The hospitality industry is competitive, and that rivalry between brands can lead to a compromise of Hospitality Ethics.

There are often clusters of hotels in close proximity to one another, and dissatisfied customers simply go elsewhere. Armed with a raft of “loyalty points” or discount programs, guests demand lower rates, special services and other amenities. This creates a dilemma in an industry that is just climbing out of the financial abyss into which the recent recession threw them.

How do you maintain standards of excellence while turning a profit when it costs more to operate?

What are the Ethics of Hospitality?

According to there are ten basic tenets based on standards identified by the Josephson Institute of Ethics. These are:
• Honesty
• Integrity
• Trustworthiness
• Loyalty
• Fairness
• Concern and respect for others
• Commitment to excellence
• Leadership
• Reputation and morale
• Accountability
Those values are universal in business and in private life, so why is there an issue with following them in the hospitality industry? First, it is because of greed and corruption that are present in all corporations. The Enron scandal is one example, but there are many more. The hospitality industry, including lodging and restaurants, serves customers who must trust in the reliability of the establishment to care for them when they are most vulnerable, providing food and a clean, comfortable safe place to sleep. Second, ethics are important to maintain standards in an atmosphere of high competition so that low performance does not become the norm.

Hospitality Ethics in Consumer Transactions

The hospitality industry is primarily cash –based and people oriented. Sales are made online or at the front desk and are often completed without the customer seeing the property personally. Many consumers rely on branding to choose lodging or restaurants. That is where the ethic of commitment to excellence comes in.

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Still, how does a manager or owner keep standards high when operating costs are soaring? As expenses rise, taking shortcuts and settling for inferior supplies and service is becoming the norm. Fairness emerges as a difficult standard to hold as well. Guests who are accustomed to discounts and rewards systems often demand to negotiate for rooms, but is it fair to give one a discount and charge another the full rate? Integrity involves truthfulness, and increasingly hospitality venues tout things like a “green orientation,” when their actions don’t back up the claim.

In-House Ethics

The code of ethics also applies to relationships within the industry and between employers and employees. Because of heated competition many hospitality businesses have resorted to corporate espionage.

Recently Hilton hired the ex-president of another luxury hotel chain. The other chain had invested millions of dollars in consumer research and the new Hilton employee brought all that information with him to his new position. Hilton then opened a luxury brand based on the data. Was it ethical for him to use the research findings? A court is deciding the answer to that question.

Another in-house issue involves employee ethics. In an industry known for low pay and long hours, who can blame a housekeeper for taking a gallon of liquid laundry soap or a package of toilet paper? That seems like a small thing, but small things add up to big losses. Unreported cash sales at the desks or at a guest table in a restaurant are common as well. In fact, the website digital commons quotes the results of 1995 survey: forty-four percent of restaurant workers said they had stolen money or merchandise from their employers. How does the industry convey a standard of ethics to employees who are often poorly trained, poorly compensated and who move from job to job?

There are many issues involved in maintaining a standard of excellence and in holding up a brand in which people can place their trust. It isn’t easy, either, to operate a business that is growing more expensive to run and where consumer opinion matters so much. Still, the implementation of Hospitality Ethics is vital to creating a relationship with guests that will result in return business.