Monday, 6 October 2008
Tourism for...well for anyone
Many years ago travel was something that far and few between could afford. There were no budget airlines, no last minute internet bookings, not much competition. Bel ragazzo has told me stories that some of his ex-hotel colleagues had bought houses with the tips they used to receive. Yes, they bought houses here in Italy based on tips alone. Working in the hotel and tourism industry used to be an elite and profitable sector. People were treated with respect as it was mostly only the well educated and wealthy who could afford to travel.
Bel ragazzo tells stories of a time where people used to thank you for assisting them, when they used to reward you for assisting them. These days one is overjoyed just to get a simple thank-you. Tourism has for a while now been available to the masses and although I am happy about that since I can afford to travel and I can afford to see the world, I know what these ex-colleagues of his are talking about.
These days people can pay next to nothing for a low cost airline to nearly anywhere in the world. They can get a train or a bus to their hotel and they can book the hotel last minute over the web so they pay peanuts for a 5 star hotel. 5 star hotels used to be exclusively for the rich and famous. Now a days even I have slept at a 5 star hotel...
I was in one of our top market 5 star hotels the other week and there were crazy children running around the reception screaming. When I thought it could not get any worse a bus load of young Americans pulled up out the front and they started to fill the reception with their loud arguing and fowl language. Dressed in next to nothing, and possibly all drunk I am sorry to say that I was shocked to see really how 'accessible' travelling has become. (Maybe they were all millionaires...I am not to know.)
I am not a snob, and as I said I am not the most wealthy person in the world so I do enjoy to take advantage of cheap offers, however when 5 star hotels are turned into common youth hostels then I cannot help but be disillusioned (and I was not even alive in the days that these ex-colleagues were talking about.)
Bel ragazzo has worked in 3 and 4 star hotels in Italy. Once upon a time when you booked a restaurant, ordered a taxi, called a doctor for a guest they thanked you with a small tip. You are after all going out of your way to do something for them. Before bel ragazzo left the hotel world he had assisted some unwell guests. He had done them a huge favour which ended up saving them 100 odd euro in medical expenses. They subsequently checked out of the hotel with out as much as a thank you...
I have ungrateful guests all the time. The most unpleasant situation is when you know the guests do not have money, but they managed to find a great deal at a 5 star hotel. They then, being rather ignorant about the cost of 5 star facilities, drink from the minibar, or call room service and are shocked at the cost. I had a lady who had won a competition from her work for a weekend in one of our plush 5 star hotels. She saw that the room had a menu for breakfast and an ordering card. Assuming it was free (I don't know how on earth she reached that conclusion) she ordered away and then rang me outraged that the hotel was trying to charge her a very large sum for this breakfast. She wanted to complain and for us to cover the cost. Obviously we did not.
Sadly the tourism industry has changed. Guests except you to go out of your way for them with no thanks. It's part of our job isn't it to be at their beck and call? If the hotel is not to their liking they scream at you like crazed animals. You book them restaurant, operas, excursions, tell them where to shop, where to go...what to do and this is the honest truth - if you are lucky you may get a hand shake or a smile of thanks. I booked a romantic restaurant for a young, arrogant honey moon couple. The man was yelling at me on the phone since his new bride had not received a bottle of champagne from the hotel. I kindly advised him that most of the hotels in Rome offer nothing for a honeymoon couple, but that if he was willing to pay I could provide some. He would not pay. He then demanded that I book this above mentioned restaurant. Before going there he threatened me saying that if it was not to his liking and not romantic enough then he would write in and complain to the company. And further more for the record he wanted me to know that he thought I was rude and unhelpful... Ahh...just another day in the modern world of travel.