Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hilton, Hotels, and Hospitality: Oh, the Irony

The Hilton Family of Hotels has launched a "be hospitable" campaign (just as heiress Paris has been welcomed into a slightly different hotel in southern California). The idea--which is a crass example of "welfare" marketing, selling a product by being "good"--is to compile and record random acts of hospitality around the country, all in the spirit of hospitality that supposedly motivates the Hilton hotel empire.

But of course the irony is that the explosion of the hotel industry is a symptom of the remarkable decline of real, concrete hospitality in this country. Not only do we not welcome the stranger, we don't even make room for our own families any more. Or those visiting don't want their style cramped by staying at Uncle Ben & Aunt Susie's, so they check into the hotel first (recall a recent Holiday Inn campaign that centered around how terrible it must be to actually stay at your family's house on Thanksgiving). And this is true even in the church.

The random acts of so-called hospitality being logged by this campaign are just a cover for the exponentional decline of real hospitality. If we actually, really, concretely started to practice hospitality--welcoming the stranger--the Hilton hotel empire might be in trouble.