Whenever we think or talk about travelling in the Caribbean, LIAT invariably comes up, and often it is not with positive words. We ignore the times LIAT is on time, when our luggage has arrived with us and we take for granted the safety of LIAT. Instead we lament the many times they are late, our luggage missing and sometimes it takes weeks to resurface. I am not making excuses for LIAT; this is one organisation I would love to get an opportunity to restructure; however I appreciate the safety of LIAT and maybe its apathy but I have learnt to manage the disruptions caused by LIAT.
This week I want to focus on another side of travelling the Caribbean, that often stays under the radar, but in some instances are worse than LIAT: Accommodation. I take it for granted when I travel, especially when I am travelling on business and my accommodation arrangements are made by someone else, that the accommodation will be of a high quality; that the place is clean, linen and towels are of good quality, food is excellent and I can feel happy and content that I am safe not just from attack but from illnesses arising from the poor condition of the accommodation. These are actually standards I set for hotel accommodations. The majority of times, those standards are met and sometimes exceeded, however occasionally, I find that the accommodation fails to meet the standards and I am left feeling annoyed and dismayed. Most times when I find myself in this untenable situation it is because the hotel stock on the island is limited and so with little options I have to “grin and bear it.”
In recent times, in two different countries, I have had the misfortune of having to stay at accommodation that fall way below minimum acceptable standards, and I found myself thinking after the most recent instance, “We complain and complain about LIAT, but where are the complaints against these accommodation entities that fall way beyond even the minimum standards established?” The comparison is even starker when upon leaving that establishment one moves on to a high quality establishment.
Small hotel establishments and guesthouses often complain about low occupancy and sometimes as happened in Dominica last year, accuse higher-end establishments of underpricing. These establishments, instead of looking inwards for the problems misguidedly look and blame external factors. From my recent experiences, while service was okay (not excellent), I will not be returning to either establishment if ever I were to have a choice. The following are some of the reasons for my position:
- Mismatched bed linen
- Threadbare bed linen
- Threadbare towels
- Rooms not properly cleaned
- Non-functioning equipment, including air conditions
- No ironing board or iron in one’s bedroom
- Soaps that cling on to wrapper suggesting it was wet or
- Management instead of apologizing and trying to make amends, engages you with one excuse after the next
- Establishment has no eating establishment and where it does, the food does not appear or in some cases, taste freshly made.
In my last encounter with one of these sub-standard accommodation establishments I finally found myself in the hotel laundry room when after three attempts by Housekeeping, I could not find a sheet to meet my specifications. The sheets were so threadbare they looked dirty. Upon arrival in the Laundry Room, and examining sheet after sheet, I could find no suitable sheet and towel, that led me to conclude that in future, anytime I know I am going to be staying at one of these establishments, I will ensure I have my own sheets and towels. I couldn’t believe that I was the first person who complained about the establishment but everyone from Manager/owner to Housekeeper were looking at me with such exasperation, that it appeared that I was the first complainant. Well, if this were so, I did not mind for it was about time they got a wake up call.
I told the owner she needed to reinvest in her business and told the organisers who had booked me there, that if they wanted to enhance tourism and service delivery, they needed to start with the accommodation establishments, especially the one chosen to house its people. This is the key advice I have for these establishments; the reinvestment in the business is critical. It is the starting point. You cannot expect to attract customers and repeat business, if you do not take care of the basics: proper linen and towels. Other recommendations include:
- Invest in training for owners, managers and employees
- Ensure quality control by having persons check that rooms are clean and everything is in order before a guests check –in
- Prepare a Check List which will serve as a prompt
- Marketing and promotion, however only after the establishment has been remodeled, restocked and service levels enhanced.
- Regular maintenance to ensure working equipment
Many of our Caribbean countries see tourism as the “savior of the economy,” however without enough quality accommodation stock, this will remain a dream and not a reality. This means that the tourism related agencies, like our DiscoverDominica Authority, Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association and other related local organisations need to proactively manage this sector. I am committed to work with these organisations in establishing and monitoring the standards for the accommodation establishments. I tell you, I am sure I can be an assessor for rating these hotels for I have a test, which I apply every time I check in at a hotel, anywhere in the world.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 449 9694