Learn to appreciate each another

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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in August 2011.
For more information about Viability, please visit http://www.linkedin.com/company/2347942 or http://www.viability.ae/

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Learn to appreciate each another

  1. 1. 20COMMENT Learn to appreciate each another With SOPs and training manuals threatening to wipe out our colleagues’ natural charm, Viability director Guy Wilkinson asks what price are we really paying for luxury service? A typical Zanzibari beach resort with a ‘makuti’ roof made of palm — is it right to expect high levels of service? sible ideal to achieve. And would you want to see it achieved, if it meant COLUMNIST stripping the employees of all that HOLIDAYMAKERS HEAD FOR DESTINATIONS makes them who they are? t’s very easy to criticise the ser- SUCH AS ZANZIBAR BECAUSE THEY ARE The irony is that holidaymakers I vice at a luxury hotel. If you’re like me, and fortunate enough to have stayed (or worked) in some really great hotels, then your standards are probably pretty high, WONDERFULLY LAID-BACK PLACES — AND YET THEY DEMAND THAT THE HOTEL STAFF ARE SUPER-EFFICIENT ROBOTS WHO ARE AS UP-TIGHT AND PERNICKETY AS THE head for ‘paradise island’ destina- tions such as Zanzibar, the Sey- chelles or the Caribbean, precisely because they are wonderfully laid- back, relaxing places. And yet they which means that with every year GUESTS THEMSELVES demand that the hotel staff there are that goes by, you find it that much all super-efficient little robots who easier to be disappointed by the ser- are in fact as up-tight and pernickety vice. Little details become so impor- as the guests themselves. With the tant for one’s satisfaction — their best will in the world, it’s not going to presence so gratifying, their absence were serving us came from the grass eration of what the room attendant happen, because it’s a contradiction so annoying… hut village along the pot-holed track is feeling, covered from head to toe in terms. That’s why in so many of To be honest, if you’ve reached that we had to drive through to reach in her decent Muslim attire — the these places, the department heads that point, then to coin a phrase: “Get the hotel, or at least from somewhere very same person who makes those are typically highly-paid, highly a life!” Really, there are more impor- equivalent. In Zanzibar, we learned, pretty flower arrangements on the uptight expats who come from far tant things. My wife and I were on more than 80% of the population live bed for the delight of the hotel’s fat away countries where this is the assignment in Zanzibar just recently without electricity, a legacy of the cat guests. norm. In Zanzibar, according to and needed to stay at a series of dif- ‘revolutionary’ regime that has held our research, a western department ferent luxury hotels. The service back both development and educa- SERVICE IDEALS head can earn up to 20 or 30 times the varied, of course, but was gener- tion on the island for decades now, in I realise that from the operational monthly package of a local worker. ally characterised by a lot of smiles the name of socialism and ironically, view point, the level of service I have used the example of Zan- and willingness to please. A pedant the people. expected of an employee should zibar, but the truth is that many might observe that it was at times Another interesting phenomenon theoretically be unaffected by that of these observations apply to our also very slow, the standard of Eng- we learned of in Zanzibar, which has person’s socio-economic back- region as well. The system is indeed, lish often poor, and sometimes there a primarily Muslim population, is ground, the education they received, unlikely to change any time soon, was even a hint of barely disguised that it is still not well-seen for young their religious beliefs, or even their so in the meantime, a little human- resentment at us over-demanding Muslims to enter the hotel indus- national mentality. The wonders ity and understanding between the foreign guests. try. We are hopefully a few steps of modern training techniques and brothers and sisters in our profession Now why should that be, I won- further down the road here in the the power of carefully developed will go a long way towards healing der? Anything to do with the fact Middle East towards knowing that SOPs should mean that all employ- any resentments that exist. HME that the rate we paid to stay for just service is not the same as servility. ees come out of the induction process one night at each these properties But you can still understand what transformed into ‘ladies and gentle- was typically the equivalent of twice those Zanzibari parents who resist men serving ladies and gentlemen,’ the monthly salary of the line staff the industry are afraid of. It’s the to borrow Ritz-Carlton’s famous who attended us (and that’s before insensitivity of western tourists who phrase (see pages 56-59). Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a they pay their 25% contributions to come to the island and immediately In reality, however, with all due hospitality and property consulting firm in Dubai. the government there)? Or the fact strip off down to their trunks and respect to both the trainers and the For more information, e-mail: guy@viability.ae that many of the employees who bikinis, without a moment’s consid- trainees, this is an almost impos- August 2011 • Hotelier Middle East www.hoteliermiddleeast.com

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