Designing The Guest Experience

The Differentiating Value of Neuronal Plasticity in the Hotel Industry - By Osvaldo Torres Cruz

To manage increasing demand, hotel businesses face an exponential development and, consequently, an increment of the offers and a change of behavior of their main clients: the potential guest, who has become more selective when deciding where to spend their leisure time.


The hotel industry is recognized as one with the highest growth rates in the present international economic scenario. According to the World Tourism Organization, in the period from January through April this year, there was an increase of more than 5,3 % (18 million) tourists -as compared to the same period last year - who wanted, following the basic principle of existence of a hotel, a place to rest and eat. In order to manage this increasing demand, hotel businesses face an exponential development and, consequently, an increment of the offers and a change of behavior of their main clients: the potential guest, who has become more selective when deciding where to spend their leisure time.

The increment in the number of offers has contributed to the emergence of a ruthless competence to catch the attention of the potential clients. This has then become one of the greatest challenges of hotels, because making a difference is increasingly harder since the hotel products and their related services have been turned into easy-to-imitate commodities.

The leading hotel businesses in the market have visualized the need to compete in an intelligent way, offering the same products and related services, but in a different fashion. In other words, moving from the what to offer to the how it is offered, in such a way that the same products and related services can be interpreted by their clients as unique, exclusive and generators of positive emotions. The main doer of this change is, without a doubt, the hotel worker who offers and renders most of the hotel services.

It is then necessary that the hotel worker be able to modify his/her behavior and performance to adapt the service offered to the expectations of the guest, that is, customize them. Then, it is worth asking: Is it possible for a person to develop this capacity to change constantly? Neurosciences provide a positive response to this question as it has been proven that there are constant modifications in our brain in terms of the size and type of hebbian networks (neuronal assemblies), which allow our brain to recast over and over again in response to new life experiences, known as neuroplasticity.

The term neuroplasticity was introduced in 1890 by the American psychologist William James to describe the customizable nature of human behavior. In the last years of the 19th century, Santiago Ramón y Cajal proposed that these behavioral modifications should have an anatomic substrate, attributed to the brain, and that the changes of variable duration in the synaptic function originated by external stimuli to condition the learning process.

It is precisely this external environment what stimulates the speed and intensity of new life experiences, thus modifying the existing neuronal connections or creating new ones which, in turn, are reflected in the behavioral modifications of the human being.

This capacity of changing our minds and behavior allows us, the hoteliers, to adapt our performance in response to the stimuli we receive from our guests, so they can interpret our services as personal, unique and, therefore, different from others.

On the other hand, it allows us to widen up our mental maps and adapt ourselves to the culture, idiosyncrasy, costumes, believes, ideas, preferences, likes and needs of the guests, so we can modify our interactions with them and make them feel appreciated, understood and, above all, important.

It is critical to take into consideration that the mechanisms of the plasticity of the brain can include neurochemical changes of the end plate, of the receptors or structures, as well as of its structural plasticity, for it has been proven that there is some sort of cooperation between the brain areas responsible for the continuous remodeling process of our neuro-synaptic maps involved in the processes of creativity and decision making when offering ¨the same thing¨ in a different way.

These mechanisms involve a considerable energetic effort of the brain. Therefore, under stressing working conditions and/or environments, the process of neuroplasticity will slow down or be conditioned and, consequently, will the speed and efficiency of the resulting change.

Knowing about neuroplasticity contributes to the work of hotel business, for it allows them to adjust and reorganize the mind of hoteliers, changes that are necessary to offer several services adapted to the needs and wishes of every guest, thus turning them into indelible memories in their minds, the real location where the actual business competence takes place.


Osvaldo Torres Cruz

Experiential Hospitality Consultancy

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