Breaking Communication Barriers in Tourism and Hospitality Industry

Published: 2021-09-29 12:30:10
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Category: Communication

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As businesses become increasingly globalized it forces a growing number of businesses to interact across cultural boundaries. Since culture affects almost all aspects of everyday communication, there is a need to put more of an emphasis on communication barriers by the hospitality industry. Managers are exposed on almost every organizational level to other national cultures. This intercultural service encounters caused by globalisation can affect the service levels provided by the hospitality industry. An individual state of mind towards other cultures may influence the hospitality industry as a whole in terms of certain cross-cultural decisions. In other words, the level of cultural openness could affect how companies act in certain countries. This is why hospitality industry must retain information on communication barriers and use this research to train culturally aware managers and hospitality education must nurture its students to embrace diversity so they are qualified to meet this demand.
We live in South Africa – a country filled with different races, religions and cultures. We are a diverse and unique nation but we are a divided nation because of the five intercultural barriers that we use. These barriers are what stops people from effectively communicating with one another. In this essay I will be discussing these intercultural communication barriers and how they can lead to a breakdown in communication within the hospitality industry. These barriers include ethnocentrism, prejudice, stereotypes, language barriers and non-verbal communication. I will also discuss methods on how to overcome these barriers to create a fruitful working environment.Isn’t it amazing, how this world is made up of so many different individuals’ part of different cultures. This makes people come together and stand together in a group. There is nothing wrong with ethnicity, it just means a group of people following the same culture. Nevertheless, what happens when ethnocentrism takes over? Ethnocentrism is the tendency of individuals to elevate their own culture as the standard against which they judge others, and to see their own as superior to others (Berry, Poortinga, Segall, & Dasen, 2002: 1). Although ethnocentrism allows people to praise their own cultures and take pride in it, it is thought of as a damaging trait amongst people because people who are ethnocentric are unaccepting of cultural diversity and narrow-minded towards other cultures. This often stops different cultured people within the hospitality industry from communicating because they think that they are better than the other culture and therefore have nothing in common with them so they refrain from communicating with one another.
This is a few examples of ethnocentrism in the hospitality industry. A Manager of the food and beverage department is having a meeting discussing what food shall be given to the staff throughout the week when one work asks if they can have umvubo because it is an ideal meal to eat on a warm day the manager immediately says no because she thinks that this is disgusting and who would want to eat that why can’t they just eat a burger and fries like normal people. Another example given by Laxson (1991:18) of ethnocentrism would be how Colonialists have frequently been known to justify their predations by altruistically claiming that they are enriching and elevating the lives of poor backward natives. I know we are talking about the hospitality industry and that this has nothing to do with the colonisation that started in the 15th century but this statement corresponds with what I am about to say: The Hospitality Industry itself is ethnocentric. They use European culture throughout the hotel industry because they think that whatever makes their ways superior should be the standard for everyone. This is shown to us because the hospitality industry only brings European culture into the hotel by exclusive use of English names of signs noticeboards, menus, tent cards at reception and elsewhere proclaiming that French, German and Italian are spoken. Not one African language is even referred to. Neither is the excessive playing of European classical and popular music in public areas and lifts even the hold function on the telephone system at most hotels play European music. There is also European and other non-African restaurants and jacket and tie dress codes. French and other haute cuisine menu terminology dominate the restaurants that also offer only continental or full English breakfast in the morning and afternoon tea in the afternoon. This is done because it is strongly believed that European culture is the best this is not necessarily intentional discrimination but it is the consequence of the influence of Europe and their unquestioned model of what a good hotel should be like.
A strategy to overcome both of the problems faced in the examples given would be to design hotels so that they promote diversity. Not only by training management and staff in cultural sensitivity or in the way that they talk to customers but to incorporate different kinds of cuisine and culture in a hotel and not only what a certain culture sees as being appetising, lavish or appropriate. For example, this can be done by having a come as you are dress code instead of a suit and tie code because not everyone sees wearing a suit and tie as fancy or normal.
The next barrier that I will be discussing is prejudice. Gordon Allport termed prejudice in his classic book, The Nature of Prejudice, as “an antipathy based upon a faulty and inflexible generalization” (1954:9). As I have said before we live in a diverse nation filled with different cultures so after a certain period of time we interact with people from different cultures. We then start to judge that person based on certain things that they do and the more that we meet people from the same cultural group with similar characteristics the more we start to create a perception that everyone from that cultural group is the same, this can either be a bad or good perception. Prejudice stops people in the hospitality industry from communicating because once someone has a bad prejudgement of someone they don’t want to mix with someone that is like that so they avoid communicating and interacting with people them.
This is an example of prejudice in the hospitality industry. The employment interview is one of the ways that prejudice takes place in the Hospitality industry. For instance, a General manager is interviewing possible employees to be his assistant manager A Black male comes for the interview but before even talking to the Black male the Manager already thinks that the Xhosa people are lazy and take everything for granted and that they just mess up everything that they put their hands on. So because of his prejudice he won’t hire anyone from African cultures because he thinks that all of these African cultures is the same as being Xhosa. Another example of prejudice is when a young group of coloured people come to sit and eat at a restaurant and the waiters take long to help them because they are young and the waiters think that they will not be tipped so they are not as important so the waiter goes to help the older couple that came in after the young group of people instead. Not only do they take long to help the group of young coloured people are also tells them that they are going to have to prepay before they have even ordered. When the waiter is asked why she responds by saying we have had issues with people like you before.
It is very difficult to identify prejudice because people often hide it or deny the fact that they are prejudice. So it makes it nearly impossible to fully overcome prejudice but this is few strategies to make it less discriminatory when hiring staff instead of having one person that interviews the possible employees to have aboard of people from different cultural background’s that interview the possible employees so that there is less place for possible prejudice during the hiring process. Another way to stop prejudice during the service process is to train staff to treat everyone the same when they come to the establishment and not to favour one customer over the other.
