What follows is adapted from Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, to fit the world of hospitality.
What’s a Love Language?
Offering the most memorable experience possible to each and every guest is a high priority for professional hosts and managers. This group of people is committed to hospitality. Each 5 star review validates their efforts and propels them forward with adrenaline. It’s like the joy of a giddy schoolgirl bringing home a flawless end of year school report. It just feels wonderful.
But then the random 3 star review slams into the host like a sack of potatoes thrown at them without warning. Why would this particular guest not have felt as welcome as the previous 30 guests who had each given a 5 star review?
Possibly because the host was speaking the love language of those first 30 guests but not for guest number 31.
There are five love languages that Gary Chapman identified in his research about relationships, and these love languages can be seen in any type of relationship, even in the host/guest relationship of care and hospitality: Acts of Service, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts.
Each of the love languages, as they relate to hospitality, is defined below. You’ll also find 5 examples (look for the ❤️) of how you can “talk” to that type of guest.
#1: Acts of Service
Would the host setting out the tea and coffee, ready to be made, really be an expression of love, care, and hospitality? Absolutely! Anything a host does to ease the burden of responsibilities of the guest who is an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes of care to that guest. The words this guest most wants to hear: “Let me do that for you.”
However, a host that is lazy, breaks commitments, and creates more work for this type of guest tells them that their feelings don’t matter. When hosts serve this guest out of care and hospitality (and not obligation), this guest feels truly valued, appreciated, and welcomed.
❤️ Examples of Acts of Service:
- Firewood ready in the fireplace
- Easy to find and open the lockbox
- Sharp knives in the kitchen
- Maintenance on time
- Leaving the entry light on
#2: Quality Time
Nothing says “I appreciate you” like full, undivided attention to the guest who speaks the “Quality Time” love language. Being there for this type of guest is critical, but really being there — with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby as you answer their questions — makes the guest feel truly special and loved.
Distractions, postponed responses, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful to this guest. On the flip side, this guest thrives knowing that their host has spent extra time to make their stay extra special. These caring touches that take extra time can be seen in the property welcome book that includes area info about coffee shops, grocery stores, and the best local attractions.
❤️ Examples of Quality Time:
- Providing local recommendations pre-arrival
- Answering questions thoughtfully
- Making your website easy to book via mobile
- Having a well-made bed
- Thoroughly clean and spotless space
#3: Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words, especially for a guest who is a “Words of Affirmation” person. If this is your guest’s love language, words of appreciation mean the world to them.
Hearing the words, “Thank you for being our guest,” are important — hearing the reasons behind the thanks sends their spirits skyward.
Horrible communication or rude responses will leave this guest shattered. And they won’t easily forget.
❤️ Examples of Words of Affirmation:
- Saying “thank you” in communications
- Praising them for their choice of property
- Call/text/email on day +1 to welcome them
- Telling them they are appreciated as a guest
- Staying in touch after they’ve checked out
#4: Physical Touch
A guest whose primary language is “Physical Touch” is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, and thoughtful touches on the arm — they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love — and also not quite appropriate for a host, nor even possible when the host is not present.
Physical presence and accessibility may not always be possible, but this guest is okay with other methods like social media love and a physical thank you note.
Appropriate and timely touches like a handshake or thank you note communicate warmth, safety, and appreciation to this guest. Another way to speak this language is through specific amenities in the property, such as clean, soft sheets with snuggly blankets on a well-made bed.
❤️ Examples of Physical Touch:
- Handwritten welcome note on arrival
- Comfortable room temperature according to the season
- Music playing for ambience
- Call/text/email on day +1 to welcome them
- Soft linens and fluffy towels
A word on handwritten notes and emails/texts. None of these have to be done by a human if the size of your property portfolio makes that tough. As long as the tone and words are human, the process can be systemised. It’s the act itself that is important. Just make sure the message comes across authentically, not as a canned message.
#5: Receiving Gifts
The “Receiving Gifts” love language is not materialism; this guest thrives on the care, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift a host leaves for them.
The perfect local welcome gift shows that the host knows their target guest, cares for their guest, and prizes this guest above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to them.
A missed welcome gift or note would be disastrous to the guest who speaks this love language. Gifts are heartfelt symbols to this guest of their host’s appreciation for them.
❤️ Examples of Receiving Gifts:
- Welcome gift of a local item or with your logo
- Surprise gift for the occasion they are celebrating
- Pre-arrival greeting card with local tip
- List of local discounts arranged with local businesses
- Post-stay thank you gift as a memory
Hosts don’t have to wrestle with the love languages to understand how they can reach every one of their guests in one way or another. And there is no reason to have guests complete a questionnaire or do a quiz.
Just know that every person perceives our worlds and expresses our connection with them in different ways.
Then take action.
P.S. Want to know your own love language as a guest? Take our quiz based on Gary Chapman’s quiz: touchstay.com/love.