All are welcome

One kind word can change someone’s entire day.

I truly believe that. Embrace it. I have been the giver and the recipient. The same goes for a smile. And many times, I find the most powerful moments happen between people who don’t even know each other. But in that one moment, they do.

It was 2012. My first NYU Investment Conference. I had been to many events and conventions during my career, but for former jobs in other industries. This was my first real hospitality-industry event. A big one. An important one. What a way to make my debut.

I’ll admit, I was nervous heading off to the opening-night cocktail reception: Would I know anyone? Would I be accepted? Would I be able to hold my own in a room of hotel executives? Was I wearing the right attire? I’m sure you’ve all been there before. A little bit of nerves, but a lot of excitement and anticipation.

And then I stepped onto the elevator. The only other occupant was a tall gentleman, dressed in a suit and tie, who seemed to be heading to the same floor as me. I immediately recognized him from photos I had seen in the pages of Hotel Business and various industry media and marketing pieces. It’s almost as if he sensed my nerves—or temporary lack of confidence—and he greeted me with a genuine smile as I stepped into the glass-enveloped space. He simply said, with warmth, authenticity and professionalism all packaged together, “Hello. Welcome. You look lovely tonight.”

Little did he know that those few words stayed with me all of these years—because in that moment, the kindness he showed and compliment he paid to a complete stranger at the time, boosted the confidence and reassurance I needed to step off that elevator—with a pep in that step, mind you—and into my new challenge and new career.

Many people in this industry have been sharing their personal accounts and professional stories of Marriott’s much-admired—and much-missed—CEO and leader, Arne Sorenson. And as tributes and remembrances have been shared and posted by members of the hospitality community from all levels and locations, it’s this simple exchange I wanted to share with you.

I would go on to enter that ballroom that night—and many ballrooms since—and feature Arne in Hotel Business and cover his brand initiatives and ethos and, like many, could list his various accomplishments and achievements not just as leader of the hotel giant, but in and for this industry at large. But this one-minute ride is what I’ll remember most about him. That very human approach. That one word, “welcome.” Personal and personable. Perhaps, he was offering a greeting as I joined him on the elevator; perhaps, it was a broader welcome

to “his” hotel (after all, we were in New York City’s Marriott Marquis); but, to me, it was “welcome to this industry.” After all, it’s the word at the heart of hospitality. And that moment embodied it to the fullest.

And it’s in that spirit of welcome that we, as an industry, approach the important topic of diversity and inclusion within our industry—and that Hotel Business approaches the topic in our cover story, which begins on page 14.

All are welcome. And all are encouraged to enter. It’s an industry, unlike any other, that caters to the most diverse populations and communities—wherever you’re from, whomever you are—and it’s an industry that is striving and evolving to reflect that diversity in the fabric of its businesses and brands. Senior editor Adam Perkowsky tackles the subject, focusing on how associations, organizations and educational institutions are expanding their reach and initiatives to attract, retain and grow the hotel leaders who represent all of us.

After all, this is the hospitality industry: You are welcome here.