The third barrier that I shall be discussing is stereotypes. Stereotypes are closely related to prejudice in some aspects their characteristics overlap, but stereotypes are a distinct occurrence. A stereotype is a fixed general image or set of characteristics that a lot of people believe represent a particular type of person or thing (Marcus: 2008: 21) Strangely, there is almost no texts written which deal with the presence of cultural stereotypes among the workers or guests in the hospitality industry or even the people working in a management level, even though this is an industry in which by its own professional demands is in constant contact with people from other cultures. This is why stereotypes have an effect on the attitudes and behaviour of people in the hospitality industry towards diverse peoples. These attitudes and behaviours can have a negative impact the effectiveness and even the success of the hospitality industry because even if the stereotype may be correct, it can still be emotionally damaging to that group people.
This is some examples of stereotypes in the hospitality industry. Every day when workers enter or exit the reef hotel they are all searched upon entering and exiting the hotel. When the workers are searched they are just briefly given a quick pat down but when the coloured workers enter and exit the hotel they are thoroughly searched because they are stereotyped as violent and that they always have knives on them. Another example of a stereotypes would be when there is a promotion available in the hotel to be the head of accounting and two people applied the first person has been working there for five years and is more experience but the second person that is less qualified and has only worked there for three years gets the job because he is Asian and Asians are the best at working with numbers.
A Strategy to overcome stereotypes in the hospitality industry is to have team building activities where people from different cultures get to spend time together, by doing this the workers get to interact with different cultures and realise that not everyone with the same characteristics are the same but even though they might still believe in the same stereotypes it at least creates a bridge of communication between the two people from different cultures so the communication between them will be better because they understand each other’s cultures a bit more. Another way to overcome this is by having workshops that encourage the acceptance of differences rather than demonizing differences. It will help the staff understand that everyone is a product of their individual upbringing and background, and each person is wonderfully different in their uniqueness. This will help staff accept these differences and even encourage them, this is how the hospitality industry can overcome and redefine stereotypes.
The fourth barrier that I will be discussing is something we use every day to communicate yet it breaks down the communication process in the hospitality industry – language. The American linguists Bernard Bloch and George L. Trager formulated the following definition: “A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates.” (Robins and Crystal: 1: 1999) Language barriers occur when people do not speak the same language, or do not have the same ability level in a language. However, barriers can also occur when people are speaking the same language. Sometimes barriers occur when we use inappropriate levels of language or we use jargon or slang which is not understood. An example of a language barrier in the hospitality industry is when a server wants to take an order but the guest has a physical impediment to language such as stuttering. So when he tries to take the guests order he does not understand what the guest is saying so he just ignores the guest or brings them anything he thinks they will like. Another example would be when most of the workers in the hotel including the managers speak a certain language and although everyone can speak English during meetings they forget that some of the workers doesn’t understand their mother tongue and delegates work to the employees in that language this leads to a breakdown in the hospitality industry because the employees that only understand English do not understand what is going on and therefore cannot compete what they have been told to.
A strategy to overcome this barrier is to teach employees to think about who they are communicating with and what their language needs may be. Teach employees to use plain language, use repetition, be respectful and patient and to speak with appropriate volume for the situation and use clear diction and by listening actively to other people and letting them know that you are listening is an excellent way to overcome language barriers. Another strategy to overcome language barriers is to teach hospitality employees a frequent language used in the area if they they do not understand it so that they can communicate more effectively with the guests or other staff or to use a reliable translator service or to hire a translator for the hotel. You can also use practical methods of explaining things as well as language to make sure that everyone understands clearly.
The fifth communication barrier is Non-verbal Communication. Nonverbal communication is a process of generating meaning using behaviour other than words (Kitchen: 2012: 181) Non-verbal communication differs for each individual, especially from one culture to another. A person’s culture forms their non-verbal communication. There are different meanings in non-verbal communication this is why miscommunication can happen when inter-cultural people communicate. People can offend others without meaning to due to their cultural differences in non-verbal communication. There are many forms of Non-verbal language such as proxemics, kinesics, haptics, facial expression, eye contact and paralanguage. This is examples of Non-verbal communication barriers in the hospitality industry. There is an Afrikaans Manager in a hotel that gets upset with one of his staff members because he thinks they are uninterested and untrustworthy because they do not look him in the eyes when communicating with him but the staff member is a Xhosa man and was taught that it is rude to look at your elders in their eyes. A Jewish Female Hostess in a restaurant is busy welcoming guests at the door when a male guest sticks out her hand to shake it and instead of shaking his hand she smiles at him and nods her head, this offends the guest because he does not know why she would not shake his hand.
This is a few strategies to help overcome Non-verbal communication barriers. Teach management to pay attention to nonverbal signals and to teach staff what different non-verbal communication signs or gestures mean in different countries to avoid misunderstanding. Have training days where you teach workers about the correct distance to stand from guests, the correct posture to use when talking with guests or even other co-workers so that you look intrusted and show respect. Teach them the correct tone of voice for certain situations so that they do not sound rude or angry and don’t offend someone.
I have now discussed ethnocentrism, prejudice, stereotypes, language and non-verbal barriers. One can now see that communication is not a one-way street and that there are misunderstandings because people come from different cultures and are taught to communicate in different ways. By doing this we shall become cultural relativistic which means that we shall believe that all beliefs, customs and ethics are relative to the individual, within one’s own society. This will help us to realise that no one has a right to judge anyone elses culture and that each culture is unique.
By using the strategies that I have provided it will help people in the hospitality industry to overcome the five communication barriers. This ensures us that statements made in the hospitality industry will not just be heard but understood.

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