Be good to your guests ! Laxmi Pun

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Our culture is all about being good to the guest. It highly believes in the principles of ‘atithi devo bhava’; which means ‘guest is god’ in Sanskrit. Thus, it has the deeper meaning that god come to our homes in the form of guests. Since ages guests have been warmly welcomed and given utmost priority. In a broader sense any foreign person visiting our country is equal to the guest in our homes. Even if we don’t have much accountability towards the unknown faces walking around the streets; we do need to be polite to them, when they approach us. It is also our duty to help them know our culture, tradition, custom along others; when they approach us. We just cannot be rude. It is also related with the fame of our country.

Nepal has been always listed in the top ten tourism destinations in the world. Most significantly we have the birth place of Lord Buddha and the world’s highest peak-Mt. Everest. So we know why people from different parts of the world want to come Nepal. We should be also proud that Nepal has varied culture, language, costumes, festivals etc. People from different parts of the globe want to see and know us. They come and talk to us. In this process they are not the only benefiting party. Actually, we are the one to benefit more because the more they stay, the better for our tourism industry. After they land at the airport; they visit the hotels, lodges, restaurants, trekking agencies, casinos, homestays, wild-life sanctuaries, museums, markets, shopping malls, transportation etc. They are all the different parts of hospitality industry.

Our love and warm welcome should win their hearts. The guest should come again and again and take Nepal as their second home. They need to also feel secure here. Nepal has not remained aloof from modernization and commercialization. But the degree of warmth and hospitality should not decline. This is simply because the more number of guest we have, the more prosperous we shall become. Above all our expressions matter a lot. Tell your guests that it gives you pleasure and happiness to welcome them. They will feel more comfortable reaching out to you and your staff for their needs, as opposed to keeping their concerns to themselves, which can lead to bad reviews later on. They are paying for their stay and we have to make sure that they get their money’s worth. Travelers will only come back to hotels where they feel home. Though the business is for monetary benefit; that should not be the only and the ultimate motto. It will not only ruin your business goodwill and fame but the name of our country. One should remain sincere regarding the quality too. And never forget to thank them to be there and provide you the opportunity. If guests don’t visit you your business may shut down; so never take them for granted. And yes a smile is a must. It doesn’t cost anything for a smile ! If you only say thank you and welcome every time without a smile; there will be no difference between you and a robot. Now a days they too smile. A smile is a very human feature and reveals the warmth and affection towards a particular person.

At the same time try to avoid all the unnecessary behavior towards them. Just because you know they should be thanked; don’t disturb them or break the tranquility they expect. I remember once I had stayed at a hotel. After every 15 minutes there was a phone call from the reception asking if I needed anything. That was so harassing that I had to keep the receiver aside. A morning call or a gentle inquiry whether you would like to take a breakfast or lunch at the hotel is okay; but not a tring tring every now and then. Most of the tourists have a very hectic life in their country. Therefore once or twice a year, they take time to relax after hard work.They want total peace of mind. Therefore they google for a tranquil place; where they can have quality time with their family and friends. And if you give a cold look; your hotel will be in the black list. Remember if a guest doesn’t visit you again, there had been some problem. Only some people enjoy the revisits of their guests. Remember that if a guest is happy, he will not only knock at your door again but also refer it to his/her friends and relatives. Even if they try to taste something new; they will return to you for the special warmth and cozy environment. Note down what they like. Some hotels and restaurants are so much familiar with their guests that they know  each and every details about them. Whether they like coffee or tea; wine or beer, veg or non-veg; continental or local etc etc. These show that you care for them. And your body language shows so many things that you may not notice, but the next person learns swiftly.The eyes never lie even if you intend to. Please avoid the over acting too. Sometimes it’s only enough that you smile and continue with your task. Once I had been to a small town of China; where the shop-keepers didn’t understand English. So I had to use the calculator as my translator for the price. When the price was not okay to them; they would gently show the price they preferred. But one thing I appreciated they never made faces when they didn’t like the price I demanded. Instead they smiled and shook their heads. They uttered some Chinese in between; though I didn’t understand. But could understand what they were trying to say. Studies have shown that spoken words themselves account for roughly 50% of communication, with the other 50% coming from tone of voice, stance, facial expression and other forms of body language. You can be creative too. You can say, “Welcome to your second home in.” Or or any brand proposition your hotel is known for. The important thing is to exude warmth and for your guests to feel that they are in a place where they belong. Once when we were at Quingdao, a lovely coastal city in Shandong province; a gentleman (officer) who came to receive us at airport cracked a joke in the bus, I will never forget. The handsome guy with chinky eyes asked us why the sea was blue, as we rode along the beach. We  were all serious about the question. After sometime he broke the silence saying, “Because the fishes in the a water say, ‘blue’ ‘blue’ ‘blue’ !” We could not help laughing. We laughed until we reached our hotel. Humor is also an important thing to get entry into a stranger’s heart. Sometimes the guest may fall sick and is alone. Be there with them. Take out time for them. And not just bring the doctor and walk away. It is also the matter of humanity. I know a guy who runs a trekking agency. Every time a guest visits him; he never sends them back without a home treat. Though his wife is a working woman; she supports him fully and does her best to serve the home made food in the native style. There is nothing extraordinary they serve the dal, bhat, vegetable or non-veg in Nepali style. The foreign guests also become a part of the festivities too. They also love to wear our traditional costumes. One thing significant is don’t treat them as if they have landed from Jupitor or Mars. Be calm, gentle and normal. Most importantly be real and not something artificial.

