are used to traveling, whether on business or leisure.
You already know the inner workings of the airline companies
and airports, you like to design your own schedules
and you know how to search online for exclusive destinations
and interesting hotels. You decide that you are going
to travel and you choose Thailand, for example.
book the ticket on a tourism website on Thailand and
find a destination and hotel that suits your taste.
There is a small description in English about the area
and hotel. There is also a link to make reservations
and another link to the hotel website. However, the
hotel website is written entirely in Thai and you cannot
find the little British or U.S. flag on the home page.
You think: maybe they didn’t have time to translate
the website yet... You click the reservations link and
set everything up; after all, you loved the way it looked
and have already traveled many a foreign land. You pack
your bags and head off happily to travel half way across
the world and enjoy an exotic place.
taxi, tips... Finally, you find yourself at the reception
desk of that beautiful little hotel at the shores of
a beach in paradise. When you address the receptionist
in English (unless you know a little Thai), you discover
she has a very basic vocabulary, yet finds your reservation
and sends you off to your room. That’s when the
instruction folder explaining how to use the hotel services
is written entirely in Thai. You look in the drawers
and find nothing in English. No problem... But now you
want to know what time dinner is served. You dial 9
or 0 for the operator or reception desk. And here things
really start to get absurd! The woman who answers your
call does not understand the question, tries to respond
in Thai and you obviously give up. You imagine that
8:00 p.m. would be a safe time to go...
You decide to risk it all, point to a plate on the menu
and order a beer (anyone can understand that). Luckily,
you chose correctly and the food is delicious. However,
you could have made a bad choice. Imagine that! And
what if you had eaten something to which you were allergic?
Your trip would have been over right then and there.
going back to your room, you stop by the reception desk
to schedule some trips for the following day. You remember
that the receptionist only knows how to say check
in, checkout, bedroom, airport,
dollars, keys and another handful
of words that she learned listening to the former receptionist.
There is a pamphlet describing daily activities for
guests, but it is only written in Thai.
won’t drag on describing all of the different
inconveniences tourists suffer when they are unable
to obtain quality information in a universal language
like English. We are talking here about the so-called
“independent travelers” who normally do
not purchase packages, prefer exclusive destinations
and hotels, have deeper pockets than most and are excellent
customers for the hotels that fall in this category.
may seem unbelievable, but certain Brazilian hotel owners
believe they are ready to welcome foreigners without
having even the minimum service infrastructure for such.
The truth is, if we want to welcome tourists to some
of our most interesting destinations, our independent
hotels must pay attention to certain basic requirements,
A website translated into English (and if possible
also into Spanish)
employees (at least at the reception desk and restaurant)
visual communication (signs and notices)
Outsourced services with bilingual personnel
someone responsible for the selection, inspection and
recommendation of independent hotels and inns in South
America for an international guide designed precisely
for the independent travelers, I have to pay attention
not only to the basic infrastructure (accommodations,
bedding, furniture, equipment, etc.), but also to the
quality of the services provided for this public.
try to put myself in the shoes of a foreigner when I
visit a hotel. When I feel that the establishment does
not have the means to accommodate tourists who do not
speak Portuguese, I do not recommend it. Obviously,
having this quality of service is not a sufficient condition
in itself, but it is necessary to start filling the
premises with foreigners.
this infrastructure, our independent hotels need to
increase their visibility abroad through publications
(guides, magazines, catalogs and websites), tourism
fairs and strategic partnerships. Joint initiatives
and government support should also be encouraged, but
this is subject for yet another article.
To conclude, in the hotel business, the expression “If
you build it, they will come” from the movie Field
of Dreams does not apply. It is necessary to have
more than a beautiful property with paradisiacal scenery
to attract foreign tourists. Or a star like Kevin Costner
to welcome guests at the entrance with a caipirinha
drink in one hand and a smile on his face. However,
I guarantee you that this will be much more expensive
than hiring a professional translation service!