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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hoteliers: A Notable Career in a Global World

Before I graduated from university, I had never had any interest to engage in hotel industry. The insight then arose out of job interviews and screening process I came across later on. Most of the locations were not in the city I lived in. It would be no problem if it took place somewhere in Jakarta in the afternoon, because I could leave and go home exactly on the same day. However, the schedule was often very early in the morning or ended quite late in the evening when there was no transportation available. Staying at a relative’s or a friend’s house was not a good option unless it was in close proximity to the test or interview venue.

Hence, spending a night or two in a hotel was the convenient solution. Due to my financial limitation, of course, I stayed not in five-star hotels. It was more comfortable than staying at a friend’s or a relative’s, though. I could choose the one near the test venue and it was easier for me to get there. I did not have to worry that I would bother anyone with my being there as well. And it was more than enough to develop my awareness that hotel industry, along with the people in it, is of importance to today’s needs, and lifestyle.

The afore-mentioned illustration is only a small example of how appealing a career in hotel industry would be. Even the unemployed need the service, let alone those on vacation or business trips.

With its beautiful landscapes and unique cultures, Indonesia has long become a center of attraction when it comes to tourism. Apart from some threats happening lately, it nonetheless has various potential money-making tourist resorts. Let us not take a look at only foreign tourists. There are also many local tourists who are willing to exchange their cash for enjoyable moments somewhere outside their home. Although tourists do not travel any time of the year, there is a good chance that public holidays can be rewarding for those working in hotel industry.

Business travelers are also not to be taken for granted. These people come somewhat steadily, on holidays or not. As globalization and the so-called trend of conducting meeting out of the office grow, hotel industry can also benefit from outbound or training activities. The tip given may not be as good as that by foreign or local tourists, but the income for the hotel where those employees stay is possibly high.
In a way, a hotel business can fulfill one of people’s basic needs—the need for shelter, that is. It is always lucrative as long as people still do long-distance travels. Consequently, in terms of financial benefits, a career in hotel industry can be as worthwhile.

However, a coin always has two sides. While a career in the industry is money-spinning to some extent, it has demanding working hours. Perhaps there is no such thing as holidays for hoteliers. In fact, when others are enjoying public holidays, hotel employees may be going through their busiest moments. Neither would it be easy during non-public holidays as business trips are usually made within those times.
In spite of the physical endurance required to accomplish errands in hotel industry, there is also a social and a family life to consider. Those pursuing their career in hotel industry can simply find themselves leaving their spouse at home and rarely seeing their children. There is no official statistics on marriage breakdowns in this industry yet, but the point is still something to ponder over.

People in hotel industry are also prone to socialize among themselves as they have little time to mingle with the “outside world”. This happens when they do not get an even representation of life and adopt the attitudes and behaviors of a narrow section of the community. The worse thing is when this results in their inability to look at the business from customers’ standpoint.

In addition, certain conservative Indonesian views see a job in hotel industry, especially for women, rather negatively. One of the reasons would probably be the long working hours—perhaps until late at night, while many Indonesians tend to judge that kind of behavior, especially for women, disapprovingly. It may also be caused by the privacy given for hotel guests which enables them to do just about any—both legal and illegal—activities they want in their room. Even though this negative disposition may be nothing but a narrow-minded prejudice, I believe it exists, though hidden or unsaid.

This circumstance, not to mention the hassles of dealing with customers, may well put hoteliers through a stressing work situation. When the pressure—either from the upper management or from the fussy hotel guests—is too hard to bear, negative impacts may occur, such as health problems caused by alcohols, foods, or cigarettes. Drinking for example, is easy to slip into the habit of having one or two every night. Then it becomes one or two with good customers, a glass of wine with dinner, and so on.

Nevertheless, no matter how difficult it is to handle customers, there is always this distinctive opportunity for hoteliers to broaden their horizons in culture management. Working in a hotel means meeting different guests from different backgrounds, characters, ethnic groups, nationalities, and religions. It is a good way of learning about other languages, customs, or traditions. Therefore, it is not surprising that people with a career in hotel industry are typically multilingual and able to adjust to different cultures.

The demand of understanding others is not merely about languages or how to communicate verbally with people. It is also about recognizing their common day-to-day living practices. How people take a bath, for instance. Indonesian bathrooms are different from Americans. Likewise, American bathrooms are not the same as those of Japanese or Arabs. Although this does not imply that a hotel should provide every single thing desired by each culture, hoteliers may gain advantages from learning how the diversity takes place.

Knowledge of cultural diversity is surely useful in providing best service for customers. But more importantly, it saves us from our self-centered prejudice of generalizing people, particularly those from different cultures. We would be able to reduce negative stereotypes towards others—stereotypes such as Westerns purely adopt free sex, Africans are drug-smugglers, Muslims are terrorists, Sumatrans are loud-mouthed, Javanese talk about others behind their back, etcetera.

In the end, thinking that wars and world disputes are partly down to negative labels put on others, ideal hoteliers would likely be some of the best citizens of the world to maintain harmony. Taking their contributions into account, I believe it is fair to say that good hoteliers are representatives of world peace.

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