             One of the important part of the tourism industry are the human resources involved in it. The staff are the one who interact more with the guests. Therefore, the staff should be able to provide quality service. This is also possible with proper trainings and workshops. Some hotels even take fresh people in their hotel because they demand less pay. Even if such is the condition, make sure they get the basic training and display good manners. You need not send them to special centres. The trainings could be in house. You could invite some experts in the field for some informative sessions. Your experienced friends in the field could do that for you. It is not always competition, mutual cooperation and understanding is important for the development and flourishing of tourism sector. Never underestimate the employees; they themselves could give wonderful feedback for the improvement. After all they are the one who interact with the guest more then you. So their upgrading will improve your business. Trainings on food and hygiene, language, manner, etiquette etc is a must. Train your staff to ask guests if there’s anything else that they need or want. Specially for tourist guides; if they are not trained well, they might only highlight the negative part more.Teach them the positive parts first. Remember if the guests are not satisfied they may write bad feedback or reviews about your service. This sort of negative feedback could have been avoided – if you know how to properly handle the situation. It is always advised that you keep a suggestion box or encourage them to fill up the papers by their bedside, in order to improve your services and figure out what they want. Remember first impression is last impression. And the chance comes only once! Some people don’t like to give the formal feedback etc, but their body language reveal their mind. Here are some points your staff need to follow for a smooth service.

  • Stand Up – Get off that chair and be presentable (iron your clothes) and remain smart.
  • Make Eye Contact – Eye contact produces feelings of caring, trustworthiness and likability.
  • Smile – They say a smile is contagious and it’s actually true! When we smile, it creates a spark that triggers the brain’s pleasure center.
  • Think before you speak–Sometimes you need not put the things direct. You need to think before.Words are indeed powerful tools. Half knowledge is dangerous. Therefore the guides need to be fluent in the language they communicate. If a wrong word is translated, it could bring a different reaction.
  • Know how to offer more – Give birthday cards to guests, offer complimentary breakfast upgrades, or print out Google Maps directions for your guests. Some hotels garland their guests as soon as they arrive. It’s a warm gesture to make the guest feel they are special to them. This August when I had been to Hotel Seven Star, one of the staff came to my table and inquired whether I would like to taste the last mangoes left in the garden. No sooner I nodded my head, she came back to me with a plate of yummy mango pieces.
  • Some Right versus Wrong hospitality words– “We can’t do that” vs “Please allow me to figure out a solution”; “We’re sold out” vs “Tonight our hotel is fully committed, can I offer to help you find nearby accommodations?”; “Checking out/in?” vs “Good Morning/Afternoon, How may I assist you?; “I don’t know” vs “ Please allow me to find out this for you”.
  • Be honest–Once in Goa, my friend she had left by mistake her gold bangle on the table. When she rushed back from half way to airport; she was thrilled to find it. The room was cleaned after she checked out, but the staffs had not touched it.

At the end ‘Empathy’ is what they search in you away from their homes, though they may be looking for amusement. You need to assure the guest that you sense the value of the issue to them personally. Sadly, empathy is not displayed as often as it might be in customer service, especially when dealing with complaints. It is sad if the hotel owner just comes and inquires to his/her staff whether the customer has paid for a particular service. Instead you need to focus more how they are feeling at your place. It is not fair to leave the entire business at the mercy of the staffs. Of course it is good to have trustworthy employees, but you need to know what is happening around. You may offer excellent verbal statements, but if your non­verbal communication doesn’t match your words, the guest will notice. They might receive the help they asked for, but still not feel that you are sensitive to their personal situation. Nepal is rich in its natural beauty, cultural heritage, history, languages, tradition and religion. This is the very reason why Hospitality Industry is one of the most booming industry in Nepal. Visitors from all over the globe gather in Nepal in tremendous amount for different purpose. If we manage to find the correct tuning, then no one can stop Nepal from gaining heights in prosperity through tourism industry. The youths will be not forced to seek foreign employment. Village tourism would flourish with economic benefit and rise in the living standards of the people. To conclude never allow artificial behaviur rule you. Be genuine in your words and deed. Attracting a guest once is not important, whether they revisit you counts !