder to me that as routine and transactional as we grow to view these things, distilling the number of hotel openings down to numbers to brag about during earnings calls or to ruminate over as we think about supply growth concerns, each hotel opening is a monumental moment in someone’s life, whether that someone is a principal in a small ownership group, a new GM, or a housekeeper or front desk associate who was given a new career opportunity via this property.
The hotel industry is a living, breathing entity made up of millions of individuals experiencing happiness and sadness, accomplishment and frustration, or any number of other emotions on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis. It was great to get a reminder of that in a visceral way, and to share in that joy in at least a small way.
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