Opportunities to Promote World Peace through Structured Training in Hospitality
Corazon Gatchalian and Cindi Reiman
A structured internship training that gives emphasis to the development of cultural awareness skills lays down the foundation for the development of future managers in the hospitality and tourism industry who can effectively interact in a multi culturally diverse workplace. Service Leadership in a Multicultural Workplace - an innovative internship training provided by the American Hospitality Academy (AHA), aims to develop future managers with strong leadership and cultural awareness skills. As trainees assume the role of cultural ambassadors, they are given the opportunity to better understand their own culture and eventually share their culture with other cultures. This is the first step towards promoting understanding and friendship, which are the foundations of world peace.
Cultural understanding begins when we can look into someone’s eyes and see their heart (AHA, 2005). Diversity has become an important concern in the international community. Race, colour, gender, religion and economic status are the most common "walls" that, aside from making communities distinct from one another, may cause divisiveness. Differences in education, language, physical abilities, age and culture can also serve as barriers to promoting understanding among people (AHA, 2005).
In the hospitality and tourism industry, where increasing globalization has been strongly felt over the past years, and is expected to be more strongly felt in the coming years, diversity has become a major concern. Hospitality and tourism education now face the need to develop future managers who can effectively cope with cross cultural diversity, and interact with co workers and guests of varied cultures.
Beyond just coping with this multi cultural phenomenon is another challenge that faces the hotel and restaurant industry. In every interaction - either with guests or among co workers - there lies an opportunity to contribute towards promoting understanding, friendship and peace.
Role of Tourism in Peace
Hospitality and tourism are now regarded as a worldwide phenomenon that brings together people of all nations and cultures. It is one industry where peaceful coexistence among people of different races, cultures and value systems can be demonstrated in day to day actions and interactions. With industry stakeholders constantly looking for ways to break down cultural barriers to be able to provide guests with the most pleasant experience possible, hospitality and tourism has become an ideal medium for promoting understanding and friendship among people.
By hosting people of different nationalities in an environment that promotes mutual understanding and friendship, hospitality and tourism, the world’s largest industry, can be a potent instrument towards fostering cross cultural understanding and world peace. AHA’s vision is for the world’s largest industry to become the world’s first peace industry - where every hospitality employee anywhere in the world, plays the role of Cultural Ambassador – armed with strong leadership and cultural awareness skills, and dedicated to promoting friendship, peace and understanding among people of all nations.
AHA believes that when people begin to understand their differences, they can begin to see their many similarities. Effective cross-cultural management starts with a concerted effort to recognize cultural diversity without judging it, and to see differences where differences exist. Such recognition can lead to a cultural synergy – where, over and above the awareness of one another’s cultural heritage - is the opportunity for more meaningful cooperation and collaboration.
Towards this end, tourism, as an instrument that fosters open and friendly communication between nations and cultures, creates a global language of peace that can help people understand one another and accept their differences. It can bring about unity in diversity – where people eventually realize that, although they may differ in customs, traditions and value systems, they share the same hopes and dreams for the future. Learning to understand and celebrate diversity is the most important step towards developing a cultural synergy – where the very differences in people can lead to mutual growth and achievement, and can be a potent force towards fostering peace and cooperation.
Service Leadership in a Multicultural Workplace
The American Hospitality Academy believes in education as the foundation for promoting peace and understanding around the world. Its Vision Statement is "To promote peace through practical training and tourism". In response to the growing need for future hospitality leaders who can effectively interact with a diverse workforce, the AHA championed the SERVLEAD (Service Leadership in a Multicultural Workplace) - a structured internship that aims to inspire cultural awareness and understanding and help students, as future industry leaders, develop the leadership skills necessary to succeed in today’s global economy. To this end, the SERVLEAD Internship Manual and Workbook was developed. It represents a multicultural collaboration between the hospitality industry, through the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), and university partners around the world. SERVLEAD transcends international boundaries to bridge cultural gaps by providing the first global internship certification that recognizes proficiency in both leadership and cultural awareness skills.
Through the SERVLEAD internship program, interns take on the role of Cultural Ambassadors, tasked with promoting understanding and friendship, as foundations for world peace. Their first concern, as Cultural Ambassadors, is to share their culture with hotel guests, employees and fellow interns.
Passport to Culture Program
In addition to the SERVLEAD Internship Program, the American Hospitality Academy has developed a cultural activities program which invites guests to "travel around the world" through AHA’s Passport to Culture Program. The Passport to Culture program provides guests the unique opportunity to participate in cultural activities that emphasize cross cultural learning. AHA’s Cultural Ambassadors implement the various cultural promotions as part of their SERVLEAD internship. AHA interns have the distinct role of sharing the customs, heritage, and traditions of their culture as they undergo practical training in the United States. Guests are encouraged to test their Cultural Awareness (CQ) and celebrate diversity by participating in the Passport to Culture program.
Sample activities under the Passport to Culture Program include:
"Message of Peace" cards
Objective: To present a courtesy message/card to all guests visiting the host property, where a peace message would be displayed in various languages.
"Welcome to My Country" Board
Objective: To present interesting facts and trivia on intern’s country in a designated area of the resort i.e lobby, recreation department, or poolside. Cultural ambassadors would design a poster board display with cultural pictures of important sites, traditional clothes, authentic food, natural resources, etc.
The International Concierge
Objective: To allow interns to share information about their respective countries and culture with the guests staying at the host property. Through this activity, guests are given the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of other countries and cultures.
"Test your CQ"
Objective: To have interns share some facts about eating habits, customs, traditions, dos and don’ts in their respective countries. This test enhances awareness of how different people are across cultures.
Objective: To have the interns share with their co-interns their cultural heritage and traditions through a structured monthly presentation including, but not limited to: decorations, food, music, dress, history, and customs.
Hands Around our World
Objective: To have interns assigned to recreation assist in creating a wall of hands from kids that have participated in the activities program and make a collage or poster of children from around the world.
Through these activities, interns become more aware, not only of their own culture, but also those of others. It demonstrates how people can be different across cultures. Understanding that these differences exist, and accepting them, is the first step towards fostering friendship and understanding, which are the foundations of peace. During internship, interns are dubbed as Cultural Ambassadors of Peace – a title they are expected to carry even after internship - when they finally join the hospitality workforce.
For centuries, the world has embraced the pineapple as an international symbol of welcome. The American Hospitality Academy has added a new cultural dimension to this traditional symbol. It has developed the Global Pineapple - to emphasize its dedication towards addressing the issue of diversity in the hospitality workplace. It views the hospitality industry as an ideal forum for the promotion of international understanding, where everyday, every employee plays the role of cultural ambassador - where even simple gestures as a smile and a sincere expression of Welcome – can effectively break down cultural barriers. Through a structured internship, where future hospitality managers and leaders are trained to encourage tolerance, celebrate diversity and lead by example - every one in the hospitality and tourism industry can become a cultural ambassador and learn to effectively knock down cultural barriers.
Every hospitality property, where everyone plays the role of cultural ambassador, can be an effective instrument in the promotion of global peace and understanding. On a worldwide scale, the hospitality and tourism industry can truly become a global peace industry – and thereby meaningfully contribute to achieving world peace.
American Hospitality Academy (2005), SERVLEAD Service Leadership in a Multicultural Workplace Internship Manual, The American Hotel and Lodging Association, Michigan.