The Ritz-Carlton name is widely associated with high standards and plush accommodations. In fact, the luxury hotel chain has more AAA Five Star Awards than any other hotel brand: a total of 28 properties out of 80 hold the prestigious recognition, along with an additional 16 locations boasting a four-star rating. Many of those same properties are also recognized as the best in their region or even the world by Conde Nast, Travel + Leisure and more.
While the brand’s prestige probably comes as no surprise, what guests and potential guests might not be so familiar with is just what kind of company Ritz-Carlton really is behind the scenes. After all there are nearly 40 thousand employees that make it all possible, and while their jobs inside the hotel are all about making your stay the best it can be, outside of a property’s walls, those same people are working to better people's lives.
For many years The Ritz-Carlton Company, L.L.C. has been working with various groups and foundations in the charity world. This particular story however is about Succeed Through Service, a two-year-old program that focuses specifically on our future: the children.
Did you know that all year long, every single Ritz-Carlton property reaches out to its local community to support schools, orphanages and more?
The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans regularly sends its troops out to deliver food to the community; The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo currently works to help offset the damage from last year’s earthquake and Tsunami. In Hong Kong, The Ritz-Carlton works with an orphanage to help support the many unwanted baby girls that appear on their doorstep. Other properties reach out into their communities to offer one-on-one lesson time or teach students how to prepare an easy but nutritious meal when a parent might not be nearby to do it for them. Every effort is made to tailor the hotel's outpour to fit exactly what the local kids need the most.
But how exactly does a luxury hotel choose where to focus their attention in a struggling local community?
Partnered with America’s Promise Alliance, founded by Colin Powell in 1997, The Ritz-Carlton adheres to a strict selection process outlined by the program. Together with his wife Alma, the Powells have nurtured a foundation that is the nation’s largest partnership dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth; Ritz-Carlton is the only hotel brand currently listed as one of the 400 partners. Working within the parameters set forth by APA, each general manager, at every Ritz-Carlton property, personally selects who or what their hotel will support. Once that decision is made every employee has a part in supporting local children, helping to make sure they stay in school and graduate -- one of the top priorities for both Ritz-Carlton and APA. In fact, fostering a positive future for these children is so important to co-founder and President of The Ritz-Carlton, Herve Humler, he has stated that he would like to see any child, who has graduated and completed the program at a partnered school, one day work for the company.
Fact: According to the Education Commission of the United States, a student drops out of school every nine seconds.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to share an exciting day with well over 50 individuals from Ritz-Carlton, the majority being General Managers from all over the world. This was a unique opportunity to encounter the culture that makes up this luxury company; a chance to see for myself what the soul of Ritz-Carlton really looks like. Every year, the General Managers come together for a week of interacting, team building, discussion and community outreach. This year, the annual meeting took place at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles at LA Live and as a direct result, the team threw on jeans and t-shirts in preparation for a day of gardening, painting and general work to help improve inner-city school, Roosevelt High. Even Herve worked side by side with his team; I watched him meticulously working his portion of the garden boxes that would later help educate the students on nutrition. Later I listened as students shared their dreams after graduation, pitched in to help us along and considered their future career paths as The Ritz-Carlton team shared personal stories of how life brought them to where they were that day.
By the end we were dirty, splotched with paint (at least I was) and all smiles. Perhaps the most common theme of conversation that day was simple joy: everyone was happy, reaping the emotional benefits of working together towards a common goal of literally Succeeding Through Service.
Fact: Every potential Ritz-Carlton employee must take what is widely considered to be the most rigorous personality test in the hospitality industry.
I make no secret of personally being a huge fan of Ritz-Carlton as a brand, I have been from the moment I experienced what it was like to stay in one as a little girl. But now I have an entirely new reason. That day I met every one of these General Managers on the same level, not as guest and host. I learned all of those same people that seem to care so much about my stay really do care, they are really good people. How exciting is it that each of them continue to pass on those positive qualities to the next generation? Year after year, they will watch these children grow up, offering a support system and cheering them on to the finish line. And maybe, one day, one of them will grow up to do the same.