Generation of Dreamers

Hugh and Hope Darley Oct. 29 1998 Shuttle Launch with John Glenn

As I watch the final shuttle lift off this morning from Central Florida I was wondering if an incredible generation of dreamers has come to an end. I was born in 1958 a year many consider to be the start of the space age and realize the US after today cannot immediately return to space. I have grown up in a country where everything was thought to be possible and where dreamers and visionaries were of great value to our society and seen as leaders for the betterment of mankind. Yet all around us I see the value relationship of dreams reduced to financial models and bottom line feasibility studies; every great idea is immediately challenged by the assessment of risk and financial gain before any realization of the dream.

In our industries of hospitality and tourism the dream is the real value, and the reward is the emotional reward of the consumer and not the immediate financial gain of the investor in those industries. I have enjoyed a great career path working for and with visionary companies and people. I have seen that true dreams and vision are not only valued for their financial reward but by the emotional reward enjoyed by their user and the long term value of its associated brand. As I have watched our economic environment decline; the most prevalent observation that I have made is that of who is leading the decision making process related to dreams and vision. Whether dealing with Corporations or Governments the transfer of leadership has moved from one of aspiration to desperation. Everyone is looking to preserve what they think they have, over what they think they could have. Corporate leaders and their middle managers are so reluctant to make suggestions for change that they have become non participants in growth and growth strategies. Visionaries and dreamers of the world are joining the ranks of the unemployed as bankers and legal practitioners expand their scopes and aggressively reach into every aspect of our lives.

Most remarkable in our industry has been the transference of ownership in the hotel industry where as more and more properties fail due to financial pressures; bankers and financiers become the new hoteliers. Unlike professional hoteliers who focus on the guest experience, service and guest satisfaction the new breed of hotel operators are bottom line focused and cost control driven. Unfortunately the word hospitality does not have a line item in the balance sheet.

I sit here today wondering if the dreamers and visionaries of the past are simply going extinct due to the lack of interest and understanding by the business and financial community at large or simply becoming irrelevant. Fortunately with extinction there comes a new opportunity to replace the old with the new. In our case I hope that society will return to more simple times of valuing personal service and emotional reward over financial gain. I hope we will return to investing in people and not institutions and next quarter’s balance sheet. I will remain a dreamer in waiting and trust that the world returns to a new age of dreaming and look to visionary people as valuable assets not as a cost line item on the balance sheet.