Hospitality Industry- from the view of Abraham Maslow
Updated: Mar 22
"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself." -Abraham Maslow
Commonly known as ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs’ and a very famous theory in human psychology applies perfectly to the hospitality industry- especially for hotels. The dynamics between a hotel team and its guests can be lucidly described on the basis of Maslow’s theory. Before mapping the practicality of Maslow’s theory to the norms that may govern the principles of hospitality, let us describe the theory itself:
“Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs is formed on an assumption that humans strive for fulfillment of one need at a time, as they move up the hierarchy from basic needs towards more abstract ones. Maslow identifies 5 distinct levels of human needs, namely: physiological needs, safety, love & belonging, esteem and self-actualization”
Now, we at ProMiller hotel management company, propose that this theory may be used to govern the principles of hospitality and pretty accurately in case of hotels. The relationship between a hotel staff and its guests can be laid out on Maslow’s theory on the basis of different human needs as identified in the theory.
To begin with, let’s refer to the most basic human need, i.e. the ‘physiological needs’ like food, water, oxygen, sleep, biological processes, etc. These mark the need of a human body and proper functioning of it. Here, we can draw a parallel in the hospitality sector, where a few physiological needs of a guest need to be met by the hotel and other needs are catalyzed by them. For example, providing quality food and water to a guest is a basic responsibility of the hotel staff- absence of which can cause serious discomfort to the guest. To ensure that a hotel is able to meet the most basic human need of its guest, they need to focus on the quality and quantity of the food or water that they offer, failing which the hotel would be responsible for the unfulfillment of the most basic need of its guest and hence would fail in carrying out the hospitality that they are offering as a service. So, to say, it is extremely important for a hotel to fulfill the most basic needs of its guest, i.e. physiological needs, as the first norm of hospitality. Hence, hotels must focus first and foremost to the services which cater to the most basic human need, i.e. food, water, sleep, etc. We propose that Front Office, Food & Beverage and Housekeeping department can play a vital role when it comes to 'physiological needs’. This level of Maslow's hierarchy is taken care of by all the big and small hotel management companies in India.
As we move up on Maslow’s hierarchy, we encounter the need of ‘safety’ which is again a very crucial one. When a guest checks-in to your hotel, s/he expects a considerable amount of safety for the duration of stay. This includes security, fire-safety, electrical-safety, disaster-safety and all that encapsulates the feeling of being safe on the hotel property. For instance, if the hotel offers a pool, it is the hotel’s responsibility to come up with all sorts of safety precautions and arrangements. In the case of a pool, it can be a visual notice, lifeguards, tubes, etc. Some hotels and resorts are located at a secluded area which can be far away from the city and hence cutting the guests off from basic services like hospitals etc. In this case, it is vital for a hotel to figure out transportation, ambulance, a doctor-on-call and other facilities to ensure guests’ safety- hence fulfilling the second human need as per Maslow’s theory. We propose that Front Office, Security and Housekeeping department can play a vital role when it comes to the need of ‘safety’. Almost all the top hotel management companies in India take care of this level in the Maslow's pyramid.
Further up on the pyramid is the need for ‘love & belonging’ and this comes into play for all the guests especially solo travelers. The hotel staff is responsible to create a sense of belonging and an atmosphere of love through different services like indoor games, customizations, etc. For instance, addressing a guest with their first name, talking to them about their well-being is a common way of inducing a sense of belonging. Many hotels have begun to maintain a database for their frequent guests so as to make them feel welcomed on their next visit by storing their preferences, giving special discounts and building an interpersonal relationship. Such gestures of advanced hospitality go a long way for both guests and the hotel which reflects in the online reviews and word-of-mouth marketing. We propose that Front Office, Food & Beverage and Housekeeping department can play a vital role when it comes to the need of ‘love & belonging’. This is the level which only a few best hotel management companies in India are able to provide to the hotels guests.
Surpassing the three basic needs, we come across the need of ‘esteem’ which encapsulates self-esteem, confidence, respect, etc. We frequently witness instances in Hospitality industry and hotels where a guest can be seen demanding unrealistic services. It is rather common that a hotel staff needs to control their emotion of anger and frustration to go by the thumb rule of ‘the guest is always right’. If we look at these instances by the Maslow’s theory, it explains the cause-effect relationship of such events where a guest is only expecting to fulfill their need of ‘esteem’. There can be multiple ways to handle such situations or to avoid them- if the hotel staff understands that the guest is merely coming from a place to fulfill a natural human need, it makes it easier for them to handle such situation without getting into a blame-game. We propose that all departments can play a vital role when it comes to the need of ‘esteem’.
The highest level of human needs is ‘self-actualization’ according to Maslow’s hierarchy which includes morality, creativity, and acceptance among other things. This being the only human need which can be fulfilled by the human her/himself and hence a hotel staff is not responsible for its fulfillment.
So, if we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs as a basis to govern hospitality principles- it gives us a clear framework which can be further used to develop a hotel's vision, standard procedures for different department and matrices for hotel staff training. It is essential for hotels today to understand human psychology so as to avoid becoming very transactional with their guests. It can help you rethink and redesign your hotel policies which will go a long way in building guest relations and indirectly increase the revenue and profits for your hotel business. It can also be seen as a theory that can be the basis of all the strategic decisions made the hospitality asset management companies in India and beyond.
We invite the industry enthusiasts to discuss the concept further and reach out to us through comments or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org